Written by Holly Kern. 10 November 2014
Can you imagine what it would feel like to have your whole fan base turn their backs on you? The Dixie Chicks had it made with three very successful records but after one nonchalant statement their careers were never the same. The images on our TV screens of people bulldozing their CDs didn’t stop them from doing what they love, and that is making music. After the public turned on them, the Dixie Chicks recorded a response album in 2006 titled Taking the Long Way; it features songs written by the trio with raw and emotional lyrics responding to what they dealt with during the three years in between the controversy and album release. The most played and popular song on this album was “Not Ready to Make Nice” but the song I have chosen to analyze is “Easy Silence” because it is my personal favorite from the album and also a little harder to analyze because the lyrics are a little harder to decipher.
The meaning to this song took me a while to figure out. First, let’s point out that when this was released in 2006, we had been in war for 3 years. In the verses of this song the Chicks refer a lot to how the world is corrupt and angry from the events that have been taking place. (“Accidents and accusations, messages and misperceptions paralyze my mind…” “They form commissions trying to find the next one they can crucify”) The verbiage in their lyrics are very harsh with words like paralyze, crucify, burning and accusations in the verses. Then it’s interesting because when you get to the chorus, they are talking about feeling safe and being in peace and the lyrics are so sweet and thoughtful. The whole meaning of this song is talking about how the world can be so ugly and cruel but when they’re around the ones they love, mainly they mean their husbands, everything is easy and they are at peace, “and the way you keep the world at bay for me”. The lyrics themselves and the way they break the song up and use different instrumentation makes the song truly beautiful.
I think something else important to talk about is how this song is placed on the album. The album starts with “Long Way Around”, then “Easy Silence” and finally “Not Ready to Make Nice”. The rest of the songs on the album aren’t as responsive to their situation as these three were. I feel as if “Long Way Around” was the song that introduced the meaning of this album. Then we have “Easy Silence” which is vulnerable and has meaningful lyrics that confirm Maines does not regret anything she said. Then we have “Not Ready to Make Nice” which is the most volatile, controversial song on their album. I believe the placement of songs start a great foundation for what is expected out of the rest of this album and you couldn’t have those three songs in any other order.
The song has a verse-chorus-bridge layout. It starts out with 11 seconds of a simple instrumental segment featuring a simple guitar strum and accented piano notes. Then it jumps right into the first verse where the background music is the same as the intro and the only change made is in the last couple lines before the chorus; this is where Maines starts to emphasize her words and the background music’s volume starts to build which leads us into the chorus. During the chorus I feel like Maines is singing with more emphasis in her voice, not only that but the guitar sounds like it is being strummed quite a bit harder; which is weird since the songs title is “Easy Silence”, interesting contradiction.
After the chorus we get a lovely 12-second instrumental piece where a triangle is played for only that 12 seconds. It’s my interpretation that the triangle gives the song a vulnerable, innocent sound. After the instrumental we move into the second verse, which has the exact same setup, volume and instruments played as in the first verse. Then at the very end of the second verse the couple lines leading into the chorus we all of a sudden get a bass drum in the mix. And then throughout the chorus which is louder and more emphasized than the verses this bass drum is still being carried through. At this point we can also notice the other 2 Dixie Chicks singing “ah”s in the background as the beat hits. These “ah”s give the song an angelic feeling, a more peaceful, at ease sound sounding a lot like music by the artist Enya. After this chorus there is a 23-second instrumental part where Emily Maguire comes in playing the violin, with also the triangle in the background. In the concerts they performed she is known as the crazy fiddler but in this song it’s more of a sorrowful, almost mournful sounding violin playing along with the vulnerable triangle part, this is a tender part of the song.
After the beautiful violin instrumental the most important part of the song comes on. Everything goes quiet and its just Maines and the accented piano sound with an occasional guitar strum for the bridge. The lyrics are “children lose their youth too soon, watching war made us immune, and I’ve got all the world to lose, but I just want to hold onto the easy silence…” and then leads right back into the chorus again. I believe that the Dixie Chicks played only the piano and made it really quiet because they wanted these lyrics to really be focused on and taken in. It sounds almost as if she’s whispering so it gives you this feeling as if this is some deep secret she wants to share with us all; it’s powerful.
After the bridge they hit back with the chorus again where they start off with their basic instruments from the song (piano, guitar) and gradually they start adding in more instruments as the chorus builds until the full instrumental sound is reached (drums, triangle, “ah”s). And then in the last couple lines sung in the second round of the chorus they add a little artistic flair to it; Maines does a couple of falsetto notes and Maguire and Robison are harmonizing in the background, something that wasn’t done at all the whole song. I think this is simply done to leave the audience with a pretty taste in their mouth of the sweet, sensitive lyrics of the chorus.
Following the last of the lyrics there is a slight pause and silence of the music, like they’re still hanging onto that last note and then the simple instrumental background hits again after a couple seconds. And then again we start with the simple instruments (guitar, piano, drum) and as we build back up the triangle is added back in, and later towards the end I believe I also heard a steel guitar being played. Then to conclude the song there are two slow, soft notes hit with all the instruments in sync to bring it to a close.
I believe that structurally and artistically this is one of the finest songs the Dixie Chicks have ever created. Even just the way Maines sings “easy” in the chorus, it starts low and immediately jumps to this high, soft, carefree note that sounds so serene. The way that everything quiets down for the bridge while singing such powerful lyrics, the fact that this songs doesn’t have 21 different instruments with all artificially produced background music. Everything put together gives you the sense that the Dixie Chicks really wanted their vulnerable message to be conveyed and understood.
|0-:11||Intro||Guitar chords||Easy guitar chords with piano emphasis on the beat. soft and slow, sets up rest of song’s melody.|
|:11-:34||Verse1||“When the calls..”||Background music same, 2 lines before chorus her pitch starts to rise and lyrics are delivered faster, which leads into chorus.|
|:34-:59||Chorus||“Easy Silence…”||Same background (guitar & piano) but it’s played louder and Maines sings louder also.|
|:59-1:11||Instrumental||triangle||Triangle was brought into song for a more vulnerable feel.|
|1:11-1:33||Verse 2||“Monkey on the…”||Exact same setup as Verse 1 but at 1:19 a bass drum starts hitting on the beat.|
|1:33-2:00||Chorus||“Easy Silence…”||Exact same as other chorus but bass drum continues into this chorus.|
|2:00-2:23||Instrumental||violin||violin melody with same simple background music as before, violin plays long dragged out notes with a sorrowful sound|
|2:23-2:34||Bridge||“Children lose…”||Only piano plays, sounds almost as if she’s whispering. 1 guitar strum per line for emphasis, melody doesn’t pick back up until chorus is back.|
|2:34-3:29||Chorus (2X)||“Easy Silence…”||1st half of 1st chorus is just the simple instruments (piano, guitar). As the chorus progresses more instruments added in until they’re all back. It god straight into the 2nd chorus and then the last couple lines of the song we hear the 3 Chicks harmonizing and Maines hits a couple falsetto notes.|
|3:29-end||Outro||All quiet right after chorus||Completely quiet after last chorus ends and then the all instrument melody is played. There is a random steel guitar played and then the song ends with 2 long drawn out notes.|
- “”Easy Silence” Lyrics.” DIXIE CHICKS LYRICS. MusixMatch, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2014. <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/dixiechicks/easysilence.html>.
- Shut Up and Sing. Dir. Barbara Kopple. Prod. Cecilia Peck. Perf. Dixie Chicks. The Weinstein Company, 2006. Vimeo. 27 Oct. 2006. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.
- “Taking the Long Way.” Wikipedia. 11 Jan. 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.