Gone Country: Willie Nelson can’t save Toby Keith’s new marijuana-themed music video

Back when Eric Church first deployed “Smoke a Little Smoke” as the third single from his second album “Carolina” in 2010, singing about marijuana was still edgy in country music. Sure, folks like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson referenced “gettin’ stoned,” but the drug references were always cautionary and not celebratory.

Seven years later, when marijuana is legal in several states in some form and medical marijuana advocates made the drug a big part of the last Texas legislative session, several country songs about cannabis have popped up. Many are great; some are bad. Toby Keith’s latest foray into the drug scene falls into the latter category.

“Wacky Tobaccy” seeks to neither advance the drug song genre nor condemn its consumption. It simply is, solely for Keith to say, “Hey guys, I have a song about weed too!” “Wacky Tobaccy” is “Red Solo Cup” for the weed crowd. Actually, the songs follow the same formula: List all the things you can do with said drug, sing its praises, repeat. 

More: New study says country music mentions drugs more than any other genre

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One of the few saving graces of the “Wacky Tobaccy” music video is Willie Nelson. He shows up at the end for a smoke session, but doesn’t sing any of the lyrics. At the end, everyone stereotypically grabs some pizza and other munchies. But not even his winking presence in the music video makes the song worth hearing.

This isn’t Keith’s first song about marijuana, however. His first came in 2003, on his intentionally provocative “Shock’n Y’all” album. “Weed With Willie” was the second “Bus Song” on the album, following “The Taliban Song” as a little ditty that Keith and his bandmates would play on the bus after shows. But that song was also cautionary, fitting to the times. It’s the story of how Keith ended up in the fetal position after smoking up with Nelson on the Honeysuckle Rose.

More: Willie Nelson thinks pot will be legal in the entire U.S. in less than a decade

One gets the feeling that “Wacky Tobaccy” is the song Keith would have liked to have recorded back then. But now that the social stigma has significantly lessened, it’s no longer “edgy” to sing about weed in country music, especially not when something like Ashley Monroe’s “Weed Instead of Roses” exists. 

In the music video, Willie looks like he knows it’s all a joke, playing his puffing persona for laughs. Keith still looks like he’s trying to prove he’s a badass because he smokes pot, all these years later.

But then again, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that more country stars are turning to pot to make songs. A recent study showed that country music references drugs more than any other genre.



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