The Chicks chatted with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe Tuesday (July 28) about the protest anthems they hand-picked for their “At Home With” Apple Music playlist, which kicks off with Beyoncé‘s “Black Parade.”
The country-pop trio, consisting of Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer, described Beyoncé as being on another level of celebrity when they performed her country highlight “Daddy Lessons” from her Lemonade album alongside her at the 2016 Country Music Awards.
“Where do you start? I mean, I have never been around that level, I don’t even want to say celebrity, but just, I mean she’s on another…” Maines said of the pop superstar during the interview. “The first couple of days we were with her, I started feeling panicked and a lot of stress, thinking of all the money – Thinking of all the money that was being spent. There’s so many people and so much awesomeness. And then I was like, ‘Why am I caring? Sit back and enjoy. Sit back, take it in.’”
That performance still stands out in CMA history — for its brilliance and the backlash. Critics tweeted #BoycottCMAs following the initial announcement of their joint performance because of the legendary trio’s comments on noteworthy Republicans from former President George W. Bush to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Beyoncé’s “Formation” performance at the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show paying homage to the Black Panther Party.
Following the performance itself, controversy arose yet again when the show-stopping rendition was nowhere to be found on the CMA official website, which many people accused the awards show for allegedly taking it down in response to the aforementioned backlash. But at the time, the CMA wrote a statement to Billboard describing how “CMA removed a five-second promotional clip from ABC.com and CMA’s Facebook page. The promo was unapproved and CMA removed it prior to the broadcast.”
But behind the scenes, Maines is still in awe of the Formation singer’s power at that awards show and her autonomy in staging the performance, mesmerized by how “somebody [had] so much say so at the CMAs.”
“We had done the CMAs a million times and it’s like, ‘Okay, come on out and you get two run-throughs, and then we don’t care if you still have problems, you’re out of here,’” she told Lowe. “Oh my god, she’s calling all the camera shots, all the lighting, all of this, all of that. I was like, ‘Yes, yes. There you go.’”
Strayer not only talked about her fascination with Bey’s “perfectionism” but also her gentle demeanor about it. “To watch her perfectionism… that acquired…she never raises her voice. She’s just always calm,” she said. “And she’s like, ‘Well, what about this? What about this? What about this?’ And every time you think this is looking good, she’ll just turn it on its head and make it look better, or make it just better, better, better, better, better. And to watch that process was just awesome.”
Aside from cueing up “Black Parade” along with “I Can’t Breathe” by H.E.R., “Man in Black” by Johnny Cash, “This Is America” by Childish Gambino and more protest anthems, Strayer detailed how she’s personally finding ways to stay an active ally in the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. The Grammy award-winning trio shortened their stage name from The Dixie Chicks to The Chicks in June because of the connotation associated with “Dixie,” a nostalgic nickname for the Confederate-era South. “We want to meet this moment,” they explained on their website while dropping the single “March March.”
“I know that, obviously, we all feel like we are people who care about things like police brutality, and all the rest. But as this movement has moved forward, I’ve had to really think about the ways that I don’t understand, or I don’t see everything that’s going on,” Strayer said. “And learning about how the systemic racial things are happening, whether it’s funding for schools, or this or that. And really digging into the behind the scenes, more than just what’s on the news. So that’s kind of in my quiet time, how I feel like I’m trying to understand it as a white person, trying to take the personal responsibility to listen.”