“Wide Open Spaces”
Written by Susan Gibson
#1 (4 weeks)
November 7 – November 28, 1998
Radio & Records
#1 (2 weeks)
November 6 – November 13, 1998
The Chicks release their signature country radio hit.
The Road to No. 1
The Chicks were already off to a solid start with their first Natalie Maines-led studio album, with the top ten “I Can Love You Better” and the No. 1 “There’s Your Trouble” doing well enough to get the album to platinum sales. The third single blew everything wide open.
The No. 1
“Wide Open Spaces” had such a powerful impact, and still does, because it was the first single to perfectly meld the Chicks’ image of female empowerment with a song aligned with those values.
By centering the story of a young girl leaving home, “Wide Open Spaces” became an anthem for their quickly growing fan base. There had been some country hits that had spoken to the experience of young girls on the cusp of womanhood before – a “She’s in Love With the Boy” here, a “Letting Go” there – but there had never been a song just about them. There’s no love interest here, and only a passing line references the departing young woman’s parents as she leaves them behind.
We’re struggling right now in mainstream country music because of the stories that aren’t being told, with few songs deviating from the perspective of the stereotypical country boy. “Wide Open Spaces” was a huge step forward in 1998, and felt like a sign of greater things to come.
You can tell the story of that potential and how it all fell apart simply by telling the story of the Chicks. Hearing them sing ‘Wide Open Spaces” now, there’s a undercurrent of melancholy that tempers the wide-eyed optimism of their original hit.
But the fact that it is the only song from their first album still regularly included in their set lists indicates the song’s enduring significance. It’s as essential a record now as it was 24 years ago.
The Road From No. 1
The Chicks will top the singles chart one more time in the nineties, with the next single from this album. By the time it was sent to radio, Wide Open Spaces was triple platinum, on its way to 13 million sales and counting.
“Wide Open Spaces” gets an A.
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