This past November, a law student at the University of Michigan posted the following observation on his blog: “My life was enriched today with the discovery of Trace Adkins’ hit new song, ’Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.’ Critics may dismiss it as merely a song about butts, but those of us who watch music carefully can see it as something more. It is a great moment in cross-cultural media, thanks to the song’s clever adaptation of the traditional hip-hop appreciation for rears … into a country & western rockabilly Ode to Ass.”
OK. So this guy has obviously never heard such hillbilly booty calls as “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On” or “The Shake.” But he’s still got a point. Written by Randy Houser, Dallas Davidson and BNA recording artist Jamey Johnson, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” may turn out to be Music Row’s hottest cultural export since “Achy Breaky Heart.” Note that the student speaks of “watch[ing] music.” Clearly, he’s discovered the song via its music video.
That’s exactly what Adkins’ label, Capitol Records, had in mind when it decided to use a dance mix for the “Badonkadonk” video soundtrack instead of the tracks featured on the album cut.
“When we started to release the song as a single,” says Fletcher Foster, Capitol’s senior vice president of marketing, “we felt it was going to become a lifestyle record — that it was going to take on a life of its own beyond country music, beyond being just [another] song with a video. So we went to Miami and had a remix version done. Since the song literally takes place in a club, I said, ’Let’s make a club mix.'”
Capitol took three of the dance mixes they commissioned and made them into one master mix for the audio portion of the video. The label was so pleased with the result, Foster says, it has serviced the video not just to country channels but to “everything from dance clubs to professional and college cheerleading squads to fraternities and sororities to a lot of sports marketing outlets.” He adds that Capitol has three more “distinctive mixes” on the shelf should other promotional opportunities arise.
“Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” is the third single from Adkin’s Songs About Me CD. It was preceded by the album’s title cut and the somber military tribute, “Arlington.” Released in March 2005, the album rose steadily to gold status by October. But then, spurred on by the focus on “Badonkadonk,” the album leaped from gold to platinum within the space of two months later. (Gold means that 500,000 copies of the album were shipped to retail outlets. Platinum signifies 1 million units shipped.)
In the digital download category — a measure of the song’s appeal to young and urban audiences — “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” has been certified gold, meaning that it has racked up 100,000 downloads. It is currently the No. 1 song on iTunes country chart, and it’s No. 2 and still holding steady on Billboard’s country singles chart.
“Songs About Me” was already out as a single before Adkins discovered “Badonkadonk.”
“He was finishing up the album when this song came into play,” Foster recalls. “We knew it was a magical song, but we didn’t know it was this magical.”
The video for “Badonkadonk” is, Foster admits, “somewhat risqué” by country standards. Essentially, it’s one long tush circus with Adkins as the leering, jiving ringmaster.
“It’s funny,” says Foster, “I’ll talk to somebody and they’ll say, ’Oh, yeah, my 7-year-old loves that video.’ And I’m like, ’Really? You don’t have any problems with it?’ They’ll say, ’No, it’s so tongue in cheek.’ I think Trace does have that way of being able to carry off a video like this that a lot of other artists wouldn’t.”
This week, Adkins’ booking agency added another 19 shows to his Honky Tonk Badonkadonk tour. Talk about shaking your moneymaker!