You all know I’m a big Toby Keith fan- maybe it’s that name that draws my admiration (the Keith, not the Toby…) From his debut work that got dissed at the awards, through his war-mongering-Dixie-Chicks-squabbling period, right up to modern times, I’ve maintained that he’s one of the best acts in contemporary country music. And the unwashed masses have agreed with me, to the tune of millions and millions of dollars.
That’s why I hope ol’ Toby will take this comment with all due respect- His latest single, “American Ride,” sucks. While it is meant to be a wry commentary on the lowest common denominator of American pop culture, it instead panders to that very same low, narrow, mean-spirit that it intends to mock. And the fact that he chose it to serve as the title track of his latest album only makes things that much more distasteful.
I can already hear the squeals of protest on both sides of the fence.
On the left, the granolas are shouting, “What, you’re surprised? He’s ALWAYS pandered to the most base and undesireable of our culture! Look at ‘Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue’ ” Yah, yah, I know that’s how you feel, but you’re just wrong on that issue. I’ve covered that ground before, and I’m not going to devote space to it now.
On the right, the rednecks are shouting, “Whattaya mean it sucks? YOU suck! American Ride is an insightful commentary on the state of world affairs!” But, um, no. It’s not. It’s not particularly witty or well done. It targets things like the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit and American Idol… can you say “sitting ducks”? In other words, the song isn’t clever- it’s lazy.
Part of the problem might be that American Ride wasn’t actually written by Keith, as much as it might sound- on the surface- like his stuff. But he isn’t a three-time Country Songwriter of the Year for BMI and the NSAI’s Songwriter/Artist of the Decade for mediocre songs like this. “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” “As Good as I Once Was,” “God Love Her,” “Boomtown” and the sublime “Who’s That Man” are better examples of why he’s garnered these honors.
And since the title and debut track off of the American Ride album is about the only one that he didn’t have a hand in, here’s hoping that we can expect the other releases to be better. God knows they couldn’t be much worse.