Trace Adkins – “Marry For Money”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | January 30th, 2009

Trace Adkins - Marry For MoneySongwriters: Dave Turnbull and Jimmy Melton.

Forget buyouts, buy-backs or bailouts: Trace Adkins has come up with possibly the ultimate economic stimulus plan.

“Marry for Money,” Adkins’ second single off his eighth studio album X, proves the singer was paying attention during his successful stint on “The Celebrity Apprentice”–or at least to the huge divorce settlements creator Donald Trump has shelled out.

As an ode to the Anna Nicole Smiths of the world, it doesn’t hurt that parts of the song are actually funny. Thanks to its combination of sarcasm and honesty, Adkins’ portrayal of an equal opportunity gold digger is amusing: “I’ll call her sweetheart and honey if she’s a hundred and twenty/…She can be really ugly/I’m gonna marry for money.”

Is it possible to take a song seriously that ends with “Oh, cha-ching/Mucho dinero” and rhymes “sugar mama” with “zeros and commas?” Of course not. But it is possible to enjoy it.

Save a grating mid-song guitar solo, the song’s instrumentation is strong, and its acoustic intro subtly grabs your attention. Its solid production and charismatic performance also save it from going from cute to cheesy, unlike some of Adkins’ more ridiculous outings.

Novelty songs—purposely silly tunes meant to comically portray a person or situation—like “Marry for Money” shouldn’t be automatically disqualified from being good. When done well, they serve as entertaining counterpoints to the darker cheatin’, leavin’ and drinkin’ songs so closely associated with country music.

It’s even possible for these ditties to enhance artists’ careers, like David Allen Coe’s “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” and George Jones’ “No Show Jones.” Little Jimmy Dickens, Jerry Reed and Roger Miller all recorded notable novelty songs.

So the problem isn’t the novelty song form; instead, the trouble begins when they dominate an artist’s song catalog. Unless purposely done to fill a niche (think Cledus T. Judd, Rodney Carrington and Ray Stevens), it’s a dangerous pattern to fall into.

Between “Hot Mama,” “Chrome,” “Honkey Tonk Badonkadonk,” “Swing,” “Rough and Ready,” “I Got My Game On” and now “Marry for Money,” Adkins has long since crossed that line.

Within the novelty realm, this song deserves a “thumbs up” for its effortless, unselfconscious humor and presentation.

But judging it on its merit as a single released to radio, it does nothing to enhance Adkins as an artist. As Jim Malec notes in his review of X, “Marry for Money” serves as interesting filler within a stylistically diverse album. However, with “I Can’t Outrun You,” “Sometimes a Man Takes a Drink” and “’Til the Last Shot’s Fired” also on that album, this should not be the single in radio rotation.

An argument could be made that releasing “Marry for Money” is an adventurous move, given its blunt rejection of traditional loving relationships; however, it would have been more adventurous to break from his usual novelty crutches

His bid for President Obama’s Secretary of Economic Gimmick Songs notwithstanding, Adkins deserves recognition as one of country music’s most underrated performers. Releasing a single other than “Marry for Money” would have been a step in the right direction.

Thumbs Down

  1. Drew
    January 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Just abysmal, especially considering he has two outstanding tracks available to him (“I Can’t Outrun You” and “Til The Last Shot’s Fired”).

  2. Jim Malec
    January 30, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I agree, Drew. I’m just flabbergasted at this release–it makes no sense to me. There is a wealth of potential radio material on that album–even “All I Ask For” has “HIT” written all over it.

  3. Chris N.
    January 30, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Trade Adkins for what?

  4. Mike K
    January 30, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I agree with your review, but I think this song could have been much better if the arrangement had been constructed better or if it had been done by an artist that is not known for this type of song. Hearing Trace do this makes the song lose some of its comedic value, because country listeners expect Trace to sing a song like this. I saw Dave Turnbull do this at the Bluebird quite a while ago and he did a great job with the song and made it really funny. Great writer and a good song, but sung by maybe too much of a good (or at least profitable) thing for Trace.

  5. Craig R.
    January 30, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I am not a Trace Adkins fan. But I have always thought that he had a greater voice than his songs projected. I thought that once he reached some place of musical stability he would relax and really dig into the kind of country music his voice deserves. But time and time again his music has fallen short of his voice.

    Great country voices like George Jones, Dolly Parton, Pasty Cline or Ray Charles only work because they were married to great songs that were married to their voices in a seamless manner. Trace Adkins has one of those great country voices. But the songs he records all mask that sound or belittle it. “Marry For Money” is a shining example. I sure he thinks it is funny. But in reality it is like an great opera singer singing ” Take Me Out To The Ballgame”.

    One of the reasons I am not a fan has do with what I consider to be his bigoted, uneducated remarks about gays, Islam, and what it means to be an American man. But his politics don’t dismiss his great vocal ability. I only wonder if he knows, cares or is aware of how great he could make a great country song if he only stopped trying to appeal to a limited audience. And respected the honest poetry of a great country song- like ” I’m Tryin”- the last country song he sang that I thought showed a great respect for both his voice and country music.

  6. Brady Vercher
    January 30, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Novelty songs often hide deeper meaning behind an appearance of frivolousness and while this could be read as a novel approach to heartbreak and disenchantment with love, it becomes pointless pretty quickly, although that doesn’t prevent me from liking it. It is disappointing that much better material was passed up, though.

  7. Dan Milliken
    January 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Terrific review, Karlie. I totally agree – it’s not a bad song, but it’s such a waste of a release from this album, and it doesn’t really distinguish itself from the other novelty numbers he’s recorded (most of which I dislike anyway, although I’m actually one of the few who enjoyed “Badonkadonk” for what it was). Usually I like to judge a single on its own merits and not get too hung up on context, but I’m not even sure I’ll remember this one in two years.

  8. Dan Milliken
    January 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Also,

    “Novelty songs often hide deeper meaning behind an appearance of frivolousness”

    I think this is so key to an understanding of country music; it’s a shame a lot of people assume novelty songs are all vapid silliness (though many are, and that takes a lot of work to pull off, too).

  9. paul
    January 30, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I hate the mix on this song. His voice all buried in way too many unnecessary instruments. And I agree with the review. The song isn’t bad (sub-standard) fare – but Trace is capable of so much more.

    As for predictable formula, Holy’s “Brand New Girlfriend” was much, much better.

  10. Rick
    January 30, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I’ll stick with Hank Penny’s “What She’s Got Is Mine”…..

  11. JD
    January 30, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    First song by this guy since “Every Light in the House Is On” that I liked. I love it.

    As for novelty songs, I’m having a flashback to the mid-nineties when all the publishers were telling me that “novelty songs are out now”.

    I guess Dennis Linde wasn’t paying much attention…

  12. Stormy
    January 30, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Chris: We could trade him for Hayes Carll, right?

  13. Chromefan
    January 31, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Country radio put Trace in this predicament. I have watched his career for 12 years and almost every time that he attempted a ballad, it tanked. Muddy Water did not even make it into the top 15. If he wants a career in country he has to play their game. Personally, I like Marry for Money but I love most of the other cuts on the CD even better.

  14. SW
    January 31, 2009 at 9:22 am

    I had a business law professor who used to say “Marry for money the first time; the second one can be about love.” I feel like he might have a better grip on the topic than the songwriters in this case. Not impressed by much of Adkins’ new album. This song is no exception.

  15. Leeann Ward
    January 31, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I’m with you on this rating, except that I don’t even like the song at all. I don’t like the melody, the words are dumb and I especially don’t like the production. He’s done better novelty songs and there are certainly far better songs on this album that should have been released instead, as others have said.

  16. Stormy
    January 31, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I had a high school teacher who used to remind us girls to always learn how to make our own money. Everyone else can take theirs with them.

  17. Occasional Hope
    January 31, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    While I agree that Trace has done far too many novelty songs, I actually quite like this one. It may not be the best track on his latest album, which has some great serious songs on it, but it’s not terrible by any means.

    It actually brings to mind one of Dolly Parton’s 60s recordings, the terribly titled “I’ll Oilwells Love You”.

  18. Baron Lane
    January 31, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    It takes someone as brilliant as Shel Silverstein or Roget Miller to make something this corn-po bad good.

  19. Noah Eaton
    January 31, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    While I concede it may be a risky proposition from a commercial standpoint, I believe should Adkins take a risk and pressure Capitol Nashville to release “I Can’t Outrun You” as a single, I honestly think it could eventually prove to pay off significantly.

    It may not be among his more immediate offerings musically, but when you’re willing to get past that, there’s nothing esoteric or complex about this composition; it’s simply an outstanding composition because Adkins sounds incontestably sincere and full-blooded. If someone like Jamey Johnson, who not that long ago at all began to establish himself as more than just a respected collaborative songwriter in Nashville was successfully able to pressure Mercury Nashville in releasing “High Cost Of Living” as a single, surely a well-established and well-seasoned veteran like Trace Adkins has enough clout to get either “I Can’t Outrun You” or “All I Ask For Anymore” out on the airwaves.

  20. PaulaW
    January 31, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I honestly think it’s gonna take some folks (hopefully some established folks like Trace) pushing the envelope to get music to change and go back to being something with a little meat on its bones, and ‘real’ music, not just cotton fluff. (Not that there isnt room for a few songs of that nature, but they shouldnt dominate). Although I’m not a Jamey Johnson fan (I dont hate him, I just dont ‘love’ him) I’m hoping for his success in the terms that it will open the door for – and ramp up the courage of – other artists to do the same. At the very least I want the artists / labels / songwriters / music industry to give us a chance as listeners to decide for ourselves what we want to hear – not just what ‘they’ want us to hear.

  21. Joe
    January 31, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I’m confused. The song got a thumbs down rating because the label overlooked better options?

    As has already been noted here, Trace has had trouble with many of his “better” singles — after all these years, and despite his talent, he is not an “act” who guarantees top 10 hits every time out — and there is a very good likelihood that radio wanted this song as a single. Whether he dug his own hole, with regard to all these novelty songs, or if radio is forcing him into that position, I don’t know.

    But for this logic to be ignored in this review is disappointing, at least.

  22. Jim Malec
    January 31, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Well we have a tough standard, Joe. It’s possible for a reviewer to like a song and not give it a Thumbs Up.

  23. PaulaW
    February 1, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Jim: Well we have a tough standard, Joe. It’s possible for a reviewer to like a song and not give it a Thumbs Up.

    Each to his own of course, but I dont get your (or Karlie’s) reasoning on this either.

    You should be reviewing the SONG (which she did well – and said she liked) and giving the rating based on that, NOT on the label’s choice of what they released or could’ve / should’ve released.

    I like the song, I think it’s cute, and I think Trace did a good job on it.

    And as much as I love a good strong emotional ‘perfectly written’ song about real life that I can relate to, I also love some light-hearted fun songs too. There’s got to be a balance. The scales (of ‘country’ radio) can be tipped a bit one way or the other, but it cant be top-heavy with either and still keep my interest.

    JMO, of course. We all have our personal tastes and likes and dislikes. I for one hated “Swing (Batter Batter) but loved “Honkytonk Badonkadonk”. And I love “Every Light In The House Is On” and “Then They Did”.

  24. Karlie
    February 1, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Hey guys–I probably should have addressed why I gave it both a thumbs up and a thumbs down all in the same review. Sorry about that, but I’ll do it now.

    Alongside the left hand of this blog at the top, you have a couple categories to pick from, including “Single Review.” While I was wrestling with an up or down, I thought about why it’s called that. It’s not an “Album Cut Review” or “Song Review,” but a review on a single released by an artist for country radio. I decided to judge it on its value to the artist to release this song at this time, considering the strengths of his album.
    Not everyone (even at The 9513) may agree with that, but that was my reasoning behind the rating.

    Hope that clears it up.

  25. Patrick
    February 2, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Well, I LIKE it! I think most of you should lighten up. Would you rather listen to Rodney Atkins, Rascal Flatts or Kenny Chesney? In fairness to Trace, in the past couple of years radio has rejected his non-novelty singles and no one at the label is happy about that…including Trace. “Muddy Water” was a nice change of pace, and it died at #20. Admittedly, he’s becoming “typecast”…but the alterenative is ‘no airplay.’ At least “Marry For Money” doesn’t sound like half the other songs on radio!

  26. Stormy
    February 2, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Patrick: No, I would rather listen to Hayes Carll, Justin Townes Earle or OCMS. And so I do.

  27. Bobby
    February 2, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I like it because it’s not as aggressive as most of his novelties. “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”, “Swing”, “I Got My Game On” were all totally in your face about everything, both lyrically and sonically (although admittedly I still like Badonknadonk). This one is more laid back, and I agree that it would’ve been better had it only been released by someone who hasn’t been so reviled for constantly releasing novelties.

    Also, JD, you haven’t liked a single release from Trace since “Every Light in the House”? Really? Not even any of his ballads? “I’m Tryin'”? “Arlington”? Etc.

  28. JD
    February 3, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Honest, Bobby. I thought I liked “There’s a Girl in Texas” until I realized it was a clone of Mark Collie’s “Born to Love You”

  29. Bobby
    February 4, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Wow, that’s hard to believe that you haven’t liked ANYthing of his for the most part.

    I don’t think “There’s a Girl in Texas” and “Born to Love You” are that close melodically, but eh.

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