Anyone with some knowledge of the business of journalism is likely familiar with the adage “If it bleeds, it leads,” as broadcasters have always relied on society’s collective bloodlust to sell papers, boost ratings, and get clicks.
For decades, cable has been filled with true crime shows where paunchy detectives track down murder suspects who left incredibly obvious clues that allow police to solve a case quickly enough to pack it into an hour-long episode.
However, in 2014, true crime experienced a bit of a renaissance thanks to Serial, a 12-part podcast that did an incredibly deep dive into the possible wrongful conviction of a Maryland man who was sentenced to life in prison over a murder he didn’t seem to commit.
From that point on, the world had a fever and the only thing that could cure it was more stories about legal transgressions with more twists than a round of The Great British Bake Off where the contestants are tasked with making a plaited loaf.
Nowadays, it seems like there’s a new limited series popping up on a weekly basis that everyone insists you have to watch, and last week, Netflix treated us to yet another one in the form of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
I’m not going to bother to sum up the premise of the show because I’m not going to waste time doing what a Wikipedia contributor already has. All you really need to know is that it revolves around the absolute electric factory that is Joe Exotic (a.k.a. The Tiger King), a gun-loving gay polygamist who made a living for himself running a menagerie in rural Oklahoma that was home to over 200 tigers, pumas, and other big cats.
The show’s episodes are interspersed with clips pulled from Joe’s YouTube Channel, a place where he A) waged a long and venomous campaign against his mortal foe Carole Baskin and B) posted videos of his country music songs.
Now that the entire world has too much time on its hands, I decided to use some of mine to get far too deep into the Joe Exotic discography and watch every single video he’s made.
They’re all incredible in their own unique way, but after spending an unhealthy amount of time listening to Joe’s music, I managed to pick 10 tunes (and the accompanying visuals) that really stood out) for some good, old-fashioned ranking.
10. “My First Love”
This is a pretty unremarkable song with a video that largely revolves around Joe staring longingly into space but we do get an appearance from John Finlay, his incredibly loveable toothless husband (at least at the time of filming).
I also adore that Joe says he’d be willing to “grow a garden 18 miles high” to show his love. I respect his commitment but that just kind of seems like overkill.
9. “How Was I To Know”
This is probably the most barebones video Joe has in his oeuvre. Sure, he gets a little fancy by projecting his face onto the screen of a virtual drive-in, but aside from that, it’s just shots of him in the studio, some grainy VHS clips, and recycled footage from some of the other videos on this list.
According to the YouTube description, “How Was I To Know” is about someone who finds themself in the wrong relationship and wakes up wondering if they’re going to die alone, which is interesting when you consider he married two self-admittedly straight men (at the same time) who would both eventually voice regret for deciding to tie the knot.
8. “GW And Me”
I feel like I should address this sooner rather than later: there’s no way Joe is actually singing these, right?
While he does show off his musical talents at certain points in the show—like the time he decided to make himself the center of attention at a funeral—I just don’t get the sense that he’s actually the person laying down the vocals on any of these tracks.
After a little bit of research, it turns out he is not, and if the guys who actually sang the songs are to be believed, The Tiger King can’t hold a tune to save his life.
Anyway, there are a number of weird moments in this video—the bizarre cartoon of his deceased brother really sticks out—but it easily peaks when the director pulls a page out of Steven Spielberg’s book by harnessing the “red amidst a sea of black and white” shot made famous by Schindler’s List.
Speaking of which, the director in question is named J.T. Barnett, whose LinkedIn profile says he filmed things for WorldStarHipHop (presumably professionally as opposed to with a grainy cellphone camera in an alley where street fights were held) before somehow finding himself in Bumfuck, Oklahoma filming music videos for Joe Exotic.
I want to get drunk with J.T. He’s probably got some stories to tell.
7. “I Can’t Believe This Feeling”
“I Can’t Believe This Feeling” has some serious “Rolling in the Deep” vibes to kick things off, but as far as their respective themes go, they could not be more opposite, as this is a love song that you’d think would be dedicated to the man Joe playfully wrestles with in the video.
However, upon further examination, things are not as they seem.
As you can see by the title, the track is “with” Dustin Whitson. Traditionally, when a song features another musician, that artist usually contributes in some way, but as far as I can tell, the only thing Dustin did here was sit awkwardly in a truck and wrestle with Country Music Artist Joe Exotic.
When I watched this, I initially assumed that Dustin was just another young kid who fell under Joe’s spell (and by “fell under Joe’s spell” I mean “wanted free drugs”). However, he was also credited in the “How Was I To Know” video as an actor.
So were they lovers or did Joe just pay him whatever amount was necessary to get to shove snow down his shirt? Sadly, I can’t find a single trace of Dustin’s existence online outside of the videos he appeared in so I assume I’ll spend the rest of my life searching for an answer.
6. “Do You Ever Wonder What Love Could Do?”
You know those ASPCA commercials featuring a bunch of shots of abused animals covered in filth and shaking uncontrollably while a Sarah McLachlan song plays in the background to make you feel like a bad person for not donating?
This is basically Joe Exotic’s version of that (although it’s unclear if you get a free tote bag when you pledge).
5. “I Saw A Tiger”
Joe employs green screen technology in his videos fairly regularly but I’m not sure if he ever managed to do it more masterfully than he did here with the shots of him strumming a guitar on the hood of a truck while a thunderstorm rages behind him and sirens flash.
Speaking of pure sex: I need to find out where to buy one of those handcuff belt buckles.
However, I need to call a major party foul on Joe for using a photo of the pile of dead animals that were killed in Ohio after their batshit insane owner decided to unleash them on a town in what was an otherwise pleasant viewing experience.
You went Full Sarah McLachlan there, Joe. You never go Full Sarah McLachlan.
“4. Bring It On (Please Unite)”
When I first came across this song, I was under the assumption that it was some sort of peace offering to the aforementioned Carole Baskin. After all, despite being enemies, she and Joe both have an undying love for big cats, so maybe he had an epiphany and decided it was time to settle their differences once and for all.
And then I watched it.
After closer examination, it turns out it’s the exact opposite of a peace offering, and while I may be interpreting this incorrectly, it sure seems like Joe is asking other people to pick up their guns and join him for an armed insurrection in the event the government comes a-knockin’ (in the show, he said he was prepared to pull a Waco if that ever actually happened).
I can’t necessarily say I support the message here but damn is it catchy as hell. I would love to know what the hell was up with the needle in his arm, but at this point, I’ve accepted Joe is going to leave me with more questions than answers.
“3. Because You Love Me”
The first time I watched this, my bestiality alarm started going off, but after another viewing, I realized I was so distracted by how intimate Joe was getting with the tigers that I failed to realize the Kim Jong-un levels of propaganda on display here.
In the video, Joe is clad in the finest shirt Express has to offer while petting tigers and getting a bit too handsy with a number of guests who got way more than they bargained for after entering the park. It almost feels like Joe’s husbands were standing off of the screen with a couple of big cats on chains and were threatening to unleash them on the visitors if they didn’t smile and wave enthusiastically enough.
It might seem like a fairly innocent song, but as I continued to listen to it, it became more and more insidious, as “because you love me” seems like less of a statement and more of an order.
I was already getting some David Koresh vibes from Joe but this one really pushed things over the edge.
2. “Pretty Woman Lover”
There is literally nothing I can say about this video that could ever come close to being as entertaining as the video itself.
It’s a song where a gay man with multiple husbands describes himself as a chick magnet (as well as “an ugly woman’s dream”) and a group of adoring females chases him from the roof of a tattoo parlor before he escapes into the back of a DODGE CHALLENGER LIMOUSINE where he is greeted by one of those husbands.
Part of me feels like there must be some sort of underlying message or inside joke I’m missing here but I can’t find it for the life of me.
1. “Here Kitty Kitty”
Before I continue, I should say I neither support, endorse, or condone the way Joe opted to mount a campaign against Carole, and as someone who’s written on the internet for a decade, I know all too well how unenjoyable it can be to be at the receiving end of harassment online.
However, I have to give Joe credit where credit is due for “Here Kitty Kitty,” which is essentially his “Hit ‘Em Up”—complete with a lookalike that’s so spot on that the casting director deserves a bonus. Carole gave Joe plenty of ammunition by maybe, possibly killing her husband and feeding him to some tigers and he hit the center of the target when he fired this shot.
It might not be the most brutal diss track ever recorded but it might be one of the catchiest, as I’ve found myself humming this out loud a few times in recent days.
Well done, Mr. Exotic. Well done.