Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Toby Keith – American Ride

The Le Tissier montage was followed by Southampton losing 1-0 at Swindon on Tuesday. Lesson learned, eh…


Kat Stevens: Would “Two Heads Are Better Than One” by Power Tool would sound better played on a mouth harp? Ans: YES.

Martin Kavka: This is hands down the most fascinating lyric of 2009. In Keith’s world, there’s no desire to turn the clock back, or to push the clock forward. The climate will get worse, immigration crises will heighten, wages will remain stagnant, and technology will continue to entrance us. The only thing left that is intrinsically good is love of nation, but insofar as it’s powerless to change anything about the world, patriotism becomes indistinguishable from nihilism. Every second of time is now the strait gate through which no Messiah will ever enter.

Michaelangelo Matos: Who’s going to bust you for singing Christmas carols, the ACLU? What does it being “funny how the world keeps turning” have to do with “the ozone burning”? “Plasma getting bigger/Jesus getting smaller”: sorry science exists, duder. “Spill a cup of coffee/Make a million dollars”: nice of you to remember something that happened 15 years ago and blame it on the present day, you arrant prick.

Ian Mathers: I’m not an American, so I can only begin to approximate how pissed off I’d be by the thought that someone might think I identify with Keith’s blinkered, cynical take on what life is like (for affluent white people, at least) in what I’d still like to think is a pretty good country.

Chuck Eddy: Okay now, here’s a song that picks fights and draws lines in the sand —- nativist horseshit (tidal wave comin’ in from the Mexican border, not to mention thugs arrested by Customs with aerosol cans — or maybe that’s just anti-graffiti-art?), Christianist horseshit (people getting arrested for singing Christmas carols as if that’s ever fucking happened anywhere), sexist horseshit (Mom getting rocks off watching Desperate Housewives and spoiled brats learning how to be mean grrrrrls from “the youtube” ’cause that’s what it takes to get along in the world while Dad works his ass off for the good life), rockist horseshit (beauty queens with plastic surgery becoming pop stars without being able to sing a note), you name it. But also a chorus that seems to accept global warming, at least as a metaphor for the country turning to shit (or “fit,” as in “fit’s gonna hit the shan.”) And Toby’s digging the ride anyway — “look ma, no hands!” — so he kicks the thing as hard as just about anything he’s done (dude’s been covering “Stranglehold” live lately — guess he’s getting bored by his mellow period.) He also changes the title from “This American Life,” which is what Nashville songster Dave Pahanish named it: Too NPR, maybe? Still, perfect punctuation for a long hot summer of idiot mob uprisings and last-ditch conspiracy lies from old white yokels feeling the earth shifting beneath their feet. When will he learn?

Tal Rosenberg: Tough and celebratory, which works to the song’s advantage. Not crazy about the power riff, but love the bluegrass flourishes. Not crazy about the “gotta” in the chorus, because it presumes that loving the American ride is obligatory. Wish it would be a “sure” or a “really” or a “hella” or maybe Toby could do with a proper “fuckin’.” P.S. — ixnay on the “fit hits the shan”. P.P.S. — the “na-na-nas” too.

John Seroff: You’ve got to feel sorry for the innocent Irish jig at the heart of “American Ride”; it’s not like it ever ate arugula or lobbied for fuel-efficient cars. Yet there it lies, its flimsy back broken by the weight of Toby Keith’s jingoism and ignorance. Not that a stronger tune would save this weirdly apolitical screed; note that this glibly patronizing shitkickeria doesn’t exactly espouse a view so much as it lists dittohead doggerel. For every reasonably clever turn-of-phrase Keith musters (“Plasma getting bigger / Jesus getting smaller”) there’s a half-dozen references to Jane Doe jacking it to primetime and “The Youtube”. Keith’s limited vocal range along with his reliance on vocal multi-tracking and power chords indicate ‘American Ride’s hair metal roots, but this song doesn’t even have the meager insight or poison charm of One In a Million. Preaching to the choir has rarely sounded so rancid.

Hillary Brown: So despite the fact that the lyrics are the kind of clever stuff a 13-year-old redneck comes up with, the melody’s light and fun and the twangs and harmonies are almost experimental without becoming un-beautiful.

Anthony Miccio: Hank Williams Jr. gripes about What’s Wrong With America graced by an ironically eager-to-please chorus. Could Keith be a roid rage Randy Newman, mocking his audience’s determination to take pride in a nation they hold in contempt? Or is he just sharing their unexamined nihilism?

Matt Cibula: His mixed-up confusion doesn’t have a bit of courage in it, and his voice doesn’t sound so nice anymore.

Alfred Soto: Keith’s usually a good singer, so I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt when he sings about “kids” on THE YouTube. I don’t trust the power chords, and I certainly don’t trust his politics, which on this evidence don’t extend past the sentiments of angry citizens railing against Nazi health care (as captured on the YouTube). Someone bring a flip cam to record Toby’s reaction when he learns that the American ride he loves so much was made in Japan.

Martin Skidmore: Sadly fails to feature the line “It’s political correctness gone mad!”, but it may as well do.

Additional Scores

Andrew Casillas: [2]
Anthony Easton: [4]
Tom Ewing: [6]
Edward Okulicz: [3]

24 Responses to “Toby Keith – American Ride”

  1. TOBY DIDN’T WRITE THIS SONG. Boy you guys are pathetic if you don’t like someone because you don’t agree with your politics, thank god there are more that AREN’T like you because this song tells the truth about our country.


    Too bad you guys don’t listen to songs for fun and not have to analyze everything.

  2. somebody explain the high score/scathing review combos that pop up here.

  3. Good songs (and rocking ones) can be full of shit, too?

  4. i guess I’m looking at you as much as anyone Chuck: I dig that you don’t have to like a song’s message to like it (I listen to a lot of hip hop after all), but there’s not much rocking going on here. I’m also not seeing anything in what you wrote that suggests it is?

  5. I didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics on this one (as it was Toby Keith I assumed they would be something along the lines of ‘Hey! America! I like America! Or at least a certain subset thereof!’) as I was too busy doing Bill and Ted twiddly-wee air guitar.

  6. Yeah, his depiction of what happens here is lunkheaded but the message is complicated and confused enough for me not to figure it out, but I like at least some of what it’s getting at: seems not only to be “My country right or wrong, even when it’s predominantly going wrong” but “there’s something about my country’s combination of right and wrong that is especially compelling, makes for quite a ride.” This latter makes the message different from Stephen Decatur’s famous “My country right or wrong” quotable, which I’d originally seen as, “My country, may she ever be right, but my country right or wrong,” though the Wiki entry on the subject gives the toast as “Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!” The Keith maybe implies that if you get rid of the wrong you risk eliminating something crucial, though presumably he’d be in favor of getting rid of some of the wrong, as who wouldn’t. Relevant here would be LeAnn Rimes’ “Family,” a better and much smarter song, about how her family’s ongoing catastrophe was a living, bubbling-over priceless thing. Makes sense that both the Keith song and the Rimes song go rock out.

  7. Not sure how you missed this, John: “he kicks the thing as hard as just about anything he’s done (dude’s been covering ‘Stranglehold’ live lately — guess he’s getting bored by his mellow period.)” Actually, I can’t think of many charting songs this year that have rocked harder. But then, I like Bad Company (and don’t distrust powerchords.)

    Something longer I wrote about Toby last year, fwiw:

  8. I caught “he kicks the thing as hard as just etc”; but my exposure to Keith suggests that he’s never been kicking ANYTHING hard… this may be a failing on my part; I’ve just heard his pop country singles in passing. This sounds like a classic case of YMMV, so I’ll defer to individual tastes and go read your piece now.

  9. Bonus pointless info: I also subjected myself to two days of Shock’N’Yall when it first came out cause I got mailed a promo copy and that may have pretty much bailed me out on him for good.

  10. I’ve been called a Republican enough times in my life to look the other way at Keith’s confused and rather endearing cultural conservatism, but his pretty good to excellent singing here doesn’t put over the power chords or his message.

  11. I love Toby, and his often weirdly reactionary politics, so my problem with this is not the contradcitions, it is that the references are out of fashion and lazy–and it doesn’t even rock that hard.

  12. I want “Too bad you guys don’t listen to songs for fun and not have to analyze everything” on my gravestone.

  13. Be patient.

  14. I think we should start printing reviews where we just listen for fun and don’t try to analyze anything at all. Here’s one:

  15. ^This would take care of most of that pesky “word problem” that has long afflicted this site.

  16. Maybe somebody already said, I can’t read all the comments: I think the song’s point about the ozone is that, while everyone says the sky is falling viz global warning and so forth, at the level of what we actually experience, it’s a little hard to credit; the world turns, just as it did yesterday. It’s pretty clear to me that he’s not *accepting* global warming, he’s mocking what he perceives to be environmentalist Chicken Littles. So it actually isn’t any sort of counterpoint to the song’s stance in general.

    As it happens, I too think it rocks like a motherfucker. I almost always agree with Chuck on all non-hip-hop-related matters.

  17. I’m with jane dark there: I’m inclined to view that lyric as sceptical of climate change claims.

  18. Mind you, “winter getting colder, summer gettin’ warmer” right at the start.


  19. Yeah I can see that — Toby’s probably saying that even if we are frying holes in the ozone, it sure hasn’t made our lives any worse (even if everything else has, which is all part of the ride anyway). Another possible explanation, from George Smith over on ILM’s Rolling Country thread: “It’s OK for country artists to now start acknowledging global warming because O’Reilly has said repeatedly that he believes it, although most of the rest of Fox still calls it a hoax.”

  20. …plus, is it just me or are we supposed to hear the title/chorus as “gotta love this American Right“?

  21. This song is great…… but I happened to know first hand that the songwriter has webbed feet and I dont think its fair to take cheap shots at handicapped folk. Yall can burn for that for true.

  22. I still maintain this does not rock like a motherfucker

  23. […] like you / Only prettier.” For the first time since I’ve gotten into country music, American Ride aside, I feel like I’m exluded from being part of the audience – pointledly so. The […]

  24. So is the line about “plasma getting bigger” about, uh, TV sets??? I’m pretty out of it where advances in consumer entertainment technology are concerned, but I just rode my bike past a Big Screen TV store, a year after this song came out, and a lightbulb went off in my head. Line was completely crytpic to me before — figured it had something to do with science trouncing Jesus. If it’s about TV, it’s less despicable.