In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, millions of people across the globe are stuck indoors, practicing social distancing and looking for anything that they can to keep them entertained. Luckily, Netflix heard the cries of the quarantined and released Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, the most truly insane, captivating docuseries to hit the service since Making a Murderer.
At the center of the aggressively weird saga is Joe Exotic, an eccentric Oklahoma zoo owner with a personality bigger than the big cats he controversially keeps in captivity. Joe is an odd character for a plethora of reasons, but one of his strangest passions that is showcased in the doc is his budding country music career. Though he’s responsible for a horde of wild animals, it appears that Joe spent most of his time recording country songs and making low-budget videos that he then packaged in DVDs and sold in his zoo gift shop (stranger still, the whole thing may be a Milli Vanilli situation).
Throughout the series, we get glimpses of Joe’s music videos, and you may be asking yourself (God, we hope not) “Hey, where can I get more of this good ol’Joe Exotic country music?” Turns out, many of Joe’s videos still exist on YouTube (sadly, the comments have been disabled *tear*). Since we’re stuck inside and already testing the limits of our sanity, we went ahead and ranked some of Joe’s masterpieces so you can keep your Tiger King fever going.
5. “My First Love”
It’s commonplace for male country artists to include at least one good slow-burning, heartbroken ballad on their records. It’s a little less common for that baritone lament to be dedicated to a former husband, but they don’t call Joe Maldonado-Passage “Joe Common,” do they?
Joe Exotic puts his twist on the “tear in my beer” country song lineage with “My First Love,” a love letter to his first husband, John Finlay. The video features standard heavy-hearted imagery, with Joe Exotic singing forlornly while staring out on a depressing looking lake (it honestly looks more like a retention basin) and eating a candle-lit dinner alone.
However, John’s appearance in the video muddles the message of Joe’s song. Since Joe is pretty much wearing the same outfit throughout the entire video, it’s obvious that the footage of Joe and John romantically romping through the snow was shot at the same time as everything else, so what is exactly going on here? Are these two staging a breakup, or are they on good enough terms to shoot a promo video for a song where Joe is supposed to be bearing his heart? Either way, it’s not a great look.
4. “Because You Love Me”
“Because You Love Me” is one of Joe Exotic’s more feel-good tracks, but man, the music video is not getting that vibe across at all. The video looks to be filmed during normal visiting hours at Joe’s zoo, and the expressions of the unsuspecting park guests as the camera pans across them range from mild bemusement to pure indifference. A couple folks look like they’re in a hostage situation.
Joe is trying his best, playing the showman and slinking around as he lip-syncs, shaking hands and buddying up next to visibly uncomfortable guests. It’s pretty cringe-worthy stuff, but our Tiger King is lost in his own world. Why? Because we love him.
3. “Pretty Woman Lover”
Joe Exotic had an opportunity to take the standard country Ladies Man rave-up and paint on his own tiger stripes, being the self-proclaimed gay redneck that he is, but bizarrely his actual sexuality does not come into play on “Pretty Woman Lover.” Joe Exotic play-acts as your typical straight, straight-shooting lothario, singing about the women that find him irresistible as he’s chased Beatles-style by a pack of plus-sized women. Most of the video he’s grinding on two attractive models, when he’s not also seen getting inked or chilling on his motorcycle with his biker buds.
This just feels like such a missed opportunity! Joe Exotic convinced two ostensibly straight men to marry him! That feels like an uncommon achievement that Joe Exotic could have boasted about rather than your typical handsome tough guy posturing that he does here. Even John Finlay, who appears yet again, seems confused by all of this as the “My First Love” video plays in the background of the limo. Perhaps this was Joe Exotic’s way to make John jealous after their breakup? The world may never know Joe Exotic’s true artistic intent here.
2. “I Saw a Tiger”
Every great country artist knows when to drop a message, or “statement” song, and lucky for Joe Exotic, he didn’t have to do much searching to find a cause to take up. “I Saw a Tiger” is Joe’s tribute to the big cats that he devoted most of his life to, you know, before getting caught up with political campaigns, meth, “internet sagas,” and murder-for-hire plots.
With CGI-ed storm clouds raging behind him, standing on top of some sort of emergency vehicle dubbed “White Buffalo,” Joe sings about preserving wildlife and stopping the majestic animals from being hunted. Oh, never mind the fact that this is all hypocritical bullshit and that Joe would eventually be found guilty of shooting and killing five of his own tigers, look at him cozy up to his feline co-stars! You can tell this guy really cares!
The most amazing aspect of this whole video is that the song isn’t completely terrible. The lyrics are borderline batshit-crazy considering the irony, and Joe might be the type of sociopath to stage a performance of one of his unrelated country tunes at the funeral of his dead husband, but the guy can carry a tune. Joe saw a tiger, those tigers unfortunately saw him, but perhaps we saw a star in the making?
1. “Here Kitty Kitty”
“Here Kitty Kitty” finds Joe with his highest production value, starring in the video for his most passionate song. You would think that Joe’s most impassioned performance would be a song about his beloved tigers, but by this point in Joe Exotic’s weird, wild life, the destruction of Carole Baskin became Joe’s true pet project.
It’s unimaginable why you’d be reading this article if you haven’t already watched Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, unless you’re just a longtime Joe Exotic fan, but to summarize: wildlife protection advocate Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic are mortal enemies with opposing viewpoints on keeping tigers, and one of Joe’s main methods of antagonizing Carole was repeatedly accusing her of the disappearance of her husband (Carole is actually still a suspect in Don Lewis’ disappearance). This time working in country music’s most famous storytelling-song mode, Joe Exotic paints the portrait of Carole as a vicious murderer who fed her husband to her tigers. In the video, Carole is portrayed by a startlingly accurate lookalike who goes around flinging raw meat to caged cats while Joe stands on, inexplicably dressed like a cowboy priest. “Here Kitty Kitty” is like if Garth Brooks’ “Papa Loved Mama” freebased some meth and fell into the tiger exhibit at the local zoo. Suffice it to say, it’s a Joe Exotic banger. Joe didn’t have to pose with a handful of tiger shit, but he did it because he’s dedicated to his art, and his hatred of Carole.