The 50 Worst Songs of the ’00s, F2K No. 18: Toby Keith, “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American)”


Unreasonable, short-sighted, hyperbolic, childish, reactionary–well, to be fair, “Angry American” is a pretty accurate title…

In the summer of 2002, Toby Keith was King Of The Warmongers, intentionally fanning the flames of hatred with a good ol’ boy grin. He wanted to create a song to express his patriotism but instead gave completely irrational people a rallying cry–think of him as the Country Joe And The Fish for a confused generation lost in a sea of bumpers, yet not knowing exactly where to stick their Truck Nuts.

As legend has it, something really bad happened on September 11, 2001, but I don’t remember what exactly. Toby can you enlighten us?

This nation that I love
Has fallen under attack
A mighty sucker punch came flyin’ in
From somewhere in the back

His intentional vagueness was the most insidious. “From somewhere in the back” could have meant Afghanistan or it could have meant Iraq or it could have meant France for all he cared–the political science equivalent of “kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.” I’m all for Toby Keith being pissed off, but at such a fragile point in American history, it would have been responsible to direct his anger at someone, not just at a vague part on the globe. Seriously, how awesome would it have been if dude was totally focused and factual about it all and wrote a rip-snortin’, whiskey-chuggin’, coke-fueled Hank Williams, Jr. style honky-tonk blowout called “Osama Bin Laden Can Gargle My Star-Spangled Scrotum”? I bet even Joni Mitchell would be covering that jam.

To be fair to Tobes, for a while he only played this song during his shows, putting it safely in a zone where only Toby Keith fans could hear it–an audience whose opinions were used mainly for trivial matters like deciding which band of spray cheese to keep on the market, how many episodes of Blue Collar TV the WB should pick up, and who should be president of the United States. But no one short of four-star fucking U.S. Marine Corps General James L. Jones told Keith it was his duty as an America to record the damn thing. “It’s your job as an entertainer to lift the morale of the troops,” Jones told Keith. “If you want to serve, that is what you can do.” The world of military has never been so active in music since Colin Powell defected from Prince And The Revolution. (To keep with the theme of this vaguely political essay, please imagine a Daily Show-style photoshop of Colin Powell in the “1999” video with the little hospital scrubs.)

The song couldn’t have had worse timing. In June of 2002, we got the report that an errant U.S. bomb was dropped on an Afghani wedding party, killing dozens of people, wiping out the entire family of a 6-year-old girl. Just one month later, Toblerone released this gem:

And you’ll be sorry that you messed with
The U.S. of A.
‘Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass
It’s the American way

Simplistic and nauseating, intended to be performed mad and sleeveless, singing about the flag like he wanted to fuck it. What a jerk off. No word if Toby has since amended that last lyric to “We’ll put a boot in your ass and leave it sitting in there for eight years and then send more boots over.”

Bonus: The B-side to this serious, moving, important song about our precious freedoms is called “Who’s Your Daddy.” The more you know!

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