Following a year rich with blues-filled soul-searching and electrifying covers, the White Stripes began working on what would be their big breakthrough to the public in 2001. The White Stripes found who they were after years of deep blues and garage rock, throwing together all of the Blind Willie McTell and MC5 under a playful peppermint ribbon. Adding a larger dose of pop into the mix and doubling down on hard rock riffage, the Stripes would soon release White Blood Cells to critical acclaim and commercial success. While a lot of this would be owed to surf rock anthem “Fell In Love With A Girl” (Yo, I heard you like Legos), it was “Hotel Yorba” that would first find its way onto a 7-inch.
Hotel Yorba is an old hotel in Detroit that rests along Interstate-75’s stretch towards Canada. It’s a pretty indistinct building; the only thing that makes it stand out from the Detroit landscape is a large red sign that reads “Hotel Yorba” overlooking its yard. Within its walls, Meg and Jack White recorded their pop stomper dedicated to what is now a block of government housing. Jack sings to a lover over a stamping beat, strumming a few chords on guitar while playing with the thought of marrying some newfound “beauty.”
Hotel Yorba’s” chorus stands out like the red sign atop its Detroit counterpart. It’s incredibly catchy, kicked off by that now widely-known count-off before lamenting on vacant hearts within. It never loses that poppy stomp and chipper tone; Jack spent years singing brokenhearted blues, and now he’s singing to happy lovers preparing to tie the knot.
The “Hotel Yorba” single also marks Jack and Meg’s continued interest in country; the lead track’s country pop bliss wouldn’t be out of place amongst the halls of the Grand Ole Opry. It’s B-side is an even more literal love-letter to country’s golden years: a cover of Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X.” A simple replaying of Lynn’s ode to a divorced woman in a sexist world, the White Stripes lose a bit of the social context with their cover. Other than a cute monologue at the end to his ex-wife bandmate, Jack doesn’t really add too much to the song other than reignited interest.
But, it’s interesting to see the mindset the White Stripes were in when recording White Blood Cells. Jack and Meg clearly had their country heroines on their mind; not only did they cover Loretta Lynn, but the album as a whole was dedicated to the Coal Miner’s Daughter. It definitely showed, too, with playful countrified folk ballads like “Hotel Yorba” and “We’re Going to Be Friends.” Eventually, the White Stripes would go even farther with their love of classic country. But Get Behind Me Satan was still a few years off, as the White Stripes still had rock and roll to conquer.