Badmouthed, banned and ultimately blacklisted for their unwavering antiwar sentiment in 2003, the Dixie Chicks are battle-tested. After a 14-year hiatus, the ex-country music superstars have proven they’re ready to go another round with the fiery single “Gaslighter.”
A “gaslighter” describes a manipulative abuser. In the song “Gaslighter,” this abuser is lead singer Natalie Maines’s ex-husband. By linking the narrative of Maines’s divorce to the broader context of sexism, the Dixie Chicks retain their commitment to being political in a form that’s easier to swallow — a break-up song. “Tried to say I’m crazy, babe, we know I’m not crazy, that’s you / gaslighting,” Maines sings in disgust. In a moment stripped of production, she quietly admits “you broke me,” giving light to the hurt beneath her anger.
The rest of the song is explosive. Co-written and co-produced by pop whiz Jack Antonoff, “Gaslighter” is expectedly catchy. “Gaslighter, denier / doing anything to get your ass farther” is chanted along to pounding, building drums. Antonoff’s hand in the track along with the rest of the upcoming album is probably a major red flag to any old-school Dixie Chicks fan. But the richness of the group’s harmonies and the prominent use of banjo in the lead single should put those fears to rest, at least temporarily.
For now, all there’s left to do is count down the days until May 1st, the album release date, and shout along to “Gaslighter.” Who knows who or what the Dixie Chicks are going to burn down next?