In general, I don’t know very much about country music. I know even less about recent country music.
I know that “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift is pretty great, and “I’ve Got Friends In Low Places” by Garth Brooks is, without a doubt, one of the best songs ever. Notice how only one of those songs is even a little bit recent.
Most of my country love belongs to Mount Rushmore-type figures like Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and Dolly Parton. Country music is not really something I have much in common with, but then again, that never stopped me from loving Big L.
The interesting thing about the landscape of modern country music, however foreign it may be to me, is that really, it’s the only genre that continually makes its artists money. And yet, when people profess to loving all kinds of music, they’ll usually mention that they hate country. But I don’t want to get into that. There’s a specific new-ish country song on my mind, and it’s by a man named Toby Keith.
To show how out of the loop I was, I didn’t even know Toby Keith still made music. The last I had heard of him was when he was threatening to put his boot in the collective a–es of terrorists because he believed that it was the “American way.” So when my friend showed me his song “Red Solo Cup,” I was incredulous for a whole mess of reasons.
I’d like to break down the song on a molecular level. At its most basic, “Red Solo Cup” is simply an ode to drinking beer in a plastic cup – that’s it. There are no metaphoric, quadratic or linear ways to approach the song. After all, if you’re listening to this song for fun, you’re probably not of the right mind to solve it like a puzzle.
Lyrically, “Red Solo Cup” is the song Asher Roth would be playing to colleges if he wore a cowboy hat. It’s also a song to drive up the sales of plastic cups and Natty Ice at universities below the Mason-Dixon Line.
In the song, Keith extols the virtues of drinking, partying, partying and drinking, and especially drinking and partying with the help of the titular plastic cup. The video is a whole other story that I won’t even mention, other than the fact that both Carrot Top and that annoying puppet-comedian guy play a part in it – that should be enough for you.
“Red Solo Cup” is a song stuck in time. It isn’t indicative of the year it came out in, its influences, or anything at all, really. It was created in a vacuum of musical space and time, and that singularity makes it oddly compelling.
Sure, it’d be easy to say “Red Solo Cup” is without a doubt one of the most inane and irrelevant songs to come out of the “gee shucks, I love blasting this song in my Confederate-flag-adorned John Deere Riding Mower” CMT vortex, but Toby Keith knows that. He knows that this trite, banjo-assisted party song is bologna, which makes the song implausibly hard to hate.
Toby Keith is entirely self-aware of how meaningless “Red Solo Cup” is, which automatically makes it that much more meaningful. It’d be like if the Baha Men admitted that “Who Let The Dogs Out” was made to get sports fans to drunkenly spill their beers while belatedly raising their hands in a putrid attempt at “the wave.” I know I’d love that back-story a whole lot more than what’s probably true – that the Baha Men are really big fans of money.
There’s a pretty big chance you’ll never hear “Red Solo Cup.”
It’s definitely not one of those country-pop crossovers that the radio seems to favor these days. It’s an unabashedly un-commercial song from a humongously commercial artist. And not even Toby Keith’s big, dumb, smiling face in the music video inviting me to dislike the song can change my mind on how I feel.
My name is Kevin Stairiker and I like “Red Solo Cup.” There, I feel a little bit better now. But then again, “Red Solo Cup” is now stuck in my head, so this day is pretty much ruined.
Kevin Stairiker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.