Politicized Grammys: "Vindication" for the Dixie Chicks and "Freedom of Expression"

The awards...ended a desolate period in which their music was boycotted and banned by country music stations, their CDs were burned and smashed, and group member's lives were threatened."

Apparently the Times didn't shower quite enough praise yesterday on the anti-war country band Dixie Chicks winning 5 Grammy Awards Sunday night, because it follows up Tuesday with a "what does it mean?" article by Jeff Leeds, "Grammy Sweep by Dixie Chicks Is Seen as a Vindication."

"The Dixie Chicks' big win at the Grammy Awards on Sunday exposed ideological tensions between the music industry's Nashville establishment and the broader, more diverse membership of the Recording Academy, which chooses the Grammy winners, according to voters and music executives interviewed afterward.

"To some, the voting served not only as a referendum on President Bush's handling of the Iraq war, but also on what was perceived as country music's rejection - and radio's censorship - of the trio.

"At the awards on Sunday, the band - Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison - swept all five of the Grammy categories in which it was nominated, including the top three - album, record and song of the year - the first time all three have been swept in 14 years.

"The awards amounted to vindication for the Dixie Chicks, who found their career sidetracked in 2003 after the singer Ms. Maines told a London concert audience shortly before the invasion of Iraq that the band was 'ashamed' that the president hailed from their home state, Texas. In the furor that followed, country radio programmers pulled the multiplatinum-selling trio's music from the airwaves and rallied listeners to destroy their CDs."

The Times painted the historical scene as if the band was a step away from the stake, again ignoring the fawning cover stories on the Chicks in Entertainment Weekly and Time Magazine,as well as the group having a #1 album on the Billboard charts last summer, after they finally got around to releasing one (which would explain much of the alleged "sidetracking" of their career.)

Leeds talked about the possible politics of the award: "The Grammy voting process switches into gear after Sept. 30, the end of the academy's annual eligibility period for recordings. As a result, many academy members may have been considering their choices at a time when much of the nation's attention was devoted to the midterm elections, when dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and other factors resulted in the Republicans' loss of Congress. At the same time, 'Shut Up & Sing,' a documentary about the Dixie Chicks' experience, hit movie theaters.

"Grammy nominations were announced in early December, with final ballots sent to voters about a week later.

"But analysts said it would be a mistake to read the Dixie Chicks' wins as simply a reflection of left-leaning ideology rather than the desire of many voters to strike a blow for freedom of expression. Consider 'American Idiot,' the 2004 album by the punk-rock band Green Day. It was rife with political imagery, including lines like 'Sieg Heil to the president gasman' and won the Grammy for best rock album. But though it also received nominations for album and record of the year, it won neither."

Apparently rich entertainers can say what they want, but country music fans who publicly disagree with what they say are squelching their "freedom of expression."

Even the editorial page leaped into the fray Tuesday with "The Courage of Others' Convictions," tweaking the entertainment industry for not joining the liberal Chick-wagon three years ago.

"The music industry awarded an armload of Grammys to the Dixie Chicks on Sunday night, in what was celebrated as a blow for freedom of speech as much as tunefulness. The endorsement was about three years too late. The awards - including for the trio's fittingly titled album 'Taking the Long Way' and the song 'Not Ready to Make Nice' - ended a desolate period in which their music was boycotted and banned by country music stations, their CDs were burned and smashed, and group members' lives were threatened."

Those of us not as enthusiastic about the entertainment industry's self-congratulation had the consolation of watching liberals pretending to like country music. Leeds reported that sales for thegroup's Grammy-winning album "Taking the Long Way," whihc got the cold shoulder from country music, made up for it somewhat by selling well at Starbucks.