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Back-up Singer Blues? May 15, 2007

Posted by rachaelg in Destiny's Child, Dixie Chix, Dreamgirls, En Vogue, female relationships, Girl Power, Pussycat Dolls, Shut up and Sing, Spice Girls, the Supremes.

Though it’s peripheral to the main plot, one comment struck me while I was watching Shut Up and Sing.  They’re all in the recording studio and Martie brings up the common phenomenon of a band-mate’s envy of the lead singer.  She talks about how bandmembers will feel unappreciated and angry, but how the lead singer can threaten to go solo.  After a while, Natalie (the Dixie Chicks’ lead singer) jumps in jokingly, but a tad defensively.  Martie then quickly clarifies that she is only talking about male bands. 

I found this interesting because there are clearly examples of this phenomenon among women’s groups.  It happened to the Supremes, Destiny’s Child, and has even been fictionally re-created in the musical Dreamgirls.  Was Martie just trying to soothe Natalie’s fears by reassuring her that she was happy with their arrangement?  She seemed sincere about what she was saying, but the generalization seemed forced since it is obviously false that only male groups experience that problem. 

Nevertheless, I think the Dixie Chicks are in the minority of content girl groups with a clear lead.  The Pussycat Dolls might also fit into that category; everyone seems to know their place with Nicole up front.  And then there are also the girl groups with no obvious lead: TLC, Salt N Peppa, Spice Girls, En Vogue, etc.  The Dixie Chicks seem to accomplish a “girlpower” unity that is rare among groups with a strong lead singer.


1. erinsull - May 15, 2007

I think that this has a lot to do with the other contributions the other chicks make while not singing. They are both acknowledged as world-class instrumentalists, and the fiddle and violin are crucial to the Dixie Chicks sound and image. There is this whole women making their own music vibe that gives them a legitimacy the pussycat dolls don’t quite have (that and other reasons of course). The sisters gave Natalie her break by bringing her on to bring lyrics to their established instrumentals. With the Dixie Chicks you can point out the exact contributions of the other woman, with the pussycat dolls you can barely distinguish between them. What is it exactly that they do to support Nicole?

It is interesting though that Natalie, the lead singer, was the one who got the band in the whole mess (if it even was a mess, the chicks continue to assert it was the best thing that ever happened to them). I was looking throughout the movie for some hint of resentment, even though they constantly played down that possibility. I couldn’t detect anything of the sort really; yes there was frustration at the situation but none of it really directed at Natalie herself. I feel like resentment could have easily manifested in this situation (the comment did threaten their careers and all). Did it not because the other chicks are more secure in their own importance to the group? Or is it just that Natalie is the acknowledged outspoken one and they expected this out of her? And finally one question I had throughout the movement, are we supposed to have seen the initial comment as a statement by Natalie Maines or by the Dixie Chicks?

2. rachaelg - May 15, 2007

You make some really great points about why the Dixie Chicks might feel more united than other girl groups. It seems like all the Pussycat Dolls do to support Nicole is dance and try to look hot…

Anyway, it seems like they were all just shocked at the backlash to their statement. And I do think it was a comment from the Dixie Chicks, even if it was an unplanned sidenote Natalie decided to say on a whim. I think this not just because she says “WE’re on the good side with y’all… WE’re ashamed…” etc., but because when the backlash starts, they all accept the consequences and don’t try to dissociate themselves from it. Never do they try feeding Natalie to wolves to salvage something for themselves. So if the original comment was just from Natalie, the girls made sure it became a statement from all of them.

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