Songwriters: Brett Beavers, Jim Beavers, Brad Warren, Brett Warren
The latest offering from Toby Keith could easily win the award for Most Polarizing Single of the Year. The shamelessly hokey ode to a plastic drinking vessel has split country fans into two definite camps, one upholding its positive qualities, and the other arguing for its lack thereof, both with equal intensity. It certainly wasn’t recorded with the thought of it becoming a hit, but when a music video went viral on YouTube, the song was released to radio, has already become a Top 20 hit, and has even been incorporated into a Glee episode.
Regular readers of this blog know me as one who calls it like I see it, and also know me as one with a general distaste for stupid lyrics, so here’s my ten-second take on “Red Solo Cup.” This may come as a bit of a shock, but… I don’t hate it. No, really, it’s true. I don’t. You read that right. There are even some things about it that I like.
I can imagine the reader reactions I would get if I were to take up firm residence in one particular side of the debate. I could jump on the pro-“Solo” train, fawn all over the song, giving it a big fat ’10,’ and then the detractors would say ‘Seriously? How can you pan ["Honey Bee," "Baggage Claim," "We Owned the Night," etc.] and then give THIS a positive review??’ Then again, I could pan the song to the wall and have adamant defenders telling me to lighten up and stop being such a prude.
Is it stupid? Sure, it’s as stupid as all-get-out. Keith himself lovingly refers to it as “the stupidest song ever.” But for me, the thing that I find really irritating is when we get cliché-laden pieces of musical insignificance that artists try to pass of as legitimate art. With that in mind, I do find it somewhat refreshing to hear a stupid song that at least knows it’s stupid, and owns it. “Red Solo Cup” makes no pretenses about being anything other than what it is: a fun stupid song to sing along to. It’s nice to hear a song with some self-awareness for a change.
I also like the way the record sounds. Keith doesn’t add any unnecessary bells or whistles, but instead keeps it the way it was recorded on the demo, with simple acoustic instrumentation backing up the quirky rhyme schemes in the spoken-word verses. The song has an appealingly raw, unpolished sound that makes it stand out on the radio. And catchy? Man, is it catchy. It’s catchy in the most effortless, natural-sounding way you can imagine. Plus who doesn’t love that banjo?
Does that mean that I’m a fan? Not necessarily. (I will not attempt to score it, as it clearly defies my 1-to-10 scoring system) I can’t say I have any special connection to the song’s titular cup, and I don’t see it as the kind of song I’ll be coming back to repeatedly. It would just have to catch me in the right mood. Will it become intolerable after repeated listenings? Sure it will. Nonetheless, “Red Solo Cup” represents a moment in which a major country star was willing to do something outside of the ordinary, and to give us something that we couldn’t possibly have expected or seen coming in any way. That, to me, is a course that is commendable, even if one doesn’t necessarily get much out of the song itself, which is why I don’t see any reason to dub it the ‘worst song of Toby’s career,’ etc., etc.
In summary, it’s clear that “Red Solo Cup” is just not for everyone, to say the least. If you prefer to keep your country music somewhat serious, and thus find “Red Solo Cup” abominable, then keep on changing the station when it comes on. But if a few minutes of unapologetic musical stupidity is what floats your boat, then by all means proceed to party.