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

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.

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).

Kacey Musgraves - Keep It to Yourself


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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Apr 17, 2012

3 Up, 3 Down

Here's the first of a new series to take the place of the "Promo Only Country Radio" reviews. Those had to go by the wayside due to me losing my, uh, "source" that provided me with those monthly compilations. Anyway, this'll be a monthly feature that picks out 3 songs I really like and 3 songs I really hate from the Top 40 chart.

3 UP
Alan Jackson - So You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore
That this song still sits at #33 on the charts, weeks after its release, is another major indictment of country radio. This isn't the depressing real-life financial hardship tale of Ronnie Dunn's criminally overlooked "Cost of Livin'," this is a more accessible prototypical (though not assembly-line built or soulless) Alan Jackson ballad. Alan Jackson, the modern legend. Alan Jackson, one of the two remaining big-ticket country singers with any ties back to what country really is. It's a great tune that anyone can relate to, well-written and well-sung. What's the problem? I know he's pushing 55, but he's still relatively wrinkle-free and attractive (I know that's all you care about, despite you being a non-visual medium). Play it, country radio. Save whatever minuscule pieces of your soul you have left. A

Eric Church - Springsteen
Not very country. Way beyond name-dropping. A few clichés here and there. I should hate this song, right? Maybe, but some songs just have "it." "Springsteen" has it-factor by the truckload. It's atmospheric, sincere and powerful. Eric has a career-defining single with this one. It's too far removed from steel-guitars and fiddles to be a country music classic, but without a doubt, it's a modern pop-country masterpiece. A

Eli Young Band - Even if it Breaks Your Heart
Not as good as the original by Will Hoge, but still far above most of what's charting these days. Anytime you can hear a well-performed song that doesn't mention trucks or bikini tops, you've got to call that a win. The Eli Young Band really knows its way around a catchy hook and they picked a great song to show off their chops. B+

Carrie Underwood - Good Girl
Loud, screechy, obnoxious, annoying. I can't think of any positive terms to use in describing this song, mostly because there aren't any positives. It's an overcooked Joan Jett meets pop-country song that's built - not created - strictly to grow awareness of Underwood's upcoming Blown Away release. This song meets the requirement of "earworm," but only because it beats you senseless over the head with the riffs and hook until it's lodged in your brain without your approval. D

Kip Moore - Somethin' Bout a Truck
This tries to come off as something other than a typical country listing song, but it's just a pig with different color lipstick. The nursery rhyme reminiscent chorus harkens back to The House that Jack Built in some ways, and that's as clever as the song gets. If all Nashville's songwriters are doing these days is finding new ways to say the same shit, it's time for a sea-change. They truly need a reality check. D

Kenny Chesney w/Tim McGraw - Feel Like a Rock Star
If you don't see/hear anything wrong here, you're part of the problem. This is the sound of two of the elder statesmen of pop-country having, if not a mid-life crisis, at least a mid-life bad day. This is the musical equivalent of a 43 year-old sagging his pants and donning a flat brim cap. Maybe, maybe, if this song had come out ten years ago, it wouldn't bother me much, but since it's part of a trend towards the push of country towards cock-rock, it's not cool with me. Not just that, but it's a lunk-headedly overt song. Even Brantley Gilbert wouldn't be this obvious. I know it's just meant to be a fun duet that builds up excitement for the Chesney/McGraw tour, but they could have done something fun that still had the tiniest filament of a thread tied to actual country music. D-


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