Not many Oscar-nominated film stars would openly admit to taking the easy way out with their career, but perhaps that’s why few actors were as beloved as the late Burt Reynolds. “I wasn’t interested in challenging myself as an actor,” the star of ’70s and ’80s blockbusters like Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run acknowledged in the 2015 memoir But Enough About Me. “I was interested in having a good time.”
Unsurprising, then, that for Reynolds’ lone turn in the pop spotlight, he didn’t bother making a point of playing against type. After an early-career dalliance as an easy-listening country recording artist — with 1973’s Ask Me What I Am, which failed to make an impact on or off the Billboard charts — he returned to the music world in 1980 with “Let’s Do Something Cheap and Superficial,” for the soundtrack to 1980’s Smokey and the Bandit II. While Reynolds hated his experience filming the sequel, it was a financial success, and “Superficial” made a brief cameo on the Billboard Hot 100, spending five weeks on the chart and peaking at No. 88. (It also reached No. 51 on the Country Songs chart.)
The movie may not have been a classic, and neither is the song — but damn if it doesn’t sound like Reynolds is having a good time while recording. “Superficial” is exactly the kind of low-grade country song an unpretentious and hilariously famous Florida boy should have graced the charts with: giddy, sloppy, and only as memorable as a shot of tequila twenty minutes before last call.
The song’s thematic bent is pretty much all out there from the title: an ode to why-not romance that presages those SNL last-skit-of-the-night hookup sketches in their self-aware cringe-worthiness. The melody is as sweet and undemanding as the lyric is grungy and pragmatic: “To keep from falling off your barstool’s ’bout all that you can do/ I’ll make my proposition, ’cause I’m just as drunk as you.” Reynolds belts his way through it like a slightly above-average karaoke performance, pitchy and rushed but entirely game, practically cackling his way through the winkingly mean-spirited come-on: “The sun is your worst enemy/ Thank God it’s dark tonight!”
Reynolds’ career as a country singer didn’t exactly take off from “Superficial” — it’s the final item listed on his Discogs page — and in 2018 you can’t even find the song on most non-YouTube streaming services. But like most of Reynolds’ movies, it was frivolous, it was fun, it was a hit to some degree, and it didn’t ask that you take it any more seriously than it took itself. You could do a whole lot worse on a Saturday night.