“Not Ready to Make Nice”

Written by Claudia Boyd. 4 November 2015.

When controversy is mentioned in the music world, most people look directly towards the Dixie Chicks. In 2003, lead vocalist Natalie Maines made a controversial comment of the President George Bush while performing in a concert in the infamous London O2 arena. In relation to the invasion of Iraq, Maines said, “…we don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” While most people would be incredibly apologetic and take back their statement, the Dixie Chicks stood by what they said. Their album, Taking the Long Way, was the first studio album released by the Dixie Chicks after this statement. The controversy, and the band’s reaction to it, is the major theme of some of the songs in the album, including “Not Ready to Make Nice”.

The song, written by all three band members, Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, is a clear statement of how they felt over the controversy, the banning of their songs from country music radio stations, and freedom of speech. Despite numerous threats, concert boycotts and disapproval from media, the three band members stand together committed to thinking and speaking about the issues surrounding their country’s engagement with the wider world.

The first verse begins with “Forgive, sounds good…Forget I don’t think I could..” This basically sets the scene for the remainder of the song, saying that the Dixie Chicks will not ever forget what people have done to them in an attempt to end their career. The first and second verse really aim to show the listener that they have dug their own grave and refuse to back down in what they believe in.

The chorus of the song repeated three times uses direct shots at the audience saying “Their mad as hell and don’t have time to go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. This is saying that they cant go back and change anything and wouldn’t if they were able to. They stand by what they believe in. This also relates to the songs overall theme of protecting freedom of speech and the first amendment of the Constitution.

The Bridge of this song is honestly where it takes it to its highest notch, as the song goes:

“And how in the world

Can the words that I said

Send somebody so over the edge

That they’d write me a letter

Saying that I better

Shut up and sing

Or my life will be over?

This is the height of the conflict, which refers to a letter from the President saying that they need to shut up and sign or hell end their career. The song is then back to the chorus, which is repeated two more times, in order to drill in their side of the argument.

Even the music video clearly depicts the black and white portrayal of this conflict. There isn’t any gray area or middle ground here. This song played the role of the final straw the Dixie Chicks had with the public and how they were done trying to fight them, they just want to get over it.

The Dixie Chicks were rising stars in the country music world and on their way to supreme success, and this one comment plummeted that dream. The hostility that the audience showed them gives insight into the reasoning behind writing this “sorry im not sorry” hit. They saw this as an opening and almost an I told you so moment to say that they still think they are right. Even the country music audience can say that they were kind of right with their apology, nobody deserves the hostility they were given.

Back in 2003, at the height of the war, many people were ready to have a new Commander In Chief. The Dixie Chicks were the ones with the courage to speak out about it. They took the chance and ran with it, no question about that, but was what they said bad enough to cause the drama that took place soon after? Up to the audience to decide but this song leaves us with a sympathetic feeling.

The most interesting part of the song is the ironic way it begins and ends. They say “Forgive…sounds good. Forget…I’m not sure I could.” This is important in order for us to understand that they are wanting us to hate on them only to say here’s my point take it or leave it. They explain their story and then end it how they started which ties the whole thing together at the end, leaving us to decide what we want to think about them not only as artists, but also as Americans.

This song is a lot more than just a jam you turn up on your Ipod. It caused an uproar in the music world and completely ruined the future of the Dixie Chicks.

Time Form Listening Cues Discussion
0:00 Intro This is going to be a slow song
0:12 Verse 1 “Forgive..sounds good…” Sets the scene that this song is about a controversial argument
0:34 Verse 2 “I’m through with doubt…” Shes saying shes not going to give in and apologize
0:58 Chorus “I’m not ready to make nice…” Still very upset and not over how the world treated them during this controversy
1:23 Verse 3 “I know you said..” The public said back off and get over it but they don’t want to
1:47 Bridge “I made my bed and I sleep like a baby..” They don’t regret anything and the bridge is a more up tempo fight in an argument
2:12 Instrumental Gives the listener time to reflect on what they have just brought forth in the chorus
2:23 Chorus “I’m not ready to make nice…” The chorus again brings the listener back to the main problem of the argument in the first place
2:49 Chorus Again “I’m not ready to make nice…” Repeating it another time drills this in to the listeners head and shows us how they are not going to back down
3:26 Verse 4 “Forgive..sounds good…” The repetition of the first verse ties the song together in the end making it a full story
3:46 Playout Makes us reflect on their story and think about our side of the argument