Toby Keith is the reigning Academy Of Country Music Entertainer Of The Year; he was named the most successful country artist of the new century by United Stations Radio Networks; and he was 2002's #1 concert-ticket seller in country music, according to Pollstar. His achievements in songwriting (12 of his 16 #1 hits have been self-penned), radio airplay (eight Billboard country #1's and eight R&R country #1's from his DreamWorks Records alone), and sales of more than 13.5 million speak for themselves.
Most recording artists hesitate to pick a favorite album or song. Choosing one over the others, they'll say, would be like announcing which of their children they love most. But ask Toby Keith to measure his second greatest hits offering against its 1998 predecessor and he won't miss a beat. "This one means a lot more," he says. "It's what I call the DreamWorks era, and it's been a great part of my life."
The admission in no way diminishes the music that launched Keith's career or the commercial success and artistic acclaim that accompanied those first four Mercury albums and subsequent hits collection. Driven by chart-topping hits including the instant country anthem "Should've Been A Cowboy," "Wish I Didn't Know Now," "You Ain't Much Fun" and "We Were In Love," Keith set himself among the ranks of country's most successful and promising young artists.
His preference for the Greatest Hits 2 offering is instead an acknowledgement of how far his career has advanced in the five years since his move to DreamWorks. And, more importantly, it is a celebration of the creative control he was able to secure for himself and his music with that momentous move.
"There was so much going on with Mercury when the first hits album was being put together," Keith says. "Some of that music I'm really proud of, and some stuff like the Sting duet was foisted on me by the label. They were trying to push me in a certain direction and I wasn't able to really be myself in a lot of ways.
"This one is different because it reflects a point in my career when I was able to be completely self-directed. My songs, my decisions. 'How Do You Like Me Now?!' really speaks to the direction I wanted to go. That's what got me dropped from Mercury, and it's what really got this whole part of my career moving."
"How Do You Like Me Now?!" took on greater meaning after it roared to No. 1 and stayed there for five weeks in the spring of 2000. The fast start was only the beginning, however. "Country Comes To Town" was a top five hit, "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This" spent five weeks at No. 1, "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight" also reached the top spot, "I Wanna Talk About Me" had a five week run at the top, and "My List" went up for five.
"We were almost back to back to back," Keith says. "It was a hell of a run. They're huge impact songs that got a great deal of airplay, sold millions of albums and an enormous amount of tickets.
Those songs, from his first two DreamWorks releases How Do You Like Me Now?! and Pull My Chain, pushed those albums to platinum and double platinum respectively. But that success was but a prelude to what Keith was about to unleash. The first single from his next album, 2002's Unleashed, was titled "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)."
"Courtesy," written in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, became a two week No. 1, but more than that became a rallying cry in the war on terror and propelled Keith into the forefront of public consciousness. The album also spawned the two-week chart-topper "Who's Your Daddy?" and the six-week No. 1 duet with Willie Nelson, "Beer For My Horses." Unleashed debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album sales chart on its way to more than four million copies sold.
And though Greatest Hits 2 ends its chronicle there, Toby Keith's career keeps picking up speed. His most recent album Shock'N Y'all generated three multi-week No. 1s in "I Love This Bar," "American Soldier" and "Whiskey Girl." The album itself debuted at No. 1 on both the country and overall sales charts, quickly certified for four million in sales and remains a top seller.
He has been the biggest live draw in country music for the past two years, and was Pollstar's No. 2 overall ticket seller last year behind Bruce Springsteen. The Academy of Country Music has named him Entertainer of the Year in back-to-back years, representing just two of the literally dozens of peer-voted, fan-voted and industry achievement awards bestowed upon him since the switch to DreamWorks.
His outspokenness, both in his music and in the media, has put him on the national stage, and at times made him a target for criticism". But it many ways, such hits come with the territory his expansive public persona now occupies. The hawkish theme of "Courtesy" led many to an ill-informed conclusion that Keith, a lifelong Democrat, is a hardcore right winger. He doesn't shy away from the political questions, and, party aside, reserves the right to think for himself. "If somebody asks, I'm going to give my opinion if I have an honest basis to have one.
Beyond his now very prominent role as Citizen Toby Keith, the release of Greatest Hits 2 is also a reminder of his presence as one of popular music's premier entertainers. Underplayed facets of his talent--his humor, his romanticism, his gift for telling stories--reassert themselves in this music.
The collection's three new recordings bring these traits to the fore--the keenly-observed "Stays In Mexico," which was Toby's highest debuting single ever, the pure fun and family harmony on "Mockingbird," a duet with his teenage daughter Krystal, and the wryly honest portrait of lifelong devotion culled from a conversation with his late father in "Go With Her." And in a nod to those early songs and the fans that sing along to them every night, he's added live versions of "You Ain't Much Fun" and "Should've Been A Cowboy."
Five years, three albums and one remarkable ascension to superstardom later, Toby Keith is philosophical about his future. But it's probably safe to say that the Greatest Hits 2 collection will be a personal favorite of his for a long, long time. "I know you can't be on top of the world forever," Keith says, "but when it ends it won't be for lack of hard work or because of bad writing or singing. Because I'll continue to write and work the way I have to this point, and I'll continue to surround myself with talented people and co-writers. But that time will come, and I'm certainly always going to appreciate the span that's represented by this album. Every song speaks for itself."
2004 People's Choice Award Favorite Album Unleashed
2004 CMT Flameworthy Video of the Year "American Soldier"
2004 CMT Flameworthy Video Director of the Year - Michael Salomon "Beer For My Horses"
2004 CMT Flameworthy Video Collaboration with Willie Nelson - "Beer For My Horses"
2004 ACM Entertainer of the Year
2004 ACM Top Male Vocalist of the Year
2004 ACM/Launch Video of the year "Beer For My Horses"
2004 ACM Album of the Year "Shock'N Y'All"
2003 American Music Awards
Favorite Country Album Unleashed
2003 ACM Entertainer of the Year
2003 Flameworthy Awards
Cocky Video of the Year & Male Video of the year &Video of the Year for "Courtesy of The Red, White &Blue (The Angry American)"
2001 - Toby wins ACM Male Vocalist and Album of the Year!
CMT VIDEO COUNTDOWN AWARDS
Toby is the "CMT Male Video Artist of the Year" and "How Do You Like Me Now" is the #1 Video for the year 2000
TOBY RECEIVES AWARD
Toby Keith will be presented with the Native Son Award by the South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce on January 27. Recipients are recognized for their personal accomplishments for and in the state of Oklahoma. In addition to his musical accomplishments, the organization cites Keith`s participation in the rescue effort following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as one of the reasons he was chosen to receive the honor.
TOBY HONORED BY NASHVILLE SONGWRITERS ASSOCIATION
Toby Keith was honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association International Monday September 18, 2000 for contributing $15,000 to the organization. The endowment will go toward helping to protect the copyrights of songwriters. Toby is challenging other artists to follow his lead and support the cause.
--- from the official Toby Keith website