The Way Natalie Maines Ruined Her Career In Seconds

Expressing political opinions can be tricky for any celebrity. No matter how seemingly innocent or innocuous, saying anything related to politics is all but guaranteed to upset at least a portion of one's fan base. For artists that work in specific genres, it can be even more difficult. Taylor Swift, for example, came from a country music background, which played into her decision to remain politically silent until the backlash practically forced her to make a statement.

Long before Swift discovered the difficulty of diving into politics as a country-pop crossover artist, there was Natalie Maines. As the lead singer of The Chicks (then the Dixie Chicks), in 2003, Maines used her platform to voice the fact that she opposed the Iraq War. At the time, the group, who got their start in Dallas, Texas, was on tour in Europe. It was on stage in London that Maines made a bold statement that caused her career to stall in an instant.

Natalie Maines took a shot at George W. Bush

At a concert in London in 2003, Natalie Maines told the crowd, "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all," before adding (via Rolling Stone), "We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." Though the comments seemed to play well to the British crowd, back in the States, Maines became an instant pariah. 

Per The Washington Post, "[p]eople often assume all country singers have conservative views," and, at the time of Maines' statement, the country, freshly heading to war, was already pretty worked up. The backlash against Maines and the Chicks was immediate. Their music was pulled off radio stations and former fans destroyed their CDs in the streets. The entire group was charged with being anti-American and Maines released a statement (via The Guardian), attempting to clarify her remarks. "As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful," Maines wrote. "I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect." 

While she did apologize, she didn't exactly walk back the sentiment behind the comment, continuing, "We are currently in Europe and witnessing a huge anti-American sentiment as a result of the perceived rush to war. While war may remain a viable option, as a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers' lives are lost."

The Chicks make a comeback

Though it did take a while, The Chicks and Natalie Maines did eventually return to the music industry to critical acclaim, if less success on the charts. In 2006, The Chicks released "Not Ready To Make Nice," their musical statement on the whole situation. The tone of the song is exactly as its title suggests: forgiveness sounded great, but they weren't ready to forget the backlash they were subject to.

The group appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss the severe backlash they experienced, explaining that it went beyond people no longer wanting to buy their CDs and quickly escalated into people sending them near-constant death threats. This was addressed in the third verse of the song when Maines sings, "And how in the world can the words that I said / Send somebody so over the edge / That they'd write me a letter, sayin' that I better/ Shut up and sing or my life will be over." 

Even if The Chicks didn't exactly experience the runaway success they had known before the controversy, the single was an undeniable success. It hit No. 4 upon re-entering the Billboard Hot 100 in 2007 and won Grammys for both Record and Song of the Year.