Joe Exotic is a great many things: Big cat lover, failed presidential candidate, proud polygamist, incarcerated murder-for-hire convict and, above all, the breakout star of Netflix’s extremely bingeable Tiger King.
But we must never forget that he is, above all, an artist. A country music artist.
No, really, that’s what it says in the opening shot of Here Kitty Kitty — Joe Exotic: Country Music Artist.
Now, one could quibble and argue that Exotic is not, in the strictest sense of the word, an “artist,” in that he neither wrote nor sang some of the songs that have become his biggest YouTube hits. As Slate reported, much of Exotic’s music was written and performed by the duo of Vince Johnson and Danny Clinton.
We say such technicalities do not matter. Because it’s impossible to watch Joe Exotic’s video and conclude that they didn’t spring from his strange, singular vision.
On this April Fool’s Day, let us celebrate a human no prankster could invent by plowing through seven of Joe Exotic’s most magical music videos.
Pretty Woman Lover
It’s hard to determine what’s worse about this song: The decidedly terrible lyrics (“I’m pumping iron and I’m looking nice / got a tattoo on my shoulder of melting ice”) or the decidedly un-woke lyrics (“I’m a pretty woman lover, I’m an ugly woman’s dream / sexiest man that you ever seen”). Pair it with the video’s cheesy special effects, dirtbag cinematography and myriad depictions of the dirtbag good life, the whole package is almost mesmerizing, like a Tim and Eric take on Joe Dirt. Good lovin’ daddy gonna make you scream, indeed.
Here Kitty Kitty
Musically, this southern Gothic story-song isn’t all that bad. But thanks to its laser-specific lyrics, it’s not exactly Top-40 relatable. The song deals specifically with a “rich woman” named “Carole” whose husband disappeared under mysterious circumstances, only to be seen feeding her large cats some very suspicious cold cuts (“Here, kitty kitty, mama’s got some treats for you … you can’t find this taste in the zoo”). The video shows … exactly that, with a Carole Baskin lookalike in the lead role. Subtlety was never Joe Exotic’s strong suit.
Because You Love Me
Not long after Taylor Swift went pop, Joe Exotic did the same with Because You Love Me, a breezy little ditty filmed amid fans and Exotic’s tiger pals. The lyrics are instantly forgettable, but the melody’s pretty catchy. And you get to see Joe Exotic serenade, kiss and noogie multiple tigers, which is reason enough to get out of bed in the morning.
I Saw a Tiger
One again, specificity is Joe Exotic’s forte. Who else could write such a perfectly acceptable song for an anti-poaching, pro-conservation PSA, an earnest call for “hunters to lay down their guns” and admire the majesty of the great striped beast in the jungle before them? “I can give ’em a home, safe and warm, but the law wants to ban me — can you tell me who’s wrong?” It’s basically Sarah McLachlan’s Angel, but for tigers.
Not content to preach about tiger conservation, Exotic turned his eye to pachyderms with 96 Elephants, whose title references the number of elephants poached each day. Exotic directed the video, filmed at an elephant ranch in Levy County, Fla. It’s a more urgent-sounding advocacy song featuring an unnamed quasi-rapper and a bit of graphic, unsettling footage that underscores the brutal reality at hand: “We can take on every animal God made, except the animal in man.” So true.
The Sun Says
Of all the words one could use to describe Joe Exotic, “understated” probably wouldn’t make the top 1,000. But this gentle, folksy tribute to his father sounds a bit like James Taylor and a bit like the Zac Brown Band. The video, featuring ducks and geese instead of cats, isn’t exactly high art, but it’s what you might get if you stripped the exotic out of Joe. Maybe there really is a country music artist in there after all.
This Is My Life
Whereas Tiger King took seven episodes to sum up the life of Joe Exotic, the man himself did it in a five-minute ballad. Yes, it involves him speaking snout to snout with a baby alligator. Yes, it’s about his impending death from a cancer he may or may not have had. But it also shows Exotic dabbing away tears as he bids farewell to his fans, his “biggest thrill.” If you love shots of a man staring out into a lake, This Is My Life is the video for you. What’s so absurd?