May 14, 2015
3 Up 3 Down: May '15
Tim McGraw - Diamond Rings and Old Barstools
McGraw continues his hot streak of great country songs that are actually country with "Diamond Rings and Old Barstools." Whether it was the failure of his attempts at bro-relevancy a couple years back or an honest journey back to rootsy authentic (for this day) country that led him to this point, I don't care - the results are what matter, and this is a killer tune. A smoky atmosphere, throwback imagery, twang, great harmonies from Catherine Dunn, and a classic honky-tonk ballad sound blend this into a modern-day gem. Sure, Tim will have to throw some party songs or "I'm southern" anthems back into the mix at some point to keep his slot on radio, but for now, I'm enjoying the hell out of this era.
Mickey Guyton - Better Than You Left Me
A bright new light on the scene, Guyton has been compared to Carrie Underwood's big-voiced pop-country stylings. It's a fair reference, but Mickey may be more appealing to those like me who prefer traditional leanings, because she's got a bit more grit in her throat. She must also have some strong gumption, leading off with a bittersweet single that never mentions going out at night nor loving dude-bros nor wishing to judge her worth on the whims of a man. It's a strong, uplifting song that though pop-country, doles out just as much of the latter part of that genre name as the former. I'm excited to see where she goes from here.
Little Big Town - Girl Crush
Even if I didn't like this song, I'd probably force myself to like it just for the effect it has/had on people who: 1)don't listen to lyrics 2)don't understand lyrics 3)just want an excuse to type the word "lezbo" on Twitter or Facebook. "Girl Crush" is just the sort of smartly-written, organic-sounding song radio needs in an era of slackjaws singing the virtues of mud on $50k trucks and banging country girls by a bonfire. The vocal performance is stunning, even more so live. It's a bit too safe-sounding for me to give it a higher grade, but it's a solid tune, that caught on by hook and crook and goaded controversy. Not that it doesn't deserve to be a hit - it just sucks that there has to be viral chicanery involved to get an intelligent song noticed these days.
Michael Ray - Kiss You in the Morning
Man-meat with permanent five o'clock shadow and a good voice sings female-friendly song about night and kissing and love and partying. Lather, rinse, repeat. Ray actually has a better voice than many of his cohorts, and if applied to better… okay, if applied to way better material, he might be someone to keep an eye on. For now, the only eyes (and ears) on him are from lustful ladies (and a few guys) and people who don't care what's on the radio as long as it's not challenging or twangy. This isn't.
Florida-Georgia Line - Sippin' On Fire
The fact that this song is far better than their previous single is misleading. "Sun Daze" was one of the most excremental country singles ever from one of the worst radio artists to ever exist, so 'far better' is no compliment. "Sippin' on Fire" is a down-tuned, hookless mess that exists only to give Brian and Tyler a reason to sip their beloved Fireball on stage during a song. It features auto-tune, lyrics borrowed from their own repertoire, convincing a girl to cheat on her boyfriend, and not a shred of anything you might call "art."
Cole Swindell - Let Me See Ya Girl
Cole took a step toward adequacy with his previous single, "Ain't Worth the Whiskey," earning at least 'guilty pleasure' status from many who'd shunned his earlier radio tunes. While I didn't care for it, it was at least a hint that there might be a little more to Swindell than trucks and being dopey. Alas. Bro country is dead; long live bro country. "Let Me See Ya Girl" is so filled with cliche and signifiers from the "sup dawg?" crowd that it could pass as one of FTM's satire lyrics. It will have all the 16-22 year old females who frequently exclaim "I'm sooo drunk" rocking them cutoffs with their feet on the dash for their boyfriends all summer with the windows down and Hank cranked and blah blah tailgate, shake it, drink, taste of her lips, blah blah. Crap.