In 2009, Toby Keith released the song “American Ride” as the first single and title track from his album of the same name. It quickly became Keith’s another No. 1 hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
However, the song has received mixed reviews from music critics.
For instance, Dan Milliken of Country Universe said that the song’s intro sounded like a “hamster dance” version of Reba McEntire’s “Strange,” while the rest of it sounded like a car commercial. Milliken also said that he couldn’t tell if the song’s lyric was an attempt to be serious or sarcastic.
“I can’t say I don’t find it all amusing on some strange level. There seems to have been a serious attempt to make social commentary here, and it was pretty hit-or-miss, or maybe more of one than the other, depending on your perspective,” Milliken said and ultimately refused to give the song a letter grade.
The Boston Globe’s Jed Gottlieb also said that “American Ride” lets Keith “make fun of his status as a political punching bag while mocking both the right and left.” On the other hand, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic viewed the song positively. He said that it was not “jingoistic,” it instead “casts a cynical eye, not celebrating down-home values but wondering where we’re all headed.”
Just A Funny And Entertaining Song
Written by Dave Pahanish and Joe West, “American Ride” tells the tale of a man who is still proud to live in America despite the various politically oriented issues the state is going through – such as illegal immigration, political correctness, rising gasoline prices, and even the decreased importance of religion.
Keith said this up-tempo song “makes fun of all the wackiness that goes on in this country.”
“That’s us, that’s right. Gotta love this American ride. Both ends of the ozone burnin’. Funny how the world keeps turning. Look ma, no hands. I love this American ride. Gotta love this American ride,” the song goes.
Originally titled “American Life,” Pahanish said the song was “kind of written in the way that Bob Dylan would have written ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues.'” The fruition of the song started with Pahanish and West putting down a laundry list of things that would personally irritate them or something that made them ask themselves, “What about what happened this time?” or “Can you believe that so and so happened?”
“We started writing the song about the time we had seen that video on YouTube about that girl getting beaten up by her friends, and then the movie Mean Girls came out. It was just a lot of topical stuff,” West told The Boot.
“I never felt like the song was saying right or wrong, but absurdity or just wild. One of the things we heard was this comedian saying, ‘Why are kids in the Sudan not lactose intolerant like American kids are?’ Because of our culture, we have a whole sort of problems that other cultures don’t. So you could say we’re celebrating the absurdity.”
And though Pahanish and West did not write the song for Keith, they find him the only person capable of pulling off a song like this. “He’s the only artist who would have the inertia and size to do it,” Pahanish said.
“They sent it to me to listen to and said, ‘You’re the only guy in the world that could get away with cutting it,'” Keith recalled to Billboard magazine. “I held it for about a year; it was so different I thought I’d be tired of it. I just left it on my iPod and kept listening to it, and it never got old.”
The country singer also added that out of the four or five songs in sixteen albums that he did not write, “American Ride” sounds like he wrote it himself.
You can listen to the song in the video below.
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