Toby Keith has just released his new video for "Wacky Tobaccy," and even an appearance from Willie Nelson can't keep it from feeling like one lame joke.
Most country fans know Nelson's longstanding reputation as a connoisseur of marijuana. He even has his own brand of the stuff, after all. But most of us wouldn't peg Keith, a seemingly conservative country star, as a big pot smoker. That's part of what makes this new song and video all the more confusing and disappointing.
Although many could argue that Keith first lost his way back when "Red Solo Cup" was his latest offering, it seems Keith is using the wrong approach when trying to stay relevant. Yes, marijuana has become a more open subject in country music these days, but not in a gimmicky way. Artists like Kacey Musgraves ("Follow Your Arrow," "Late to the Party,") have incorporated it into their songs as a way of referencing a real life situation. Instead of opting for clever storytelling, Keith tries too hard to be humorous.
In the video, he sits inside his tour bus with his pickin' and grinnin' band, and tells us about a "balls to the wall" career woman who smoked some weed on her lunch break. It feels like he's leading up to something clever, maybe a surprising twist, but no. Instead, he just rolls into the chorus before literally reading off different types of weed strains.
What could have been a fun and fresh collaboration with Willie Nelson just seems like a cheap way of keeping people interested. Watching him stroll out of the bathroom with a blunt in hand feels like they are using him for a laugh instead of his talents. I'm sure Nelson didn't mind, but he has so much more to offer than a visual gag.
The main issue with "Wacky Tobaccy" is the song itself. Much like Brad Paisley's unrelenting play-on-words sort of songwriting, Keith focuses too much on playing off whatever is taking over pop culture. Whether it's the bro-country tune "Get My Drink On" or politically charged tracks like "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue," the authenticity that catapulted him into stardom seems to have dwindled. Remember when Keith gracefully tackled the single dad's perspective on divorce? Where did that guy go?
If you doubt my argument, refer to this quote from Keith's own press release.
"Wacky Tobaccy is a slogan, a saying that's been around forever and no one has ever put it in a song," Keith explains. "When we were working on it, somebody asked if the saying has ever been written in a song and I said, 'no, but they will now.'"
Please, Toby. Instead of grasping for straws, get back to your roots.