One of my favorite ways to pass the time during the pandemic has been to crack a beer and revisit all the 90s country music hits I loved as a teenager with piss poor judgment. In the process, I’ve realized something very important: I can hit every word in a lot of these songs without even thinking about it.
Believe it or not, I’ve always wanted to be a karaoke superstar. The problem is I’ve never had the confidence to go up there and do it. I didn’t know what songs I could perform without embarrassing myself. But this shit…this shit, in a deep-throated faux southern accent, I can do.
Hopefully karaoke will be a thing when the world gets back to normal. To get you all excited for my barnstorming tour of the local bars, here’s my list, in order of increasing confidence. I hate articles with a ton of embedded videos so I’ve linked the titles to their music videos.
“Fast as You,” Dwight Yoakam
When I was younger, the only thing I despised more than onions was the sound of Dwight Yoakam’s voice. I think I learned all the words purely because I got tired of getting up to change the radio. Nowadays I understand that onions are a foundational component of modern cooking and that Dwight’s dulcet tones are the fucking bomb. This song in particular, with a vocal score desperately grasping for confidence over a swaggering guitar, is absolutely bad ass. I can generate the necessary twang but I’m not sure I have the hips to back it up.
“Any Man of Mine,” Shania Twain
I can’t for the life of me figure out why a straight dude who grew up in the sticks would have these lyrics burned into his brain. Maybe it’s because I, too, just want to be loved regardless of how last year’s clothes fit, or in spite of how badly I’ve burned dinner. Maybe I wish I also looked that good in a Canadian tuxedo. Who knows?
“Shoulda Been a Cowboy,” Toby Keith
This song, thanks to one of my father’s tapes, was sort of the gateway drug that got me into this crap. A year or two ago I confused the hell out of a former girlfriend one afternoon when this came on in her car and I sank into a Toby-ish drawl and nailed every word. That said, I’m convinced that Mr. Keith and his “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” bullshit was one of the major contributing factors to driving rural America into jingoistic batshit insanity. Fuck you, Toby. You shoulda stuck to being a cowboy.
“Bigger than the Beatles,” Joe Diffie
This one’s a sentimental favorite; Mr. Diffie passed due to COVID earlier this year. You could argue that “Prop Me Up by the Jukebox (If I Die)” would be a better tribute, but to younger Scott…this song was what love is all about. It’s two people seeing more in each other than anyone else ever will. SHUT UP, NO YOU’RE CRYING!!!
“That Summer,” Garth Brooks
Garth has always been my BAE. I’ll never forget talking my parents into getting HBO for a few months just so we could watch his concert special. Although I know all the words to a significant portion of his discography, his cadence is often quicker than I can keep up with. “Callin’ Baton Rouge” is my jam, but I don’t have the lungs to get through it confidently. “Friends in Low Places” is easy but sort of basic. Enter “That Summer,” an amazingly filthy song about a teenage boy shacking up with “a lonely widow woman” who “had a need to feel the thunder.” It’s the kind of song most people in the bar will completely ignore but then there will be a few Garth fans on the periphery who love the choice and buy me a shot afterward.
“Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” Big & Rich
I don’t remember exactly what got me into these guys in my early twenties, but their album “Horse of a Different Color” remains one of my favorites. Don’t let the cheese factor of this song fool you; Big Kenny and John Rich are supremely talented musicians who combined classic country with modern rock sensibilities in a way that worms itself right into your ear and builds a nest in there. “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” is a total chart-topping sellout, but it’s catchy as all hell and the speech toward the end is one of my favorite verses to drunkenly slur along to. And besides; I’m the only John Wayne left in this town.
“This Kiss,” Faith Hill
I’m not sure I can explain this one. I know younger Scott was wildly in love with Ms. Hill. I know half of my excitement for Sunday Night Football came from watching her sing the intro song, and I know that her replacements in that role (Pink and Carrie Underwood) can’t lace her fucking boots. I know “This Kiss” has wound up in pretty much every ironically shitty playlist I’ve ever put together. I know I think it would be really funny to sing. I don’t think any of these things completely explains my Pavlovian response to the first few notes of this one. Seriously, I’ve got this shit down to the point Tim McGraw should probably find me and punch me in the face. They’re still married, right? I don’t fucking know.
And a few extras:
The song I’d sing if I could actually sing: “Fancy,” Reba McEntire
Out of all the tunes on this list, Reba’s super problematic magnum opus about an orphan who uses her womanly wiles to ascend to society’s upper crust is the one most likely to bring the house down. I can’t do it…yet. Nailing this one’s my new by-the-end-of Corona goal. You know I might’ve been born just plain white trash, but Fancy was-a my name!
The song I’ll drunkenly decide is a good idea and then royally fuck up: “Achy Breaky Heart,” Billy Ray Cyrus
Younger Scott used to get pissed whenever Billy Ray came on the radio. The first time I ever muttered “Fuck this shit” was when I ran over to my stereo to change the station and avoid this song. Now I think it’s hilarious. God, this song sucks so much that it’s fucking wonderful. I’m trying to learn it, but it’s not sticking, possibly because my hair’s fallen out to the point that I’d never be able to naturally produce an appropriate mullet.