The Art of this Election

Sunday, November 6, 2016

On Wednesday of this week, Beyonce got up on stage alongside The Dixie Chicks at the Country Music Awards and sparked a firestorm amongst diehard country fans and political opinions alike (especially those of us who’ve not forgotten about London in 2003).

I wrote about my Beyonce fandom earlier this year when she released ‘Lemonade,’ and anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I’ve got a significant soft spot for Dixie Chicks deep cuts. My sisters and I grew up listening to their ‘Wide Open Spaces’ album on a loop, and when I saw them live as openers for Keith Urban and The Eagles at Soldier Field a few years ago, I could’ve walked out of that concert satisfied with their performance alone.

I had heard Beyonce performed at the CMAs but hadn’t thought much of it until coming across this New York Times article this morning (I was busy Wednesday night watching the Cubs win the World Series). The contrast drawn here between the statement Beyonce made when she officially endorsed Hillary Clinton (alongside her infamous husband, Jay Z) this week and the less-blatant, however equally controversial statement she made by performing with the Dixie Chicks is remarkable. Kudos to this writer for the observations made. I’m impressed.

There’s an undeniable *girl power* element at play this cycle that Hillary Clinton worked hard to establish long before the primaries even began. She’s brought countless female celebrities on board her campaign - some of the best-known being Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and Katy Perry. One of her campaign mantras, “I’m With Her”, communicates this support for a future female president. It’s genius, in my opinion. She couldn’t win without it.

But their involvement has been in name and photograph only. Miley Cyrus “door-knocked” for HRC. Katy Perry and Demi Lovato both performed at rallies in Iowa, in addition to a handful of other places. They’ve been a draw, if nothing else, to ensure large crowds and big headlines. And Beyonce’s endorsement concert was very much the same.

Her performance with the Dixie Chicks, however, was quite different. I’ve defended her as an artist and I stand my ground that ‘Lemonade’ is one of the greatest pieces of work I’ve ever heard. I feel the same way about this.

The mash-up of “Daddy Lessons” and “Long Time Gone” is genius. The Dixie Chicks’ have always had vibrant background music in their songs, so setting fan-favorite “Long Time Gone” up alongside Beyonce’s twangy “Daddy Lessons” was a combination that deserves more than a hat-tip. This, right here, is art. This is a statement made via an art form. I can appreciate that.

Since the beginning of time, the best art has been emotionally-charged and conveyed a political, religious, or moral message. This is a fact. Artistic epicenter Italy was overflowing with politically and religiously-motivated paintings, sculptures, architecture, etc. long before any of us had a heartbeat on this Earth. Now, to clarify - Demi Lovato singing ‘Confidence’ at an HRC rally in Virginia? I’d hardly call that art. But the statement made by Wednesday’s CMA performance was not just song lyrics, or a speech prior. The statement was made by her presence, and their presence, and the outfits, and the song choices, and the venue. It was perfectly planned, perfectly orchestrated, and left everyone feeling a way that incredible art often does - outraged.

Right now, we’re living in a very cool moment. Despite the utter mess this cycle has been, despite the shame we’ve inevitably felt at how some of our leaders have handled it, some pretty amazing things are happening (I mean, the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years this week - COME ON). And this performance is one of them. 

I don’t subscribe to the same political beliefs as Beyonce and the Dixie Chicks. I’m not going to cast my ballot for the same person they will on Tuesday. But this moment at the CMAs was a cool one. This was the freely-delivered artistic expression of a political stance by four women, (arguably four of the most successful women in world history, at that). I’m not outraged. I appreciate it.

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