Showing posts with label 3 Up 3 Down. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 3 Up 3 Down. Show all posts

Sep 20, 2019

3 Up, 3 Down


3 Up

Jon Pardi - Heartache Medication
It’s hard to believe a song that starts out with a fiddle is actually a hit in this day and age. Pardi’s country, this song is country, what more do you need to know? It’s not exactly groundbreaking in the lyrical department, but it’s well written and at least copies all the good stuff. I’m really looking forward to his new album. Aside from “Heartache on the Dance Floor,” I’ve liked all Jon’s songs so far.
B+

Runaway June - Buy My Own Drinks
What’s this? Women with a top 10 song? I’m sure some IHeartRadio analyst somewhere is counting this as 3 songs by women for their stats, since Runaway June has 3 members. The song: it’s propulsive, confident, and catchy. It’s also timely. I hope radio will give this group a fair shake on future singles as well; their underrated Blue Roses album has quite a few that deserve airplay. 
B+

Lady Antebellum - What If I Never Get Over You
Shut up. I know it’s not very country, and Lady Antebellum is usually reality-show scripted kiss background music at best, but this is pretty good …so leave me alone. It calls back to their early swoony ballads, and for me that’s not a bad thing. Lady A got off the rails a few years ago with unmemorable …uh, songs… I don’t even recall any of them enough to give a fair description, but this seems to be a pointed turn back to what they do best. And it’s a sad song! And there are real instruments! The bar is low these days, what can I say? The harmonies are beautiful though.
B


3 Down

Chris Lane - I Don’t Know About You
It starts out bad and gets indescribably worse almost immediately. Heavy beats, R&B copycat vocal style, modern slang-y lyrics …but this is (air quotes) country y’all. While I listened to this to write a few words about it, I kept checking over my should to make sure nobody thought I was listening for my enjoyment. The chorus has lyrics nearly identical to several other pop-country songs, as I illustrated in a meme last month. Come to think of it, “country” songs are basically just memes now. Take a format and make slight changes to it and pass it around. As Public Enemy once poignantly asked “Who stole the soul?”
F

Jimmie Allen - Make Me Want To
Jimmie has some talent, and at least a smidgen of promise. However, this song fulfills no promise whatsoever. It employs snap-beats and paint-by-numbers lyrics for typical 2019 mainstream country radio fodder. It’s background music. The chorus has lyrics nearly identical to several other pop-country songs (including the one above), as I illustrated in a meme last month. Come to think of it, “country” songs are basically just memes now. Take a format and make slight changes to it and pass it around. As Public Enemy once poignantly asked “Who stole the soul?” This one’s catchier than Chris Lane’s nearly identical song and Jimmie has a better voice, so I’ll give it a
D

Luke Bryan - Knockin’ Boots
The good: Simple instrumentation, no clutter. The bad: Everything else. Who thought it was a good idea to bring back a bit of 90s slang that only stuck around for 3-4 years and a couple of hit songs from Candyman and H-Town, anyway? That’s wack yo. Circling back around to the simplicity of this song - the lyrics are also simple, but the definition of ‘simple’ that means stupid. I can’t stand repetitive nonsense… boots need knockin’, knockin’ boots… I feel stupid typing that, imagine singing it, imagine enjoying someone singing it. 
F

Oct 26, 2018

3 Up 3 Down: Chris Young, Cody Johnson, Kenny Chesney, etc.



3 Up:

Luke Combs - She Got the Best of Me
Luke Combs is hope for the future on country radio. No, he's no country music savior. Nobody's gonna mistake him for the next Waylon. Still, he's a throwback - even if the era he's a throwback to is the 90s. There's twang, real instruments, and real emotion. "She Got the Best of Me" is a catchy power ballad that'll stick in your head after a few listens. The vocal performance is strong and the lyrics are solid - though one wonders if he's telling the audience they're just getting the leftovers.
B

Kenny Chesney ft. Mindy Smith - Better Boat
Travis Meadows gets another big single and that's enough reason to root for this song. On top of that, Mindy Smith gets her first top 40 song ever with this release. Kenny's performance lacks the passion of Meadow's lived-in delivery, but there's little to complain about here. It's a thoughtful, restrained song that stands out amongst a sea of same-sounding mid tempo thumpers. 
A-

Cody Johnson - On My Way to You
The Texas darling seems well on his way to national stardom and it's good to see that he hasn't compromised a thing to get there. "On My Way to You" is a more country and more detail-oriented take on Rascal Flatts' "God Blessed the Broken Road." What stands out to me about this song is how there's still a tear in Cody's voice despite the positive subject matter. That's important. Hope this one goes to #1.
B+


3 Down:

Chris Young - Hangin' On
It's depressing to see one of the potentially great voices of this generation wasted on such meh radio fodder as this. "Hangin' On" is like off-brand vanilla ice cream that kinda has that funny taste from being in the freezer too long and has those weird ice crystals in every bite. There's nothing too shameful about the lyrics and there's no hip-hop beat; this song just sucks. Hopefully, the success of Luke Combs and Cody Johnson will inspire Chris to go back to the sound that brought him to the dance.
D-

Dustin Lynch - Good Girl
It's depressing to see one of the potentially pretty good voices of this generation wast… oh, who am I kidding? Yeah, Dustin had a couple of good pop-country songs at first, but this is who he is now: a good looking fake cowboy who sings vapid songs for undiscerning mainstream "country" fans and their boyfriends. There's a lot shameful about the lyrics and there's a hip-hop beat and this song just sucks. I hold out no hope Dustin Lynch will ever put out another song I'm not embarrassed to hear.
F

Mitchell Tenpenny - Drunk Me
Please don't let this guy happen. Aside from the "Bitches" controversy, I CANNOT FREAKING STAND MITCHELL TENPENNY'S VOICE. He's just terrible to the point that I feel rage welling up in me when I hear it. There is literally not one even microscopic thread of country in this song. It's fake ass watered down white boy R&B with some rock guitars thrown in to make it acceptable to play on the country station. I suppose the chorus is fairly catchy but it doesn't redeem this absolute feckless turd. Could he just go away?
F



Mar 15, 2018

3 Up 3 Down: March 2018


3 Up

Luke Bryan - Most People Are Good
What's this? Luke Bryan spoken of in a positive manner? Have you finally lost it, Trailer? Nope - a good song's a good song. This tune is simple, quaint even. It has timely and timeless lyrics. Luke does a fine job with it. On top of that, it's a country song. I know he's still got to pump out the mindless bangers to keep the arenas full, but let's at least hope he's beginning a transition to more mature fare like this winner.
A-

Cole Swindell - Break Up in the End
What's this? Cole Swindell spoken of in a positive manner? etc. 
This one is actually more of a surprise to me, since (and I'm not blustering here) this is the very first Swindell song I have liked even a little. Cole's still no crooner, but his plain-spoken voice lends this heartbreaker some gravity. Some will read the lyrics and say this is a wimpy song, but ultra vulnerable ballads like this are scattered through the careers of greats like George Strait, Vern Gosdin, and Willie Nelson. Not saying Cole should ever be mentioned in the same breath as those folks, but "Break Up in the End" is a step in the right direction.
B+

Ashley McBryde - A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega
A song like this makes you think there's still a chance to turn country radio around. It takes a look back at the missteps that end up making us stronger. Fresh, hopeful, and upbeat with a hint of sadness. And it's country. Ashley's voice is strong and memorable, and with material like this, I can't wait to hear her upcoming debut album. (Side note: my honeymoon was in Dahlonega - beautiful town and surrounding area.)
A


3 Down

Jordan Davis - Singles You Up
More of this trend of melting pot folk/R&B/pop schlock - think Sam Hunt, but not so much talking. Who says "singles you up" anyway? Lame, boring, trend-chasing, and it's a hit, of course. Nice beard, broseph.
D

David Lee Murphy & Kenny Chesney - Everything's Gonna Be Alright
What a disappointment. David Lee Murphy had a nice, albeit brief, run of good tunes in the 90s and he's a solid songwriter. Kenny, while still Kenny, can surprise you every now and then with a great tune. This one's not. It may as well be sung by Devin Davis Jordan Walker Hunt.
D+

Bebe Rexha ft. Florida-Georgia Line - Meant to Be
Yeah well. What'd you expect? This is shit. Some claim it to be a good pop song, but it's grating as hell to me. And who cares anyway? If I come home to a pig in the back yard with my dogs, I wouldn't think "What an impressive pig - I bet it could win some state fairs." No, I think "Why the hell is there a swine in my yard?" It doesn't belong.
F


Nov 10, 2016

3 Up, 3 Down: November '16


Three Up



Miranda Lambert - Vice
While it's good to have Miranda back on the airwaves, it's even better that it's with such a cool and different-sounding song. There's so much atmosphere in Vice… it's comfortable and uneasy at the same time. That contrast fits the theme perfectly. It also explores modern sonic textures without straying from what contemporary mainstream country ought to sound like.
A



Eric Church w/Rhiannon Giddens - Kill a Word
The perfect song for this insane election season. It's a shame few will heed its message. The violent verbiage is a great angle for such timely and timeless ideals. I've seen a lot of chatter that this is one of Church's lesser singles, but some of these folks are the very ones who need to really listen to it. Sure, it could be a little more memorable in the hook department, but an overly catchy melody might make this more of a jingle than the maxim it should be.
A


Chris Janson - Holdin' Her
Chris blocked us on Twitter long ago, presumably for making so much fun of his co-write, "Truck Yeah." That song deserved to be unmercifully ripped. This one deserves to be a big hit. It's probably the most country sounding song on the charts right now. It's a real life love song with personal details and universal appeal. Chris sounds great on the tune as well. More of this please.
A


Three  Down



Dustin Lynch - Seein' Red
Dustin started out as one of the fairly neo-traditional artists we could potentially hang some hope on. No longer. This is a straight up pop song. It starts out with a canned riff, goes into some electronically adjusted vocals, and gets no better from there. It's disco for the twenty-teens. The only reason this couldn't get played on pop radio is Dustin's twang. That doesn't make it country. Is it a good song, genre aside? No. It's bro-country shined up for the modern urban cowboy set.
D-



Michael Ray - Think a Little Less
Exactly what it sounds like. Brainless smooth bro-country. "Get you outta this bar, out of that dress"… and people call Miranda Lambert a whore. Come on. This is by-the-numbers mainstream country for 2016. Easy going verse, semi-catchy but completely copied and pasted chorus, verse, chorus, guitar solo, talk-sing bridge, chorus, vomit. I'm tired of this garbage.
F+


Luke Bryan - Move
Utter shit. We've done enough memes and tomfoolery about this song to cover any words that could be said here. Let's hope this is bro-country's death wheeze.
F

Feb 17, 2016

3 Up 3 Down: February 2016


3 Up

Chris Stapleton - Nobody to Blame
It's a surprise to see this still climbing the charts, but an absolute blast and a shock to hear it come on country radio. It's like a guy showed up in boots to a black tie affair, but Garth it ain't. While it's far from the best song on Chris' highly awarded Traveller, it's a hell of a song, and a glimmer… no, it's a high beam on a moonless night.
A

Maren Morris - My Church
Some will focus on the name-dropping and hand clapping and not give this a fair shake, but it's a cool tune. Bluesy, stomping, and honest. Can't help but love the gospel flair in the chorus, tying the whole theme in perfectly. More like this, country radio! Less like "Dibs."
B+

Tim McGraw - Humble and Kind
Simple and affecting. Some may hear this as sappy and calculated, but I hear sincerity. And Tim doesn't have to put out stuff like this. He could still be chasing trends a'la' his misguided "Truck Yeah" era, but the fact that he's chosen to follow his own path and bring mature music to a sophomoric format is a credit to his standing as one of the few remaining artists with ties to the soul of real country music.
A

Bonus: Big & Rich ft. Tim McGraw - Lovin' Lately
A surprisingly catchy effort from a pair who's flown under the radar in recent years with middling songs nobody remembers 5 minutes after they end. "Lovin' Lately" is anthemic and ear-worm worthy, in a good way. The melody is the thing.
B

3 Down

Old Dominion - Snapback
Old Dominion is single-handedly keeping bro-country from truly breathing its last breath. This song has been the source of umpteen memes on Farce the Music and probably will spawn more. It's a straight up piece of crap. Slangy, cocky, sexually harassing. If Robin Thicke and Pitbull showed up on the remix, I would not be shocked in the least.
F

Cole Swindell - You Should Be Here
I applaud Cole for attempting to bring a bit more depth to country radio, but he should have tried harder. Or less hard, as the case may be. Based on real life or not, "You Should Be Here" sounds contrived and focus-group tested. "Bros Cry Too" would be a more apt title, as it drops all the tropes like drinking and hanging out …into a song about death. Maybe my cold black soul has just become too jaded, but an ASPCA commercial has an infinitely higher chance of dragging a tear out of my eye than this.
D+

Michael Ray - Real Men Love Jesus
Michael has a pretty nice voice, but I'm tired of listing songs and I'm tired of people telling what real men should do. I love Jesus, but a lot of people whose manhood you wouldn't dare question just think Jesus was a pretty cool guy There are ways to say this same thing without painting so broadly. Also, the song has little or nothing to do with the title itself. Jesus is just kinda shoe-horned in there with beer and dirt and barbed wire tattoos or whatever.  I'm all for Jesus songs being on country radio, but proclaim Him… live His Word loudly… just don't use Him as a selling point for a middling pop-country song.

C-

May 14, 2015

3 Up 3 Down: May '15

 
3 Up


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.
A-


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.
B+


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.
B

3 Down


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.
D+



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."
F


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.
D-

Dec 9, 2014

Three Up Three Down: December '14



3 Up


Maddie & Tae - Girl in a Country Song
This is both a good song and a culturally significant song. Rarely do those two things equal a popular song, but here we are with it sitting at #1 on the Mediabase charts and others. Are listeners grinning a little and moving on to the next booty-on-a-tailgate song or nodding their heads in acknowledgement? It's hard to know right now, but I suppose we'll see in time. The fact that these thoughts about sexism and clichés in country music are now out there beyond FTM's constant complaining and the occasional newspaper website think-piece is a good start. The fact that Maddie and Tae have proven on their recent EP to be more than the vehicle for what some surely consider a novelty song is even more favorable. Fingers crossed.
B+


Eric Church - Talladega
Eric Church does nostalgia better than anyone on the charts right now because he starts with the personal and makes it sound universal, while everyone else seems to be taking the opposite approach. "Talledega" sounds like a big ol' yeehaw, NASCAR loving anthem if you just pay attention to the high points, but it's really a small story wrapped in a big idea. The chorus might call on everybody to sing along and it may beg for sponsorship opportunities, but the verses actually make you miss the fun and friends from that trip you may or may not have ever even made to watch cars turn left. It's wistful and epic and everything this kind of song should be.
A


Jake Owen - What We Ain't Got
Co-written by Travis Meadows and Travis Jerome Goff, "What We Ain't Got" is a powerful ballad about never being satisfied with with one's situation, possessions and relationships. It's a simple longing that falls into several categories of the Christian concept of sin, but one that no one is immune to. Jake Owen spoke of this song as a harbinger of change and he wasn't over-hyping it. The song opens Owen's field of view and enlivens the possibilities for his future work being more varied and deeper than flip-flops, summer flings and tan lines. It's also great for country radio, since its frequent play forces dunderhead bro's to listen to something with actual artistic merit and positive moral implications. Jake's vocal talent and commercial momentum combined with a truly great song make this a release of considerable importance.
A+


3 Down


Parmalee - Close Your Eyes
They rhyme "hotter" with "water." That's enough to disqualify this song from being anything I'd ever listen to on purpose, but worse than that, "Close Your Eyes" is a color-by-numbers. bro-country lite song created specifically to be airplay filler. And now, it's top 10 airplay filler. The emperor has no clothes and nobody gives a shit. Sing familiar words with a familiar melody that fits into the current sonic model and don't make anybody think negative thoughts and you've got a hit. Well done, Parmalee, former rock band who couldn't hack it without switching genres to take advantage of country radio's doldrums. Take a bow.
D


Scotty McCreery - Feelin' It
I've said it before: Scotty McCreery has a fantastic country voice. Much like his vocal doppelganger, Josh Turner, he's struggled to find material that both fits his rich delivery and the whims of commercial country music. He's done it with this track - if by "done it" I mean, focused entirely on the whims portion of that last sentence. Not that he sounds bad singing this craptacular song, it's just that any minuscule thread of artistic quality is foregone for a steady run up Bob Kingsley's countdown. How bad is this song? Well, Ray-Bans are rayin' and cut-offs are cuttin', whatever those two statements mean. The build to the chorus is basically saying "here, I will continue to sing you this song about how we are enjoying chilling in the sun and drinking beverages." The chorus is basically saying "We are greatly enjoying chilling in the sun and drinking beverages." Then he rhymes "hotter" with "water" and you already know my disdain for that sort of thing. This song can take its "glossin' lip gloss" and kiss my ass; it's completely embarrassing and pathetic. Scotty, if you're going to use your gift to unleash tripe like this upon the world, I'd rather you go back and give minor league baseball a shot. "Screwball's screwin', catcher's chewin'…."
D-


Florida-Georgia Line - Sun Daze
I'm sure I've already said enough about this one with memes and whatnot, but hey, it still sucks. While I did actually like "Dirt," I'm starting to think these guys are just lowering the bar with nearly every single to make their mediocre work sound like classics. "Sun Daze" is stupid, derivative, artless, and is only catchy in the way that kidnapping sometimes brings about Stockholm syndrome. FGL's previous low-water mark was "This is How We Roll." That song was at least interesting with its obvious critic trolling slang and attitude. This song is just spectacularly awful and further proof that you can never underestimate the taste of the American public.
F

Aug 1, 2014

3 Up 3 Down: Tim McGraw, Sam Hunt, Kacey Musgraves, etc.









3 UP

Tyler Farr - A Guy Walks Into a Bar
While this new single from Farr might be a "song of the year" (ACMs or CMAs) contender with a stronger vocalist, it's still a surprisingly great tune. It shows the depth and wit that country songwriting used to be known for before it became a bro free-for-all.  After yet another break-up, Farr realizes that his life is just a cycle of barroom loves gone wrong and frames it with the old "guy walks into a bar" joke format. It balances the hopelessness of the seemingly endless loop with the lightness of self deprecation. A winning single from a previously much-maligned artist here at FTM.
A-

Tim McGraw ft. Faith Hill - Meanwhile Back at Mama's
Remember when Tim McGraw wasn't ashamed of his twang and was one of the best song pickers in the business? Neither do I, but this song certainly harkens back to Tim's better days. It's probably the most traditional sounding song on the charts right now, which wouldn't be so shocking if not for McGraw's recent run of autotune and bro-country bravado. This song is almost certainly bound for some awards show hardware. It's a strong addition to a solid career (if we cut out like 75% of his output for the last 10 years).
A

Kacey Musgraves - Keep It to Yourself
Duh.
B+


3 DOWN

Sam Hunt - Leave the Night On
I suppose this isn't such a bad pop song, but the fact that it's told to us without so much as an elbow in the ribs or a knowing glance that this is country music really gets my goat. It's hip, in-crowd Jason Mraz lite with bro-country tropes thrown in. And this guy… dressed like a club kid and not even embarrassed about it, shoving 23 syllables into lines that should fit about 10, flat-brim caps, smug, tall, handsome… okay, my jealous hatin' is showing through, but I just can't stand anything about this.  If bro-country is replaced by cool-bro-pop-country, we might be even worse off.
D

Swon Brothers - Later On
Technically, "Small Town Throwdown" or "Yeah" or the like are much worse than this song, but like Hunt's song, I fear this is where radio is headed. "Oh you're tired of truck party songs? Here are some less offensive truck party songs!" is what they're thinking. Bored is worse than angry when it comes to music and I'd rather dudes like Chase Rice fly their aggro-bro flags in my face than the Swons fly under the radar with their milquetoast brand of fun-time pop country. This is a big ol' pile of meh.
D

Rascal Flatts - Payback
Really? Gary Levox singing from the perspective of a player who's hoping to pick up a recently single female? This song has all the realism of a Michael Bay movie… with less character development. Tight jeans, throwin' down, get your feel good on? That's just the first verse. It doesn't' get any better. I don't know if this is any worse than "Bob That Head," their previous low water mark, but it certainly isn't any better.
F

Oct 11, 2013

3 Up, 3 Down: October '13




3 Up

Miranda Lambert - All Kinds of Kinds
Quirky… no, downright strange for country radio, this is a song only someone with an established track record like Miranda Lambert could get away with (and she's only managed to barely crack the top 20 with it). It's weird and warm and has hopefully prepared listeners for the next big ode to open-mindedness to hopefully grace the charts, Kacey Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow."
B

Zac Brown Band - Sweet Annie
Reminiscent of their earlier earthy smash "Colder Weather," "Sweet Annie" is a slow rolling vocally driven gem. It's not pure country, but it's right there in the pocket of what pop-country should sound like in a natural evolution of genre. It's a low-key, high-quality song that hopefully won't be hurt by any higher ups trying to serve out "justice" for Zac's comments about genre cash-cow Puke Bryan.
A

Jason Aldean - Night Train

Yes, I'm serious. No, I'm not testing you. No, please don't shun me. Sure, this isn't traditional-sounding and it's not particularly deep… but it sounds good and isn't a generic party/listing song. There's only a passing mention of a truck. And no cut-off jeans. Aldean usually puts out one single per album that I genuinely enjoy and this is it for the album of the same name. I'll probably never care for Aldean as an artist or person due to his attitude and tendency to put out crap like "1994," but "Night Train" shows that he's got a little more appeal behind the bluster than some of his compadres.
B+

3 Down

Cole Swindell - Chillin' It
An unmemorable voice singing an unremarkable song that sounds like a Florida-Georgia Line album cut. There aren't any particularly embarrassing lyrics in the song, but certainly nothing to hang your new vintage trucker cap on. Oh, and did I mention he used to be Luke Bryan's merch guy? That's got nothing to do with the song sucking but... who am I kidding? Yes it does.
D-

Chris Young - Aw Naw
Thankfully this is one of the 2 or 3 worst songs on his new album. Unfortunately, he'll probably release all of those as singles. Chris wasn't making enough money to keep up with the Aldeans putting out critical favorites like "Neon," so he became a follower of the less talented but more successful members of his genre, and this was the result. A bone-headed partyin' drinkin' anthem that he yells instead of sings.


Parmalee - Carolina
These guys switched from mainstream rock to mainstream country without even changing their sound or even remixing this song (not even a token fiddle or steel) and nobody said a word about it. DJ's just bent over and said "put it right here." It's not that this is a terrible song; it's one of the better songs I've heard from Daughtry… I'm just saying it doesn't belong on country radio. Why does country have to be the collection bin of failed pop singers and fake alt-rock bands?
C-

May 15, 2013

3 Up 3 Down: May '13



3 Up

Jake Owen - Anywhere With You
Really, Trailer? My selection of this song is more an example of how bad the charts are right now than an indicator of how good this song is. It's a catchy bastard for sure, but it's nothing new. It echoes umpteen songs that came before it about the place a love interest resides/visits being where the singer wishes to be. Owen's solid vocals and the wailing guitar hook make the song. I should hate it, but I can't. "Anywhere With You" would probably have fit in fine in the 90's (with the guitars dialed down a touch), and that's probably the reason for its guilty pleasure status with me. As long as Jake stays away from crap like "8 Second Ride," he's one of the few bright... well, um... not dim, lights on the country charts, if only because of his selection of hook-laden, semi-country tunes and his impassioned delivery.
B-


Easton Corbin - All Over the Road
Corbin's reluctance to record songs that glorify pasture parties or feature hip-hop breakdowns seems to be holding the talented singer back quite a bit. Hard not to root for somebody like that. This is a breezy, nearly weightless bit of country-lite goodness that (required Strait comparison coming) wouldn't have sounded out of place on an earlier George Strait album. It's hummable, foot tappable and so polite that it has a hard time elbowing its way into the forefront of the average listener's mind through the crowd of blazing guitar solos and moonshine references all too prevalent around it on the charts. It's also a gem.
A-


Kacey Musgraves - Blowin' Smoke
A no-doubter. Kacey's latest single that won't go any higher than #10 on the charts (mark it down) is smart and sneaky while sounding relatable and lightly cynical. It's clever and real, working both as a snapshot of a day at the diner and a prod at people who are always making plans and proclamations but never following through. Unfortunately, it doesn't work at a level that makes Jane-soccermom or Jeff-collegeguy not feel depressed while listening to it so we'll just have to be happy it's charting at all.
A

3 Down

Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift (ft Keith Urban) - Highway Don't Care
This tries hard to sound deep. Modern radio listeners mistake intent for effect, so expect lots of soulful, eyes half-closed singing along in the carpool lane. Unfortunately, "Highway Don't Care" is neither insightful nor tuneful, so this is a dud on all counts. Taylor's refrain is as grating as you might expect, the chorus is annoying and repetitive, and Keith Urban's guitar playing is nearly unnoticeable on this throwaway.
D


Florida-Georgia Line - Get Your Shine On
I've been over songs or phrases about "getting your anything on" since the late 90's so this is a non-starter for me. I'll give FGL one thing: they've crafted a signature sound that is unmistakable even in a sea of sound-alikes. It's not a signature sound I approve of, but it's certainly caught on beyond reasonable expectations. Also, these guys don't even pretend to go any deeper than the above ground pool half-filled with Pabst empties in the back yard of their trailer. So there's that. No pretense. Does it sound like I'm praising these guys?
Well...
D


Blake Shelton - Boys 'Round Here
The most dangerous song released to country radio in a decade or more, "Boys 'Round Here" is a genre-shifter disguised as mindless entertainment. It has a far more universal theme than Aldean's similarly hick-hopped "1994" and also comes from a pop culture icon with less baggage. On the surface, it's just another laundry-list country song whose verses happen to be rapped (not spoken, as BS bs'es). Beyond that, it's a top ten smash that will make dollar signs appear in record executives' eyes and slowly rewire the synapses of the easily-led masses to expect more urban sounding "country." When stuff like this becomes the norm, SCM's long-predicted monoculture will be at hand. Dress accordingly.
F

Feb 6, 2013

3 Up 3 Down: February '13









3 Up

George Strait - Give It All We Got Tonight
It's a new song from King George. What else do you need me to say? I'm just happy it's getting airplay and is steadily rising up the charts. Not the best song of his career, far from the worst...but it's George.
B+


Miranda Lambert - Mama's Broken Heart
This is the kind of song that made Miranda famous, but better written. She's taken the "wronged girl dealing with a breakup" theme and infused it with more wit and personality than she was capable of earlier in her career. Comparing a more genteel generation's coping mechanisms to her own wide-open approach, Lambert salvages the weak (for her) single era of her Four the Record album with a gem.
A


Lee Brice - I Drive Your Truck
The title had me wincing before I ever heard the song. Being the open-minded individual I am (okay, I was hoping to be able to make fun of it), I gave it a shot and was shocked. This isn't the first "drive the vehicle of a departed soldier to honor and remember him" song (Bobby Pinson did it a little better with the Tracy Lawrence cut "If I Don't Make it Back"), but it's full of passion and power. The more hard-hearted among us won't be able to get past the title and the Nashville-sheen, and that's a shame. "I Drive Your Truck" is a strong contender for mainstream country song of the year.
A-


3 Down


Jason Aldean (w/Luke Bryan and Eric Church) - The Only Way I Know
This is more of a talking-country song than a hick-hop song. That's literally the only thing I can say about the song that isn't negative. It shoots for the top of the charts by offsetting the lack of melody and substance with star power. Luke Bryan's corny flow is the only thing that gives the single any semblance of personality. Eric Church, too cool to rap, phones in his bridge. It's another typical "we're country and this is what we do in the country" song that will be tossed on the scrapheap of unmemorable #1 hits that Nashville churns out like sliced bread these days.
F

Blake Shelton - Sure Be Cool If You Did
Blake's latest pop-country confection starts with awkward slang (I was gonna keep it real like chill...) then drops off into drudgery and kowtowing to the young female demographic. If this is where "one of those people that gets to decide" where country is going is taking it, I'm not on-board.
D-

The Henningsens - American Beautiful
Oh joy. Another vocal band a'la Gloriana and Lady Antebellum. Because there aren't enough of those. Another country song with "America" or "American" in the title. Because we're suffering from a lack of vaguely patriotic songs about country girls. The other day I was listening to the country station (because my 5 year old wanted to) and apparently this song played right before Gloriana's latest. I thought it was just one really long, boring tune until the DJ said that, in fact, it was two separate songs.
D

Oct 4, 2012

3 Up 3 Down: October '12


3 Up

Kacey Musgraves - Merry Go 'Round
This song is EXACTLY what country radio needs right now: an infusion of reality. I don't mean scripted reality, I mean the gritty, hard-working, regret-filled reality that most people actually live. This track reminds me of a lot of Lori McKenna songs, but Kacey definitely has her own voice here, relating the resignation of a life settled for in a small town. Also reminiscent of Miranda Lambert's quieter tunes, but "Merry Go 'Round" is more powerful than anything she's released in a while. It's getting some early buzz and adds at radio - let's just hope the powers that be don't wuss out and let this great song go the way of other recent downers.
A

Gary Allan - Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)
This song isn't particularly country sounding, but at least it gets away from the angry-sounding rock of Allan's recent work. His voice is given room to shine and shine it does, bringing back the falsetto and the feeling of some of his early work. Even if it's no "Smoke Rings in the Dark," it's comforting to have Gary Allan back on the radio, sounding as great as ever.
B+

Eric Church - Creepin'
Swampy, atmospheric and just weird, as country radio goes, "Creepin'" is a song that only someone with Church's track record could release to country radio with a straight face (okay, anybody not named Borchetta). Though the instrumentation is pretty rocked-out, the imagery and Eric's voice are undeniably country. If country music MUST stray from its roots further and further each year, this is an okay direction for it to go. "Creepin'" is well-written, strongly performed and 180° from everything else in the top 40.
A-

3 Down

Florida-Georgia Line - Cruise
See if any of this sounds new and unique to you: "Chevy with a lift kit," "farm town," "down a back road," "bikini top," "long tanned legs" …anything? Bueller? Throw in some auto-tune, poor grammar ("baby, you a song") and the fact that this song fits right into the Aldean/Bryan/Gilbert trend and you've got another band FTM's going to hate on for the foreseeable future. And I'll even admit the chorus is catchy as hell - almost guilty pleasure catchy - but all the negatives just take it too far in the wrong direction.
D+

Brantley Gilbert - Kick It In the Sticks
See if any of THIS sounds new and unique to you: "barbed wire, moonshine, whiskey" (yes, that's in ONE line), "bon fire," "Skynyrd and George Strait," "bikini tops and Daisy Duke denim," "skinny dippin'" ….anything? Didn't think so. Is this a Farce the Music parody lyric? Nope. Also, in case you haven't heard this, it's basically a metal song. Seriously. It's way heavier than Jason Aldean's "She's Country," which was basically an AC/DC castoff. And BG and Scott Borchetta have the audacity to release this to country radio? Give me a break and stop it with the motherf**king son of a b*tch ass crap sh*t damn f**k c*** d**k $#%^ trucks.
F

Chris Cagle - Let There Be Cowgirls
Yet another rock song, but at least there are some fiddles and whatnot to keep it a little country. George Strait already did this one so much better with "How Bout Them Cowgirls." "World" and "cowgirls" are rhymed here, what else do you need to know? Cliché as you imagine. There's nothing at all in this song to distinguish it, unless you count the hair-metalesque guitar solo. Cagle came back onto the scene with a country listing song, now he's trying to keep his foot in the door with a female-empowerment anthem that really has nothing to say. Cagle was never an A-lister, but he used to be so much better than this.
F


Jul 25, 2012

3 Up 3 Down: July 2012




3 Up


Zac Brown Band - The Wind
Unfortunately, it seems the band led off this new album's single era with the best song of the bunch. That doesn't do anything to blunt the impact of this thoroughly enjoyable, heart-racing bluegrass pop-country tune. Probably one of the best commercial country songs of the year.
A


Lee Brice - Hard to Love
I've read people comparing this to a couple of Tom Petty songs, but I don't really hear it. What I hear is an undeniably catchy, honest-sounding modern country song that veers a little too close to adult contemporary at times, but still stands above the fray. It's well-written, decently performed and thankfully free of trucks, cutoffs and beer.
B


Jerrod Niemann - Shinin' On Me
This is hardly, barely a country song, but it just sounds so damn cool. Niemann's laid-back delivery, left-of-center instrumentation and the crisply askew production makes this winner of a summer song, avoiding nearly all the cliches so common to this season on commercial country radio. Is it the best written song ever? Of 2012? Of this month? Probably no to all of those, but it's darn sure a treat for the ears.
B+

3 Down


Little Big Town - Pontoon
I hope that's out of their system now. This is a talented band. I'm not sure why they took the easy route to.. oh wait, yeah I do: $$$. These guys have great voices and up to this point have released pretty decent singles. This dunderhead song broke that streak. It's a lockstep summer anthem with nary an original thought and a goofy "motorboatin'" hook to hook the teens and pervs. Not really anything redeeming about this song. Do better, LBT.
D-


Tim McGraw - Truck Yeah
What else can be said, really? I could copy and paste all the synonyms for "feces," but I already did that the time Bucky Covington covered Nickelback. Can you believe this is actually worse than that? It's improbable but true. Also, if Tim continues in this direction, he will easily overtake Luke Bryan and Brantley Gilbert on FTM's shit-list within months. For the love of all things decent and good, Tim, stop this. You're embarrassing yourself.
F-


Blake Shelton - Over
It's not that this is such a horrible song, but it's a mediocre potboiler right at the time Shelton should be delivering massive hits to cement his place as an A-Lister (please shape up Blake! I'd rather have you as an A-Lister than Luke Bryan!). It's a position-holder to keep his brand on the charts and his name in listeners' ears. Blake is at the apex of his fame - shouldn't he use this position to cut and record the best Nashville songwriters have to offer? This is fluff that nobody will remember in… yep, already gone. I honestly can't make this song play in my head even after listening to it for review. It's that forgettable.
C-

May 29, 2012

3 Up 3 Down: May '12










3 Up

Tim McGraw - Better Than I Used to Be

Sammy Kershaw did this song first, and at least slightly better, but a good song is a good song. It fits the singer, the singer performs the song more than adequately and the song has some weight and a memorable melody. That might be a low standard, but given the context of today's country charts, this is a modern classic. And honestly, I can't turn the station if it's on.


Easton Corbin - Lovin' You is Fun

George Strait v. 2.0 delivers yet another earworm. This guy has a great voice and seems to have a great ear for songs. Lyrically, this would be completely cheesy sung by someone else, but it works with Easton. Catchy, melodious and accessible to anyone who'd still be caught dead listening to Top 40 radio. I'm hoping his album tackles some weightier subject matter and songwriting, but I can't deny this is a good tune.


Chris Young - Neon

The best real country song getting airplay nowadays. It's rising verrrrry slowly up the charts. Hopefully it will follow the success of Alan Jackson's "So You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore" and prove just too damn good not to play…. even though country radio secretly wishes songs of this ilk would disappear forever. It's poetic, catchy and sung with all the baritone country soul Chris Young possesses ….and it mentions Johnny Lee. Can't ask for much more than that on the airwaves these days.


3 Down

Chris Cagle - Got My Country On

I already reviewed this months ago, and hoped it would die a slow death. Unfortunately, here it is in the top 15 and still rising. You know the script by now: trucks, boots, "what I'm made of" sentiment, cowboy hats, Johnny Cash. Bullshit. Chris Cagle has a decent voice and has released some pretty good songs throughout his choppy career, but this isn't one of them. It's a transparent swipe at getting back to relevance, and it's working. Pure, undiluted garbage.


Andy Gibson - Wanna Make You Love Me

I'll make fun of the pretty Andy Gibson at any given chance. "Old people make me cry" is the opening line. 'nuff said. As listing songs go, this is as vague a thread as possible. He lists what certain people and things make him want to do. Seriously. And it's so Lifetime-reality show ready, it's not even funny. I'm a romantic for the most part, and have even been called whipped by friends at times… but this goes beyond the call of duty in pledging love. Give me a break, Andy. This song makes Chuck Wicks sound like Waylon Jennings. Claim your sack back, Andy.


Hunter Hayes - Wanted

Maybe I'm too old, or too far gone from enjoying most pop-country, but this is nearly unlistenable. Maybe it's just that he sounds so much like Gary Levox, you know… Pavlov's dog and all. Some people say there's no denying Hunter Hayes' talent. Is his talent sucking? Just because one is "proficient" at playing instruments and sings in a voice that is pleasing to young girls, that doesn't mean one possesses a universally appreciated skill-set. I'm pretty funny and I do the Photoshop okay, and I can write a decent review at times, but that doesn't mean I'm the most talented blogger in the blogosphere (far from it). Different strokes for different folks and this stroke ain't for me.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails