"How Do You Like Me Now?" - A Song of Nostalgia and Dreams
There are so many songs that fill me with energy and passion. Eventually, I grow tired of hearing them on YouTube or my CDs after about one hundred and seventy times. But there is a particular song that never gets completely old. It is the Toby Keith song, “How Do You Like Me Now?” In order to understand the message of the song, it is important to analyze the music video. Music videos have been around since the 1980s, and they are wonderful because they tell the story from the vision of the artist. It used to be that one had to be at the mercy of when they were played on MTV, but now they are at our fingertips.
The music video of “How Do You Like Me Now?” shows Toby Keith returning to his old high school football field after having handed a note to the former high school beauty queen asking her to meet him at midnight. Both of them are 38 years old in that period of limbo in which they are not young but not old either. They are holding onto what is left of their youth. Toby is still heartbroken that the woman rejected his romantic pursuit from two decades ago, and it certainly did not help his chances back then by writing her phone number on the football field out of revenge for her rejecting him in a very harsh manner. He is now famous, however, and is naturally hoping that she is going to see him for the new person he has become and not that awkward teenager from twenty years ago. Transforming into a celebrity should help...right?
Unfortunately, the woman tears up his note and is disgusted he has even dared to pursue her once again. She is also not impressed by his superstardom, and his romantic stunt backfires terribly. This song serves as a message that it is naïve to believe that people completely change, and if she did not like him for who he used to be then the celebrity status is also not going to be enough to change her opinion. Even if she did suddenly fall in love with him at that second, it would be possible that it was just because of his stardom. The luster would wear off over a few years, and her true colors would shine forth like rays from Hell. (Just so you know, men are also capable of such actions, and this is not a misogynistic attack against women.)
Sometimes we wonder whether it is possible to go back and reclaim a lost romance or romance that never even happened. This particular song explores that fantasy with a somewhat realistic ending instead of them falling in love within seconds and living in bliss forever. One would think it would culminate in a cliche with everything working out for Toby Keith. I used to believe that if I completed the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail for a good cause and wrote at least one book with a major publishing company then everything would start to completely fall into place. These accomplishments certainly helped, but they did not win over everybody especially those who were not there at the very beginning of my journey. The music video also implies that the woman married years earlier because her spouse was wealthy and the lyrics state, "You married into money, girl and he took your dreams and tore them apart!"
Plenty of us keep updated on the lives of those we went to high school with and sometimes want to reconnect with these people especially if they were once our best friends or romantic partners. But rebuilding the broken dreams from years past will sometimes inevitably lead to heartbreak and disappointment. They are not always going to be the same people and may have atrophied into someone that is unrecognizable. I remember a woman that I had strong romantic feelings for throughout my senior year of high school. Unfortunately, these feelings were not reciprocated by her, and I promptly ended up in the friend zone. We remained in touch even after I went to college. Then something happened. The woman decided it was necessary to sever all contact with me. She has even managed to avoid me in the past when I have dramatically “backed off” and had contacted her only once a year around her birthday. Part of me now realizes how much of a waste of energy it is to chase this dream that will turn into a nightmare of sadness. It is impossible to manipulate and force fate or someone else's free will.
Some of the lyrics of the song go as follows: “How do you like me now...how do you like me now…Now that I’m on my way…Do you still think I’m crazy standing here today…I couldn’t make you love me…But I always dreamed about living in your radio…How do you like me now?!” I also like the music video because it recreates the glory days of high school with cheerleaders, football drama, and the one beautiful classmate that kindles the fire of one’s dreams even if it will only remain a fantasy.