Thrust into the mainstream limelight off the back of Netflix’s new docu-series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka Joe Exotic) is a pop-culture sensation. For those that haven’t yet seen the documentary – spoiler alert – Exotic is currently serving 22 years behind bars for 17 charges of animal abuse and two murder-for-hire charges. His incarceration is the culmination of a web of morally questionable actions that have shaped and moulded the big cat industry in the United States. It’s a subject that most of us likely weren’t too familiar with but, thanks to Netflix, a light has been shed on a world laced with crime, deceit and misconduct.
Without dwelling on the negatives (see the documentary for the full story), perhaps one of the most surprising details revealed in the seven-part limited series was the fact that one of Mr Exotic’s many side hustles was creating and performing country music bangers. Here are WaveByte’s top three essential Joe Exotic tracks to brighten up your dull day indoors.
1) I Saw a Tiger
Indisputably Joe Exotic’s magnum opus. A four-minute love letter to the jungle cats that his fame, fortune and eventual downfall are owed to. Aside from being an ode to his big cats, I Saw a Tiger is also a politically significant piece that serves to illustrate Exotic’s original mission statement of protecting tigers from poachers and farmers:
“I can give them a home, safe and warm, but the law wants to ban me. Can you tell me who’s wrong?”
This line, in particular, highlights Exotic’s proficiency as a lyricist. The inspired use of the interrogative prompts the listener to conjure up an answer to Mr Exotic’s question. Who is wrong? You decide.
Furthermore, the lyrics are delivered with increasing passion as the song progresses. We hear Exotic’s vocals stretched to their capacity as he reaches for soaring heights that only he knew he was capable of. The song closes with a fade, but the message rings true. (5/5).
2) Pretty Woman Lover
Pretty Woman Lover is an eyebrow-raiser for a myriad of reasons – the most glaring of which is that Exotic, a gay man, sings lines like “I’m a pretty woman lover, I’m an ugly woman’s dream. Baby, you’re lucky to have a man like me”. This could be a potential point of criticism for some; however, Exotic would likely argue that he is a man that cannot be marginalised – a tiger that refuses to be caged. Creatively, this might be true; however, the 22-year jail sentence exposes certain limitations to Exotic’s mantra.
Strutting chords and purring vocals thrust Exotic’s brand of cock-rock into the 2010s and boy, is this one full of spunk. Crank it up, it’s a hip-thruster. (5/5).
3) Here Kitty Kitty
Brave, bold and ice-cold. Here Kitty Kitty is a flash insight into Exotic’s relentless entrepreneurialism – for all the malintent that fuelled this track, you can’t deny the ingenuity of dropping a YouTube diss track before they became trendy. The lyrics tell the story of how Exotic’s fiercest adversary and fellow big-cat big-hitter Carole Baskin allegedly murdered her husband and fed him to a Tiger. It cuts a bleak picture, but the accompanying music video is a masterclass in the art of dark comedy. Dressed as the Wildest Priest in the West, Exotic’s costume is made complete with the undertaker hat that sits atop his messy mane. The Baskin lookalike actress ensures that the song’s message hit close to home and, in fairness, she delivers a performance to die for.
Sonically, Here Kitty Kitty is poised and brooding. Exotic’s crooning is spliced in half by a jangling guitar solo which is fine, but it’s not why people are listening. As expected, the limelight belongs to Exotic. The chorus is admittedly repetitive, and by the time the song crests the four-minute mark, things do start to sound a bit drab. Nonetheless, this song made a big splash in the big cat scene, the ripples of which travelled further than even Exotic could have predicted.