Strum and Twang: Hootie at Last! Plus Toby Keith and a re-match with Rascal Flatts

This week’s three (plus one) top 10 country hits demonstrate the full range of approaches available to Nashville’s hit-making men. There’s Toby Keith’s beefy traditionalism, Billy Currington’s barroom morality tale, Darius Rucker’s poppy reassurances, and Rascal Flatt’s party-time crossover abomination.

They also demonstrate the limitations of those artists’ producers, as every song here resorts to the cheap trick of dropping out most of the instruments for a dramatic hush just before the final chorus’ fireworks. Meetings, guys! Meetings!

Toby Keith, “Lost You Anyway” (#11)

A Keeper
While not currently in the top ten, TK’s latest scraped up to #10 over the Fourth just to make the terrorists cry. Sturdy and memorable as it is, it’s too dour to be a true smash. Over a rich, repeating guitar churn that’s as much British shoegaze as it is Waylon, Keith moans a list of cliches and clinches — could have tried harder/kissed sweeter/given you the stars above — tallying up all the nonsense that love songs suggest are relationship life-support. Keith’s smarter than those cliches, so the kicker shouldn’t surprise. Timed like a punchline at the end of that coulda/woulda chorus, he adds: I’d have lost you anyway.
Actually, that’s I’d a’ lost you, since this is Toby Keith. As always, each syllable comes out of his mouth as plump and samey as sausages from a casing machine, and the only way he can ratchet up the stakes on the last chorus is to sing it exactly the same but louder. Artistically, that bleating climax is the song’s only mistake. Since he’s singing of inevitable loss and his own refusal to change, the bombast makes little emotional sense.

Also, I have to give the lyric I hate it when it’s like this/Baby, it’s like that now the Blake Shelton “The More I Drink, The More I Drink” Award for Inarticulate Profundity.

Categories: Music