With the entire planet getting a crash course on America’s big cat industry over the past couple of weeks thanks to the Tiger King, you could be forgiven for getting caught up in the seedy underbelly of the world. The lying, backstabbing, violence, drugs and extreme haircuts have provided plenty of unmissable scenes as we’ve feasted on the series’ seven episodes, and with Netflix recently stating a new episode is on its way, the feast ain’t gonna stop anytime soon.
Amidst all the mayhem of the show, there is one thing that has been overlooked: a little thing called The Music (maaaaaaaaaaan). Even though the songs weren’t actually written by Joe Exotic – they were written and recorded by Clinton Johnson Band with Joe softly singing over the top – they will forever be artifacts synonymous with the series that has spawned more memes than the “distracted boyfriend”.
Knowing slightly more about video clips than I do about the big cat game, I figured we might as well take a look at Joe’s life through his (kind of his) music videos and see what we can learn from them. It turns out, not much, but it’s definitely some entertaining viewing. So put on your best leopard print, holster up that Magnum and let’s take a look at the music videos of the Tiger King:
Easily one of his most unforgettable clips, this one sees a Carole Baskin lookalike feeding “human” flesh to cats as an ominous Joe sings in the background. Dressed in all black in a cowboy/priest outfit he plays some sort of mystic creature, invisible to the murderous Carole, Joe lays down the facts for listeners with zero subtlety. Not sure what happened budget-wise on this clip as it only really inludes three scenes…. Maybe it was spent on the lookalike? Or paying the car company to let them sit in the convertible (can we assume they never paid the full rental fee to drive it)? Anyway, we can only imagine that Joe and his Carole-hating followers got a big kick out of this one.
“I’m pumping iron and I’m looking nice, got a tattoo on my shoulder and I’m melting ice,” sings Joe in the track’s sizzling opening lines, with this red-hot clip seeing him shift gears from balladeer to badass rock and roll pussy magnet. Forget the fact the lyrics don’t make any sense, forget the fact that he’s a gay guy calling himself a “pretty woman lover”, the highlight of this clip is when he is chased around the slimy-looking limo by a trio of women. It really drives home the point that Joe Exotic is an “ugly woman’s dream”.
Dedicated to John Finlay and all his fans, this one seems to be Joe’s attempt at atonement as he admits to his flaws in a moment of contemplation on a swampy jetty. The shot at 1:21 says it all, Joe is nothing without his first husband to prop him up and support him. When you think about it, Joe passionately singing a song written by someone else, about someone else’s life is a little weird…
This one is probably Joe’s second most recognisable tracks, having featured heavily in the series. Here we see him in his natural habitat, fondling tigers, before breaking out to one of the greatest pieces of audiovisual art ever. Standing on top of an emergency vehicle holding a guitar (which he reportedly couldn’t play) we see the sky transformed to contain doomy black clouds using some sort of high tech special effect wizardry. The shot sums up everything Joe is or at least everything he wants to be: a mystical rebel with a heart of gold.
What can I say, I’m a sucker for a slow song. Here Joe seemingly attempts to capture the sentiments of Brokeback Mountain, donning the red undershirt and tan jacket worn by the film’s Jack Twist, as he tells the story of a couple of cowboys in love. It definitely plucks at the heartstrings, with the song dedicated to Joe’s first husband John Finlay. Who’d have thought their meth-filled romance wouldn’t last?
Fast forward to the moment at 0:28 when a kid at the zoo turns around to see Joe singing and then turns back to check out the camel, which he clearly finds more entertaining. What is wrong with this kid? Doesn’t he know art when he sees it? It’s like turning away from Van Gogh as he puts the final touches on ‘Starry Night’. That kid must be a Carole Baskin plant. Little bastard. Anyway, it’s obvious that Joe is trying to show off his man-of-the-people demeanour in this one and he does so flawlessly (except for the piece of shit mentioned above), with the zoo punters enjoying their chance to rub shoulders with a true creature of beauty.
There’s something to be said for a nine epic that simply lists activities that one could do such as, kiss Channing Tatum, give up Facebook for two weeks and ride a dolphin. It takes a huge performance from Joe, who bookends the clip from “heaven”, to really hold this one together. Fortunately, when it comes to big performances, there’s ain’t many who can rival him. It’s hard to not weep as Joe looks straight into the camera (and into our very souls) deliver vague lines like, “I know I’ll be with you pretty soon, I won’t worry and then I’ll understand”.
I could believe that Joe truly sang this one. There are a lot of interesting things going on with pitch, and by interesting, I mean out of key. But it’s not about that, it’s about the message. And the message is strong from the opening little 10 seconds – don’t take away the animals. Well, not from Joe anyway. Take ‘em from that bitch Carole Baskin though. Will Joe ever learn? I suppose he’s got a long prison stint to think about it…