Top of the World (Dixie Chicks song)

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"Top of the World"
Song by Patty Griffin from the album Silver Bell (unreleased)
Genre Contemporary folk, country
Label A&M
Writer Patty Griffin
from the album Impossible Dream
Length 5:28
Label ATO
"Useless Desires"
(5)
"Top of the World"
(6)
"Rowing Song"
(7)
"Top of the World"
Single by Dixie Chicks
from the album Home
Released May 2003
Genre Country
Length 6:01
Label Columbia Nashville
Dixie Chicks singles chronology
"Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)"
(2003)
"Top of the World"
(2003)
"I Hope"
(2005)
Home track listing
"Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)"
(11)
"Top of the World"
(12)
"Landslide" (Sheryl Crow remix)
(13 – deluxe edition)

"Top of the World" is a contemporary folk-country song written by Patty Griffin and most known as recorded and performed in Grammy Award-winning fashion by the Dixie Chicks.

Griffin wrote and recorded "Top of the World" for her would-be 2000 album Silver Bell.[1] But a dispute with her label A&M Records caused the album to go unreleased and Griffin to be dropped,[1] although copies of Silver Bell circulated and increased Griffin's reputation as a songwriter within the music industry.[2]

The Dixie Chicks, who had already treated other Griffin songs and had toured with Griffin on their 2000 Fly Tour,[3] recorded "Top of the World" as the concluding track on their 2002 album Home. Beginning quietly with Home's mixture of acoustic stringed instruments, and with the vocal line shifting around among one-, two-, and three-part singing, the song begins by portraying an almost unbearable level of regret[4][5] at things not done:[6][7]

I wished I was smarter,
I wished I was stronger.
I wished I loved Jesus
The way my wife does ...
I wish it had been easier

Tension is built up with pauses, then midway through a string section begins accompanying in an ominous fashion. The reason for the regret is fully unveiled:[4][6]

I come home in the evening,
Sit in my chair.
One night they called me for supper
But I never got up —
I stayed right there, in my chair.

The strings then pick up in intensity during the instrumental coda, as Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines moans wordlessly and then repeats "To the top of the world" as a mantra over and over.

Dixie Chick Emily Robison said of "Top of the World" that it was "biggest departure on the album, but I'm so glad that we did it because I think it shows a whole other dimension."[7] During their 2002 concert film An Evening with the Dixie Chicks, Maines attempted to explain the song's startingly unusual perspective:

It is written from the point of view of a man who has passed on, and he's sort of looking down wishing that he had been a different person, and having a lot of regrets and wishing he hadn't had the negative effect on the people in his life and err... I don't know what I just said...

Author Chris Willman wrote that this was "a song that could send a chill down even a seasoned spine after repeat listens."[4] Entertainment Weekly stated that the Dixie Chicks' recording "lift[ed] the quality of [the song] in a way [its] author herself could not."[8] The New York Times said that "Top of the World" was an example of the Dixie Chicks turning to Griffin for their most ambitious material[6] that at the same time led to the Chicks' commercial and critical success.[9]

"Top of the World" was released as a single in mid-2003,[5] together with a music video,[5][7] but failed to chart. At six minutes the song was likely too long for radio, but by now the infamous controversy regarding Maines' criticism of U.S. President George W. Bush had broken out,[5] and the Chicks had become a country radio anathema.[5]

Maines would remark of the video, "We haven't been banned from television yet."[5] Directed by Sophie Muller[10] and filmed in London,[7] it portrayed the three Chicks as three women in different stages of the protagonist's life.[7] The story started with a boy growing up with his single mother (Emily Robison), who frequently abused and neglected him. As a result, he would become frustrated with his life and in turn mutilate inanimate objects such as a rag doll. Later, the boy grows up as a bitter person and never grows close to his daughter and wife (Martie Maguire). When he became old, and his daughter (Natalie Maines) grows up, she loves and takes care of him like her mother did when she was little. The old man dies feeling regretful about his life, but the cycle is broken when Natalie raises a good family in her generation and loves her family. It was premiered on VH1 on September 22, 2003,[11] and it would later be nominated for MVPA Awards in the Adult Contemporary Video and Director of the Year categories.[10]

Although not one of the Chicks' big hits, the song was prominent enough that the trio's 2003 Top of the World Tour was named after it, as were the subsequent Top of the World Tour: Live album and Top of the World Tour: Live DVD. Indeed "Top of the World" was one of the emotional centerpieces of the shows on the tour, and the live recording of the song would go on to win the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.[12] The song remained one of the highlights of the group's 2006 Accidents & Accusations Tour, with violinist Martie Maguire moving from the front of the stage to join the band's violin and cello player for a dramatic, elongated string part during the coda.

Griffin's own re-recording of "Top of the World" would finally surface for good on her 2004 album Impossible Dream.[1] As the Dixie Chicks' version had been close in arrangement to Griffin's original,[3][13] Griffin re-arranged it this time around.[3] It featured the violin of Lisa Germano, and Allmusic described the recording's "quietly intense relationship meditation" as reaching an "aching climax".[14] The Washington Post wrote that Griffin's recording would have "flooded the country airwaves" were it not for "music business realities".[15]

"Top of the World" has been performed by others as well, notably Jessica Harp of The Wreckers,[16] Kelly Clarkson, and Australian singers Jasmine Rae and Kasey Chambers.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Patty Griffin: Bio". Pattygriffin.net. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  2. ^ Lucas Hendrickson (2001-05-31). "Will 'Silver Bell' Ever Ring". Nashvillerage.com. Archived from the original on 2001-07-30. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  3. ^ a b c d Dave Dawson (2006-03-01). "Dave's Diary — Patty Griffin". Nu Country TV. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  4. ^ a b c Willman, Chris (2005). Rednecks & Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music. New Press. ISBN 1-59558-017-4.  p. 23.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Jon Pareles (2003-06-23). "Down-Home and Defiant Again". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  6. ^ a b c Jon Pareles (2004-05-14). "Patty Griffin: Country Infused With Faith and Romance". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Spotlight: The Dixie Chicks". VH1. 2003. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  8. ^ Ken Tucker (2002-08-19). "Home". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  9. ^ Jane Gross (2004-08-14). "After a Long Wait, Harvest of Success; Former Waitress Serves Up Songs To Dixie Chicks And Other Stars". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  10. ^ a b "MVPA Award Nominees 2004". Music Video Production Association. Archived from the original on 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  11. ^ "Briefly: John Mayer, Elvis Presley, Dixie Chicks, 'Acoustic Christmas,' Sheb Wooley". liveDaily.com. 2003-09-17. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  12. ^ "2005 Grammy Award Winners". CBS News. 2005-02-13. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  13. ^ Jon Pareles (2007-04-21). "Good News for Sad Songs: Hits Don’t Need Happiness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  14. ^ "Impossible Dream: Patty Griffin". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  15. ^ "Performing Arts". The Washington Post. 2004-05-13. p. C08. 
  16. ^ Rory Flynn (2006-09-15). "The Wreckers bring country to Axis". Bostonmusic.com. Retrieved 2008-05-28. [dead link]

External links[edit]