Toby Keith – “Red Solo Cup”

21 Jan

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.


Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Single Reviews



5 responses to “Toby Keith – “Red Solo Cup”

  1. Bella

    January 22, 2012 at 2:22 AM

    Nice take on this song, “It is what it is” a stupid lil’ ditty. I am a very big Toby Keith fan & when I first heard this song while listening to his new CD(Red Solo Cup had not gone viral yet), I said “this is the stupidest song” & I hated it, but it has grown on me & at least he admits it’s stupid & somehow I find myself singing along when I hear it. Only Toby could get away with singing a song about a plastic cup & somehow it becomes a big hit!

  2. bob

    January 22, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    While I don’t particularly like this song, there’s nothing wrong with a silly song now and then. When I started listening to music on the radio around 1957, Doo Wop was in its heyday. There were totally inane songs like Rama Lama Ding Dong that were very popular. Of more recent vintage, I love country singer/songwriter Victoria Shaw’s “Waikiki Cowboy” from her 2000 album “Old Friends and New Memories”. Sounds great and it’s a hoot.

  3. Will

    January 22, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    I’m glad you didn’t pan it like most critics. Its just stupid enough to be great.

    • Ben Foster

      January 24, 2012 at 3:58 AM

      I’m not sure which critics you’re referring to, but the reviews I’ve seen on Country Universe and Engine 145 have been pretty fair. Roughstock even did a piece on “Why ‘Red Solo Cup’ Is Good For Country Music.”

  4. Derrick Mims

    January 30, 2012 at 3:01 AM

    I am a fan of the song. Like you said, it’s silly and knows it. And it’s catchy. (so is Baggage Claim, bit it took me a few listens). The difference between this song and most everything by Lady A is that 1) It’s not pretentious, and 2) it’s not boring.

    It’s just plain fun.


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