The term “gaslighting,” or manipulating someone by making them question their own reality, has experienced a resurgence in the past several years because of our current political climate. While there are some political images in the new music video (such as the little girl from Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential campaign ad), the scathing lyrics appear to be deeply personal and about an unnamed unrepentant liar. Given that lead singer Natalie Maines said this album is “the most personal and autobiographical” the group has ever been, and she had a lot to process after her divorce, well … you can make your own guesses about the subject of the song.
Maines, who officially split from actor Adrian Pasdar last year after a publicized legal battle, kicks it off: “We moved to California and we followed your dreams/I believed in the promises you made to me/Swore that night till death do us part/But you lie-lie-lie-lie-lied,” she sings. “Hollywood welcomed you with open doors/No matter what they gave you, you still wanted more.”
The upbeat anthem goes on to eviscerate this person (“Give you all my money, you’ll gladly walk away … Gaslighter, denier, doing anything to get your ass farther ... repeating all of the mistakes of your father”) while acknowledging that their actions were devastating (“I’m broken, you’re still sorry, and there’s still no apology.”)
In a news release, the band described the video (directed by Seanne Farmer) as “a nod to the female empowerment movement” which “depicts the militant strength of women through the centuries and the unbreakable bond they create through any of life’s unforeseen circumstances.”
The no-holds-barred lyrics should be familiar to listeners: “Gaslighter” is the first music released from the group since May 2006, when they dropped their extremely candid album “Taking the Long Way,” a response to the controversy that engulfed their careers. If somehow you managed to forget, in 2003, Maines criticized President George W. Bush on the eve of the Iraq War, telling a London concert crowd, “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”
The infamous fallout — the blacklisting from country radio stations, lost sponsorship deals, death threats — still looms in country music today, as artists are warned about speaking up about political opinions lest they get “Dixie Chicked.” But even after the backlash, they were largely beloved by fans and the music industry. The multiplatinum-selling “Taking the Long Way” won album of the year at the 2007 Grammy Awards, while the fiery single “Not Ready to Make Nice” won song and record of the year.
Afterward, they took a break. Maines released a solo rock album, while sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer started a duo called the Court Yard Hounds. When the three of them reunited in 2016 for a tour, their fans rallied around them once again, as they performed in sold-out arenas throughout the United States and Europe.
Last fall, Maines told the “Spiritualgasm” podcast that the band originally planned to release an album of cover songs in 2020, simply to fulfill the final record in their contract with Sony Music. But then, she said, “my relationship fell apart, and I had a lot to say.”
While there’s no release date yet for the record, it’s produced by Jack Antonoff, who recently collaborated with Taylor Swift on her 2019 album “Lover.” Swift is a longtime Dixie Chicks fan, and the trio’s vocals were featured in a track on the album, a ballad titled “Soon You’ll Get Better."
(This post has been updated.)