Country Throwback: Toby Keith’s ‘I Wanna Talk About Me’ Tops Billboard Country Charts 19 Years Ago Today

by Matthew Wilson
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Let’s talk about Toby Keith in this country throwback. It’s been 19 years, almost two decades, since Keith’s song “I Wanna Talk About Me” topped the Billboard Country charts.

At the time, the song was a bit of a gamble for both Keith and songwriter Bobby Braddock. Many considered the song to be in the genre of country-rap. Both Keith and Braddock were unsure how audiences would receive the tune. But they pressed forward with the recording, which became Keith’s seventh No.1 hit.

“They’re going to call it a rap,” Toby told Billboard in 2001. “[But] there ain’t nobody doing rap who would call it a rap.”

Blake Shelton Almost Performed the Song Instead of Toby Keith

Originally, Braddock imagined a hotshot young singer by the name of Blake Shelton to sing the tune. Shelton had just released his debut album earlier that year. But Shelton’s record label rejected the song because they felt it would be too risky. Instead, Braddock turned his attention to Keith. By that point in his career, Keith had created a confident if smug persona. And the songwriter thought his song would fit perfectly with Keith’s “How Do You Like Me Now?.”

“There were two inspirations for that song,” Braddock told Rolling Stone. “One was a very good friend of mine’s assistant had been fired, so her workload doubled. Whenever I talked to her on the phone, that was all she’d talk about. I’d try to talk to her about something else and she’d just keep going back to that. I played it for her over the phone and she didn’t say anything. The next day, she called and said, ‘Did you write that song about me?’ I said, ‘That’s right!'”

“The other inspiration was Blake Shelton,” Braddock continued. “He was going around doing this really raunchy little rap song he made up. To hear him in his Oklahoma white-boy accent doing a rap song was pretty hilarious. So, I thought, ‘I need to write a country-rap song for Blake.’ I wanted to write something about my friend and her loquaciousness, so I thought I would turn it into a rap thing.”

Unfortunately, Keith’s representatives also rejected the song. But DreamWorks Nashville’s President, James Stroud, managed to reach the country singer. And thus, a hit was created.

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