If you heard anything about the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville on Wednesday, it was probably that Beyoncé was scheduled to perform. Sure enough, the superstar tore the roof off the place with the Dixie Chicks as they sang “Daddy Lessons,” a country-inspired track from her recent “Lemonade” album.
The collaboration made sense, as the presence of Beyoncé is a surefire way to boost ratings for an award show, and the Chicks frequently covered the song on their tour this summer. During a recent concert in Dublin, lead singer Natalie Maines deemed “Lemonade” a “masterpiece” and gushed over the singer. “If Jay Z did cheat on her, then it’s awesome that she wrote an entire album about it. Sounds like something I would do,” Maines said.
The two acts were right at home together on stage at the CMAs, complete with a horn section accompanying the six-minute jam session as the audience (and the Internet) went crazy. However, for those who just tuned in for Beyoncé (and judging by Twitter, that was a lot of people), they may have missed a sly message hidden during the performance.
In the middle of the song, fiddle player Martie Maguire suddenly segued into “Long Time Gone,” the trio’s hit song from 2002. It was only a 40-second snippet of the song that led directly back into “Daddy Lessons,” but Maines sang some of the lyrics: “They sound tired, but they don’t sound Haggard/They’ve got money but they don’t have Cash/They got Junior but they don’t have Hank/I think, I think, I think, I think…”
While the lyrics critique contemporary country artists, the actual title of the song was a rather fitting nod to the fact that the Dixie Chicks have been, well, a long time gone from the CMAs and country music in general. The Dixie Chicks have quite the rocky history with the country establishment, ever since Maines made critical comments about George W. Bush during a concert in London in 2003. They were effectively banned from country radio, and after releasing an album in 2006, went on a decade-long hiatus that just ended this year with a worldwide arena tour.
The last time the Dixie Chicks were nominated for a CMA Award was in 2007, when they landed a vocal group of the year nod — they were previously nominated every year in the category between 1998 and 2003, and won four out of six times. They didn’t receive any CMA recognition for their 2006 album, “Taking the Long Way,” which racked up all kinds of Grammy Awards.
But by incorporating one of their country hits into the Beyoncé song, the Dixie Chicks reminded everyone that they can return to rock out on a country music stage with one of the biggest stars in the world — and they also have a long history in the genre that won’t be forgotten.