“Gaslighter” in review: A rousing, open-ended catharsis


Illustration by Nathaly Perez

Renny Acheson, A&E Editor

As a lifelong Dixie Chicks fan, I was ecstatic when I heard that the Dallas-founded trio released a new song for the first time since 2006. When I saw that it was called “Gaslighter,” I was excited for a fresh dose of the high-energy, rebellious country pop that shaped the group’s reputation in the late ’90s and early 2000s. 

The lyrics serve as an indictment of an anonymous man’s behavior in a relationship. His behavior is emblematic of gaslighting, hence the title. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “gaslight” as “to manipulate (a person) by psychological means into questioning his or her own sanity.” The track takes the listener on a journey through the events of this relationship, including the couple’s move to Hollywood for the pursuit of the man’s ambitions, his lies and denial, his half-hearted apologies and ultimately his gaslighting. 

The song paints a portrait of an emotionally abusive relationship, especially in its emphasis on the intergenerational nature of the gaslighter’s behavior. One staple of the upbeat chorus is the repetition of the line “repeating all the mistakes of your father.” 

While this lyric does suggest the origin of the narrative in a real relationship, it also acknowledges the significance of how our parents’ behavior inevitably contributes to our own. I admire how the Dixie Chicks address this psycho-social reality in one brisk statement that fits into the meter of the chorus.   

In contrast to a few of the most popular songs in the Dixie Chicks’ body of work, “Gaslighter” comes across as more vulnerable and open-ended as opposed to fearless and rambunctious. 

Some particularly fearless and rambunctious songs that stand out in the Dixie Chicks’ Spotify Top 10 list include “Goodbye Earl,” which tells the story of two best friends who murder a physically abusive husband, and “Not Ready to Make Nice,” an unforgiving response to the death threats the band received after publicly speaking out against President George W. Bush in 2003. 

The “Gaslighter” track features the repetition of the lyric “you broke me,” holding the gaslighter accountable for the hurt he’s caused. Again, the impact of an emotionally manipulative relationship becomes clear through the lyrical choices made by the Dixie Chicks. However, this is not an outrageously vengeful song, rather it seeks to identify the manifestations and impacts of toxic behavior.  

Thus, the lyrical narrative arc and the mood of the instruments, tempo and major key don’t exactly match. If we took away the lyrics of “Gaslighter,” it could easily be mistaken for a song about the thrill of a new romance or a good time spent on a Friday night. 

All things considered, the chorus makes me want to immediately get up and dance. The harmonious vocals of Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie McGuire are irresistibly fun. “Gaslighter” possesses the potential to obtain anthem status.  

Inevitably, dancing while the Dixie Chicks sing about emotional turmoil and manipulation feels slightly unethical. However, this single leaves room for the upcoming album to follow a variety of routes. We could hear more energizing, high tempo anthems with a similar sound or perhaps venture into the somber backstory behind the track’s lyrics.  

Overall, I was really impressed by “Gaslighter.” The song merges the best elements of the well-known Dixie Chicks repertoire with a refreshed take on country pop. I eagerly anticipate the album yet to come.