How "Not Ready To Make Nice" Finds Empowerment In Anger
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How "Not Ready To Make Nice" Finds Empowerment In Anger

Natalie Maines's middle finger to her haters is more relevant than ever.

How "Not Ready To Make Nice" Finds Empowerment In Anger
NBC News

Sometimes, one's feelings can be best encapsulated through lyrics accompanied by musical arrangements evoking similar emotions. That certainly seems to be the case concerning the state of the U.S. government at the moment. As someone who often turns to music that I can relate to, in order to help me process my emotions, I naturally found myself on a search for some of the most classic and most applicable protest songs, as well as songs that are just applicable in general.

It's not often that I find a song that resonates with me so deeply, that is simply flawless on every level. In my construction of what was essentially a soundtrack for the Resistance, I found that song: "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks.

The summation of the song is that it describes a negative experience by lead singer Natalie Maines, in which she said or did something that wasn't well-received by many people, acknowledges negative emotions that she may have over the incident, but overall expresses anger, and finds some sense of empowerment and closure from that anger. The song juxtaposes vulnerability with an overall air of defiance, as the crux of the song is Maines's angry refusal to apologize to people who believe she should, and her feeling settled within herself and finding empowerment in that.

What makes this song so cathartic is the notion of finding empowerment in anger. Many believe that maintaining anger, or holding a grudge, prevents people from moving on, and urge forgiveness of those who have wronged you. This may be true in many scenarios, but sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes, an acknowledgement of one's anger is comforting, in that it allows one to realize that their pain and anger are valid, and doing so can result in an immense feeling of liberation and closure. "Not Ready to Make Nice" is an expression of that liberation, and a damn good one, as Maines expresses contentment in her choices, and clearly feels no regrets in whatever she did that was so controversial. Maines's powerhouse vocal performance makes that feeling of angry, defiant liberation radiate through the song, reaching its peak in the memorable chorus:

"I'm not ready to make nice

I'm not ready to back down

I'm still mad as hell

And I don't have time

To go 'round and 'round and 'round

It's too late to make it right

Probably wouldn't if I could

'Cause I'm mad as hell

Can't bring myself to do

What it is you think I should."

On a vague level, the song reminds me a bit of "Let It Go" from Frozen, in that it has a somewhat similar theme and a similarly fluid emotional tone. That song is famously Queen Elsa's anthem of empowerment, sung after Elsa retreats from her kingdom into isolation on a mountain, and can be as free with her ice powers as she pleases. Both songs express finding liberation and contentment in a quality or action which is stigmatized or not popular. The main difference is, Elsa's expression of empowerment in "Let It Go" is rooted more in a feeling of joy and giddy than in anger, like "Not Ready to Make Nice."

This song was written in 2006, as part of the Dixie Chicks's album Taking the Long Way,so it should be pretty obvious to anyone who knows anything about the Dixie Chicks as to what inspired it: while touring in Britain in 2003, Maines addressed a British audience, speaking out against the Iraq War and publicly expressing, onstage, that she was ashamed that then-President George W. Bush was from her home state of Texas. When her remark became widely known in the United States shortly thereafter, the backlash was swift. The Dixie Chicks, once among the most marketable, powerhouse artists in country music, disappeared from virtually every country music station and every chart they once dominated. As critic Roger Ebert put it bluntly, in his review of Shut Up and Sing, a documentary on the subject: "Many were vocal in their opinion that she should not have an opinion." Though the Dixie Chicks have managed to achieve success since what they deem "the Incident," by many accounts, they have never fully recovered from the backlash.

Maines did apologize for disrespecting President Bush, but she later retracted her apology. In a sense, this song turns the tables on those who believed that she needed to apologize for her comments, as she subtly frames them as the people who are in the wrong and needing to apologize to her.

When I found this song, I already thought highly of Natalie Maines. Anyone familiar with Maines's backstory quickly gets the impression that she was born to take a stand like that. In various interviews, she has described growing up in conservative Texas and taking pride in going against the grain:

"I always rebelled against that. My parents sent me and my sister to public minority schools so I always felt like a hippie and a rebel. ... As a teenager I always loved not thinking in the way I knew the majority of people thought. I always stood up for minorities. ... I've always stood up for homosexuals. I just always had these really strong convictions about doing so."

If you know me at all, it shouldn't surprise you how deeply I resonate with this woman. And when I first heard "Not Ready to Make Nice," my admiration for her naturally went up. When interviewed about the song and the album, Maines described writing the album as "therapy." Considering that it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and won five Grammys, and "Not Ready to Make Nice" was ranked 77th on Rolling Stone's ranking of the top 100 songs of the 2000s and remains the band's biggest hit in the U.S. to date, I'd imagine she would also consider it vindication.

"Not Ready to Make Nice" is Maines's middle finger to her haters, so it is a fitting anthem for widespread sentiments among the U.S. population about our current leaders. It is an appropriate response to those who patronize people who are afraid and angry as a result of Donald Trump's presidency, to those who stand on their privileged high horse and say, "He's our President, get over it," to those who want us to stop talking about it.

In a world where so many are demanding "unity," which too often means oppressed people tolerating their oppression and dehumanization and essentially pretending that it doesn't exist under the guise of "unity," "Not Ready to Make Nice" is a refreshing break from the superficial "Why can't we all get along and sing Kumbaya" mantra, in that it doesn't demand that people downplay or put away their anger, but rather reassures us that our anger is valid and worth expressing. Unity isn't an inherently bad thing, and arguably a necessity, but when it looks like ignoring problems and asking marginalized people to put up with their own marginalization, then it isn't really unity, is it?

Now the political climate is different than it was in 2003, and I would imagine that Natalie Maines feels vindicated in seeing people turn out in record-breaking numbers to protest the new administration. I would also imagine that she's still not ready to make nice. Well, neither are we.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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