Country audiences have always been strongly working-class, and such country greats of yesteryear as Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard sold albums based on how they answered the fears of the average American. Toby Keith does the same thing, but with a wholly commercial slant, pandering to audiences dismissed by the intelligentsia while perpetuating negative country stereotypes in order to sell albums. Here are a few examples of Keith grabbing at dollar signs.
Toby Keith is blue-collar through and through. He even recorded a song to prove it, "Honky Tonk U," in which he calls himself "trash" and boasts of being a "red-white-and-blue-blood graduate of Honky Tonk U." In other words, the school of hard knocks. With this song, Keith says to his audiences, "No matter how uneducated you are, no matter how poor your grammar is, there's a chance you, too, can become a famous country singer with a huge following amongst Wal-Mart customers." (His follow-up album was called White Trash with Money, appropriately enough).
Toby Keith is an angry American. After 9/11, Keith got so pissed that he recorded "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)." It played upon our collective desire to kick a whole lot of Taliban ass. "Soon as we could see clearly," he sang, "Man, we lit up your world like the Fourth of July." Okay, that's a reasonable assessment, even if comparing a fiery blitzkrieg upon foreign soil to a proud moment in American history is questionable. "You'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A./'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass/It's the American way." Whoa, whoa. A boot in their ass? That's the American way? Keith's audiences apparently thought so.
Cricket Wireless Pavilion
Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry, Carter's Chord, Mica Roberts, and Trailer Choir are scheduled to perform on Thursday, July 10.
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Toby Keith believes in capital punishment. Remember that cool duet Keith sang with Willie Nelson a few years back, "Beer for Our Horses"? Well, some people were probably too busy singing along to pay much attention to the vengeful lyrics: "Grandpappy told my pappy, 'Back in my day, son, a man had to answer for the wicked that he done/Take all the rope in Texas, find a tall oak tree/Round up all of them bad boys, hang them in the street.'" This type of thing is also called lynching, and has all sort of "back in the day" connotations, but we won't get into that since Keith's audiences might call us "East Coast liberals."