Before I jump into an analysis of “Timber,” let’s start with some context – specifically, where the world was at during the period of 2009-2014 and how that relates to the music of that time. A recession had swept the globe because of poor decisions by large financial institutions who used the American dream as a spring board for their own prosperity. Millions lost their jobs or retirement funds because of the decisions and ignorance of a few. People were doing anything they could to avoid thinking about how bad things were financially, and music, typically, has been a great thermometer in understanding the feelings of the population as a whole. The music that was popular during this period was indicative of the general feeling of distraction that was needed by most, and many of the hits of this era were 1) dance/club oriented, 2) extremely easy to get into and 3) vapid lyrically and not emotionally driven. I like to compare this recession to the downturn in the late 70s – part of the reason that disco was so popular and widespread was because of these same general feelings of needing a distraction and just going to the clubs and dancing.
With people looking for club ready hits, they turned to artists like Pitbull (dale) and Kesha, and for a long period of time, anything that either of the two touched turned into a hit. Pitbull (yoooooooooo) teamed up with just about everybody so he could rap about his shitty ass vodka, girls, international love, etc, while Kesha, more dynamically (I guess) sang about puking in Paris Hilton’s house and waking up in the morning after being blackout drunk. Both had unbelievable longevity chart wise, even after Kesha demanded that she be taken more seriously as an artist. But, by the time “Timber” hit #1 for 3 weeks starting on January 18th, 2014, both the economy and popular music in general had undergone a revolution. Both the “wall-breaking” reinvention of Miley Cyrus, and more importantly, the introspective down-beat style of Lorde sent shock waves throughout the music industry in terms of defining what was popular, with effects that are still being felt today, and the world economy had already gained great strides in recovering from the downturn. While dance oriented music had and will always have a place, times had changed, and “Timber” represents the last major success for either of these artists as of early 2017, at least partially due to changing tastes and changing economic times. As Pitbull (Mr. Worldwide) says right in his lyrics, he just never cared to adjust (“Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane/Nah, it’s just me ain’t a damn thing changed”), while Kesha simply got royally fucked over by her label Sony, and her longtime producer, Dr. Luke and as it stands right now, can’t even release music if she wanted to.
Musically, “Timber” is actually a different animal than pretty much any other song of its time to hit #1, touching on country and “folktronica,” alongside the typical aforementioned Pitbull musings (“slicker than an oil spill,”) Kesha’s knack for singing one hell of a hook (see also: “Right Round”), and four-to-the floor beat. I can actually imagine years from now “Timber” still being played as a throwback to the era because of all of its unique qualities and familiar themes. The music video is also pretty interesting if only because it doesn’t even look like Pitbull and Kesha have even met before – while she’s hanging out at a Coyote Ugly bar, Pitbull is inexplicably…at the beach and scuba diving with another woman? I think there’s about 5 cumulative seconds of Pitbull actually in a bar footage here, and I would have liked it a lot more if they had actually gone all in on the country-theme here. But, hey, it’s still pretty good for a Pitbull song.