I’ll never hear “Keep On Truckin’” the same way again…
Brad Shoup: Country finally throws its hands up and says, “Fuck it, just listen to Rebirth“.
Patrick St. Michel: I grew up in a town that was definitely hillbilly proud, where owning a truck was less a consumer choice and more of an unwritten law. The kids driving jacked-up pickups to high school were held in the same social esteem as the well-off students in BMWs (I drove a Dodge Intrepid, and was nowhere near the senior prom court). It’s the sort of rural-life detail that is commonplace until you go somewhere a little less redneck rockin,’ which is when you realize driving a truck is something more than a transportation choice. I once had to borrow my brother’s red Chevy to drive down to a friend’s place in Orange County, and at least three people commented on the truck in not particularly positive terms. Or all the times I’d be with my dad in his silver truck in downtown Los Angeles, with Brooks & Dunn blasting out the speakers, getting weird looks from those around us. Tim McGraw writing a chugging, shout-together-now rallying cry called “Truck Yeah” isn’t remotely ridiculous to me because a dust-powdered truck is a sign of coming from a specific lifestyle, one where the same kids pulling into the Friday football games were playing Tim McGraw. Even though the song isn’t particularly daring musically and McGraw’s Lil’ Wayne namedrop at the start seems to go against everything else the song trumpets (people in my hometown are probably confused by Lil’ Wayne, though everyone started lightening up when McGraw teamed up with Nelly) I’m willing to look past those details because I know I’ll hear this a bunch when I go home for Christmas, and I am OK with it.
Anthony Easton: It’s terrible, everything about this is terrible — the truck sounds, the grinding guitars, the vocals breaking up because he’s trying too hard, his self-identifying as a rock star, rhyming “last call” with “Hallejuah”. All of it. But it’s fascinating, seeing that the young wolves are nipping at his heels and trying to cling to relevance; it’s been years since anything he’s done has been hip, but he’s so good at earnestly falling apart. I wonder why he’s trying to be Brantley Gilbert, unless he wants a hit more than he wants his dignity, which, considering the market, makes sense.
Alfred Soto: Everything except the brontosaurus riff is gross: the title pun, McGraw’s usually exemplary vocals, the attempt to out-macho Jason Aldean and Toby Keith. Is this what Reagan voters felt when George H.W. Bush was caught on camera saying a bad word?
Jonathan Bogart: No, truck you.
Will Adams: The hashtag marketing (“kids use the Twitter, right?”), the lame cultural signifiers (“iPods + Lil Wayne = score!”), and the bridge’s unappealing attempt to create an all-encompassing atmosphere (“I know you seem to address only the hillbillies earlier in the song, but whatever!”) all tell me that Tim and his crew are hellbent on making “#TRUCKYEAH” happen. But it’s not going to happen. Two points for the guitar riff.
Pete Baran: At first glance it’s a divisive country community song which tries to be as inclusive as possible. There is a sense that for country to go wide properly, to hit the pop vein, it needs these days to invoke playground rules about being “in our gang”. Which could be problematic if the rules of the gang were not as weedy as these, which boil down to — er — occasionally liking country (and appreciating the occasional truck). Whilst I am all for not creative false divisions in pop, this blatant attempt at widening the definitions of a country (or at least a Tim McGraw) fan seems coldly commercially cynical. As does any time when a word which is never used as a euphemism for “fuck” is then deployed in pop — see Def Leppard and “I suppose a little Rock’s out of the question”.
Katherine St Asaph: The problem isn’t the big Procrustean tent approach (though he’s probably not really listening to Weezy, nor is he really rapping here) nor the self-parody (though it has to be, right?) nor even the shit pun (though it is, stupendously.) No, the problem is this: “I can find me a girl with a truck, yeah!” No. You either lead with your catchphrase, or you make it make sense from start. Not both.