Country music star Toby Keith: Why we just can't hate the guy | Phoenix New Times
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Toby Keith: Why we just can't hate the guy

In this 2009 article, our writer lists some reasons why country star Toby Keith might not be as insufferable as he seems.
Toby Keith performs at what was then known as Cricket Wireless Pavilion in 2010.
Toby Keith performs at what was then known as Cricket Wireless Pavilion in 2010. Luke Holwerda
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(Editor's note: With the announcement of the death of country music superstar Toby Keith on Tuesday morning, we're rerunning this 2009 opinion piece.)

As a card-carrying member of the liberal media elite, I want to hate Toby Keith. Sadly, I cannot.

That's the maddening thing about a guy like Toby. He's such a walking contradiction that he's hate-proof. He's a redneck, but he diligently keeps his armpits shaved. He's a whore for attention, but he has the media-victim mentality of Sarah Palin. He's arrogant, but with an insecurity that shines through his bluster. He's a chart-topping machine, but the Country Music Association treats him like Susan Lucci at the Daytime Emmys. He's shallow, but he's a master of the filibuster. He's a "dyed-in-the-wool Democrat," but he voted for George W. Bush. Twice.

There are a lot of contradictions there, and here's one more: Toby Keith is a pain in the ass, but you've got to love him. That son of a bitch tells it like it is — as far as he can tell, at least — every single time. Whether it's a showdown with the Dixie Chicks, the dangers of global warming or an honorable acknowledgment that he ain't as good as he once was, the man who should've been a cowboy is, instead, a dispenser of modern-day country wisdom.

On dealing with haters 

I learned years ago that I couldn't fight the hate. 'Cause you just can't stop hate. I mean, there's no way. So what I did is, I got smart about it and I just embraced it. So what I do is, I save millions of dollars on publicity by finding out where these haters exist. And so when I'm putting an album out, I go to their forums and give 'em some reason to hate and put my album on top of it, and they go to work for me. It's real easy. Am I right?

On messing with the U.S. of A.

"We'll put a boot in your ass / It's the American way."

On political independence

The reason I've been a Democrat is because my family was. You can't vote straight ticket; you have to vote for somebody that you think can make this country or your surroundings a better place to live and that can advance us to a better spot. And hate, hate, hate, I would be accused with my songs of being a hater or a warmonger. . My agenda is not to hate."

On the Dixie Chicks

The Chicks attacked me, and after a week of that, and I finally reared up and said, "Fuck you guys. I'm a big-time songwriter."

On his talents being overlooked

Here we were, selling 4 million records a pop, and somebody wasn't sharp enough to grasp that they had one of the hottest-selling artists here. Why weren't they trying to create some other ways to bring money to the table? That didn't happen one time. No movie offers, no television, no jack."

On conversationalism

"I wanna talk about me / wanna talk about I / wanna talk about number one / oh my me my / what I think / what I like / what I know / what I want / what I see."

Now, maybe you don't agree with him. Or maybe you think he's arrogant. But he's giving it to you straight, even though he may not actually know what he's talking about. But you can't really argue with "Should've Been a Cowboy," "I Love This Bar" or "As Good As I Once Was."

So do as Toby says. Let go of all that hate and embrace him. You'll feel better, I promise.
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