Showing posts with label Redferrin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Redferrin. Show all posts

Jan 9, 2024

Bobby's 15 Worst Country Songs of 2023


By Bobby Peacock



15. "Dancin' in the Country" by Tyler Hubbard

Tyler Hubbard's solo efforts have avoided my lists in the past, as I thought the message of "Undivided" resonated with me, and "5 Foot 9", depsite a few faults, had a good hook and considerably more laid-back production. Tyler Hubbard just sounds way more likable without Joey Moi behind the boards. Or so I thought, until I heard this. Loud and muddy production? Check. Stock list lyrics -- neon lights, boots, jeans, Silverado, Alan Jackson, Lucchese? Check. (How the hell are all these people paying $300+ for a pair of boots?) This reminds me less of Florida Georgia Line Minus Florida and more of the stale dregs of bro-country still somehow floating to the top of the charts in Canada (e.g., Dallas Smith). At least it's still less cringe than "This Is How We Roll"...


14. "Jack and Diet Coke" by Redferrin

I said it last time, but I think Warner is embarrassed to admit they signed Redferrin. I haven't seen any promotion for him, almost nobody seems to have reviewed his singles except for me, and none of his songs have come close to charting. This one is admittedly less aggressively douchey than "Tell 'Em Why", but it's still kind of skeevy to say things like "You won't know the difference when you mix it with some whiskey / It'll still get you buzzed up just right". Sure, maybe that's not the intent, but it's hard not to read it like he's trying to sneakily intoxicate her to have his way with her. While it does have surprisingly organic production, that does little to save the sneering drawl (reminiscent of Morgan Wallen at his worst) or the most obnoxiously repetitive hook since "Imma Be". Also, who the hell uses Diet Coke as a mixer unless they're diabetic? Get yourself some Fentiman's Curiosity Cola, damn it.


13. "God Gave Me a Girl" by Russell Dickerson

I swear, the only two interesting things about Russell Dickerson are the ship in a bottle metaphor in "Yours" and the title of "Blue Tacoma". (Three if you count the Jimmy Neutron hair.) This one isn't as muddy sounding as "She Likes It" (nor does it have the least necessary duet vocal in country music history), but it's still aggressively bland. He goes on and on about how his "girl" is so good that she must be God-given, but never really says why outside some vague lines about how he doesn't deserve her. There's no warmth or romanticism in the lyrics and especially not in the production (can he please, please use some real drums for once?). As much as they overdo it, at least Dan + Shay know what romance sounds like (which is why they're not on the list this year -- their two charted singles this year, while not good per se, were at least slightly less suffocatingly cutesy than usual.) I may not be a romantic sort, but I do know bland and insincere when I hear it.


12. "Tennessee Orange" by Megan Moroney

I couldn't care less about sports rivalries if I tried. To me, they just seem like arbitrary artificial boundaries that people put way too much thought into for no other reason than to have "my side". And not unlike Kenny Chesney's "The Boys of Fall", this one makes zero attempt to sell the idea to the uninitiated. While Chesney's song fails by being tremendously boring and leaning into the most obvious superficial clichés, this one at least has a coherent narrative; it's just one I can't get behind. "Yeah, this guy's great, but he likes a rival sports team; I hope you're not angry, Mom" is just something my non-sports-liking brain can't wrap itself around, so entirely on principle I have no investment in the results. Beyond that, Moroney has a really rough vocal delivery that's just hard for me to listen to. Her forced raspiness and poor pitch remind me of Gretchen Wilson. To be fair, her song craft is far less contrived than Gretchen ("I'm Not Pretty" is genuinely good in spite of her vocal shortcomings), but she just isn't doing it for me yet.


11. "Watermelon Moonshine" by Lainey Wilson

Deana Carter's "Strawberry Wine" is one of the most beloved country songs of the '90s (rightly so, in my opinion), so it's no surprise some songs have taken cues from its wistful summertime love narrative. Trisha Yearwood's "Georgia Rain", Sarah Buxton's "Innocence", and others at least had the decency to put their own spin on it -- the different vocal deliveries, the former's more cinematic scope, the latter's wordplay. But I don't think I've heard a song so slavishly derivative since Keith Anderson's "I Still Miss You" (where he at least had the decency to rip himself off). Between this and the casual misandry of "Things a Man Oughta Know", it's getting harder and harder for me to even see what the fuss is with Lainey. I find her voice completely colorless and her artistic vision unclear to the point of opacity. It really says something when the only songs of hers I've liked have been her duets with HARDY and Jelly Roll of all people.


10. "Rich Men North of Richmond" by Oliver Anthony Music

The first lines are not terrible, and if he'd stuck to the "hate the rich" premise, he might have had something. But the way the second verse wanders into completely off-topic rants against Jeffrey Epstein, welfare queens, and fat shaming gives the song an air of "guy who spends way too much time on Facebook" (not at all helped by how most of the song is literally him screaming in your ear). If people are using welfare to buy Fudge Rounds instead of healthy food, then maybe they live in a food desert and the only option is a Dollar General. Or maybe they just want to have a treat, which everyone should be allowed to do. And maybe they're "obese" because of unfair body standards, something which -- like junk food and Epstein -- has nothing to do with rich men. To his credit, the title is genuinely good wordplay, and his other songs mostly feel like he wants to make music and didn't just cynically crank out the musical equivalent of clickbait. What's more, he feels like he's at least trying to distance himself from the more problematic ends of the political spectrum; even if that itself is calculated, it's at least something. So while this isn't nearly as hate-filled as, say, Guy Drake's "Welfare Cadillac", it's still ignorant and misguided.


9. "Last Night" by Morgan Wallen

Speaking of people who are ignorant and misguided, I'm starting to lighten my view of Morgan Wallen. A lot of his behavior is still as inexcusable as ever, but number one, he's at least had the presence of mind to (mostly) avoid digging himself any deeper, and number two, screaming about him on the Internet doesn't help things any. I've even managed to begrudgingly admit more of his songs aren't as bad as I originally thought. (Remember the vitriolic review I gave "More Than My Hometown"? Disregard all of that; that's now my favorite song of his.) This one, however, not so much. It reads like an AI-generated song about breakups: alcohol, "we said it all", "this ain't over", "taillights in the dust", etc. The excessively nasal delivery, melodically rushed chorus, and snap beats make it sound like a Maroon 5 song with a drawl. (All it's missing is the "brag about how much sex I'm still having" narrative.) But what really gets under my skin is that a song this underwhelming and uninspired was so inescapable as to become one of the biggest crossover country hits of all time. Sure, it's not lyrically infurating like "You Proof", but being boring and pointless can be bothersome in its own way too.


8. "Girl in Mine" by Parmalee

I swear, Parmalee has just released the same song three times in a row now. We seriously couldn't have let these guys quietly fade away after the dumpster fire that was "Hotdamalama"? Just like their previous two singles, they jack the cadence of the Chainsmokers' "Closer", the sweet nothings of your average Russell Dickerson song, the strident fake-gravelly vocal delivery of your average CCM singer, and snap beats-and-Auto-Tune production only slightly less brick-walled than anything Joey Moi touches. In short, Parmalee is as devoid of artistic identity as ever. I never cared for Parmalee due to the plainness of Matt Thomas' voice and utter lack of interplay of the other band members, but at least "Carolina" knew what a hook is. I'm also not a fan of the flattery present in naming an album For You, which seems like a swipe at Dan + Shay's "Glad You Exist". Hell, at this point I'd actually take a re-release of "Hotdamalama", which was at least interestingly awful and not just infuriatingly dull.


7. "But I Got a Beer in My Hand" by Luke Bryan

Even the worst Luke Bryan songs usually have something I can point out was commendable. "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)", "Huntin', Fishin', and Lovin' Every Day", and "Kick the Dust Up" have compositional tricks that show an above-average knowledge of music theory, while songs like "All My Friends Say", "We Rode in Trucks", and "Most People Are Good" all have genuinely good lyrics. But as his career has gone on, he's dispensed with hooks, decent vocal deliveries, or even solid production. This one layers on the snap beats over top a melody that's robotic on the verses and clunky as hell on the chorus (just listen to how he rushes through the title). Unnecessary vocal processing robs this song of any charisma that usually makes even his worst songs slightly less bad. (I blame this on Jeff Stevens letting his son Jody co-produce. Remember how Jody was one-half of Fast Ryde? I wish I didn't.) Other than a David Lee Murphy name-drop, the lyrics are stock party-hearty tropes he'd already beaten into the ground five albums ago. He can be mature if he wants, as songs like "Most People Are Good" and "Games" show. So his strict adherence to such immature boozy themes is just giving him more "how do you do, fellow kids?" energy with each passing year.


6. "Can't Have Mine (Find You a Girl)" by Dylan Scott

I have no idea how Dylan Scott is keeping the lights on at Curb Records, because for the most part he's just too bland to even cross my mind. But when he misses, he misses hard. Taste of Country actually called this song "warm and inviting", and I'm wondering which version they heard. There's a slight smugness to his vocal delivery only slightly balanced out by some awkwardly placed Auto-Tune and production that... I'm surprised bothered with real drums for once, I'll give it that. He builds entirely on unsolicited relationship advice in the most boring way. She's "wild on the town but still love[s] Jesus" and "likes to do all the things you love to do". This isn't an ideal wife; it's an image of one you generated with an AI program. This makes "God Gave Me a Girl" read like a TMI info-dump in comparison. And all of that alone would be bad enough, but then he ends it with "you just can't have mine". To quote Todd in the Shadows, "You ever see someone do a humble brag and then forget the humble?" I don't think I've had a song's twist piss me off this hard in a long time.


5. "I'm Offended" by John Rich

Rich is not a bad singer or producer, and he is capable of writing a hook -- that chorus might have worked had the tone been ironic or satirical. But there's nothing ironic or satirical about criticizing those who still choose to wear masks -- sure, the pandemic's over, but some people still need those for health reasons. And yes, you probably could "amend the First Amendment"; look at how the 21st Amendment nullified the 18th. I'm not "triggered" by guns; I'm just upset when public shootings occur on a daily basis and too little is done to keep guns out of the wrong hands. As an atheist, I'm not "pissed" at people who pray to God, just at those who warp Christianity into a weapon of judgment and derision. Of course, the video staples on a bunch of obligatory pandering such as a "beta male" drinking "Sissy Beer", an unflatteringly ageist caricature of Biden, and a cameo from Mike Lindell (to be fair, having him as a referee for a pillow fight was genuinely funny). The lyric "in the end, you'll be left and I'll be right" shows he's not interested in even hearing an opinion unlike his own. This one won out over the Tom MacDonald song because this at least feels like, you know, an actual song that had some kind of thought put into it. The problem was, it was just really bad thoughts.


4. "Chevrolet" by Dustin Lynch feat. Jelly Roll

Every time I think bro-country is finally dead, it manages one last rally. "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray is a beloved classic, and it kind of sucks that an entire generation will know it solely as an Uncle Kracker song. But even his trailer-trash karaoke version is respectable in comparison to what we get here. A bog-standard "hot girl in truck" narrative is awkwardly shoehorned into "Drift Away"'s cadence; unlike the genuinely clever if overplayed "She Had Me at Heads Carolina", there's no in-song reason for "Drift Away" to be invoked so it just seems like a non-sequitur. In a way, it reminds me of some of Cledus T. Judd's weaker parodies in how little it has to do with the original. (Not to mention the danger of making the uninitiated think this is the original, reminding me of the time a coworker thought Flo Rida's "Right Round" was the original and "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" was copying him.) While the production is surprisingly stripped-down, it fails to capture the soulful vibe of the original. Not helped at all is how both Dustin Lynch and Jelly Roll -- neither of whom are bad singers by any means -- are so heavily Auto-Tuned they both sound like they're singing underwater. I wanna get lost in your rock and roll so I don't have to listen to this ever again.


3. "Up Yours" by Trey Lewis

Who the hell wanted more of the "Dicked Down in Dallas" guy? Nobody, but he's doing it anyway. Trey Lewis has the same vengeful douche energy as you'd expect from his last song, making me wonder if he was actually a ghost writer on Mitchell Tenpenny's "Truth About You". His nasal sneer really makes lyrics about flipping the bird and squealing tires in front of his ex's house sound all the more immature. As the song progresses, each invocation of the phrase "up yours" sounds more and more and more forced ("tryna keep my phone from callin' up yours"), causing the joke to feel far more painfully drawn-out than its 3:28 play-length calls for. This is the same kind of "tee hee, I said a naughty word, that's funny, right?" energy that made me stop watching Helluva Boss. If nothing else, this is slightly better than his other song simply because there's no slut-shaming; however, just like almost anyone in Helluva Boss, he seems to think going from "vulgar prick" to "slightly less of a vulgar prick" is character growth.


2. "Truck Bed" by HARDY

HARDY is such a strange artist. There are things I want to like about him, and I can unflinchingly respect his better material ("wait in the truck"). Even on his more mid stuff like "ONE BEER" I can find some merit. But when he's bad, he's bad. Getting thrown out of the house for being drunk can be a source of comedy; look at how Eric Heatherly's "Wrong Five O'Clock" has a comedic, apologetic tone and jokes that land to help the line "she opened the door with that pistol cocked" go down easier. Conversely, there's being matter-of-fact about your intoxication (go look up "I Don't Live Here Anymore" by Todd Fritsch; you won't regret it). Nothing in HARDY's song feels like he's even attempting introspection, nor anything that even feels like a joke -- except "that fuckin' bird's about to catch this .45", which is ambiguous enough to read as a threat of violence on his now-ex. Hell, even that could have worked if he'd gone all-in on the "angry asshole" persona (or again, just gone full comedy -- compare the line "gonna blow away the rooster if he wakes up the dead" in the Thompson Brothers Band's "Back on the Farm", if I may shoehorn in another obscure song I like). But his Auto-Tuned raspy drawl and the watery production -- I get he wants to go nu-metal, but you need actual drums and bass for that -- make the song go from merely bad to outright cringe.


1. "Try That in a Small Town" by Jason Aldean

I live in a small town. When I worked at McDonald's, one of my managers was married to a Black man and told me of how a neighbor had a vehicle for sale in their yard, and refused to even answer the door when he went to inquire about it. So it's not hard for me to see the racism behind lines like "see how far ya make it down the road" (hey Aldean, look up the term "sundown town"), which reinforces the stereotype of small towns being full of bigots. And while I have less personal experience on this front, it's also not hard for me to see how downright gross it is to assume protesters (especially Black ones) are just thugs who need a good dose of vigilantism. The song is only exacerbated by the butt-rock production and singing that sound like Puddle of Mudd trying to cover "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down. While separating art and artist has made me begrudgingly more tolerant of Morgan Wallen, Jason Aldean has done nothing but dig himself deeper. Where do I begin? The poor optics of aggressively pro-gun lyrics coming from someone who witnessed the Route 91 shooting firsthand? (I'm terrified of public shootings, and guns in general, because I briefly went to school and church with one of the Columbine shooters.) Or maybe the fact that, based on what he's said in interviews, he doesn't seem to understand why Black people are protesting? (Source) The last few years have been fraught with attacks on minorities of all kinds, and hateful shit like this just makes me angry and afraid.


(Dishonorable mentions: "Thicc as Thieves", "You", "Standing Room Only")

Jan 5, 2023

Bobby's Picks: 20 Worst Country Songs of 2022


By Bobby Peacock


20. "Come Back as a Country Boy" by Blake Shelton
Blake has been on autopilot so long that I'm afraid he's about to crash into a mountain. And given how many singles in a row he's had that bricked on the charts, I think he's on his way off radio playlists. Although it doesn't help his case any that he's been so phoned in that he should be charged for a data plan. That's a lot of silly ways of saying that this is exactly the same stock country-boy tropes you've heard a billion times with no narrative and no personality. It's exactly what you think it is and nothing more; the only even mildly interesting thing is that it's in Dorian mode, but that didn't save "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)" either, now did it? It's not even his worst song -- I doubt he'll ever sink as low as "Nobody but You" -- but it's a sad, cynical reminder of how far he's fallen creatively since "Austin."


19. "Strange" by Miranda Lambert

I think I finally get what Miranda has been doing the last couple albums. She seems to have ditched lyrical concreteness in favor of this more poetic troubadour style. And the fact that "Troubadour" is just about the only George Strait song that actually pisses me off should tell you why this isn't vibing with me at all. There's literally zero through line with these images. coyotes, Maytag dryers, a tired "country ain't country" argument (seriously -- people have made that argument ever since Buck Owens strapped on an electric. Knock it off.), and zero indication as to what "times like these" are supposed to be, or why they make her feel strange. I've rarely been more confused trying to figure out what a song is even about, and it makes me feel strange.


18. "Summer State of Mind" by Lady Antebellum

I'm not gonna lie: I legitimately hate listening to Lady Antebellum anymore. Their worst radio single "You Look Good" already made it clear that they're worse at conveying "fun" than a youth pastor wearing a backwards ball cap and ending every sentence in "yo." Charles Kelley is too mannered, and Hillary Scott too pitchy, for another tired name-drop of Yeti coolers, Ray-Bans, and "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" (which is so tired that I now see it on the shirts of residents in assisted living facilities). It's bad optics for Charles to be singing about alcohol when the band had to cancel a tour just so he could go into rehab. The production feels like Diet Florida Georgia Line what with the overly synthesized drumbeats and processed vocals (although the guitar tone is actually pretty good). That this song didn't chart shows that these guys are clearly in the past tense now; that and my hopes that Charles beats his demons for good are the only reasons this song isn't higher.


17. "Take My Name" by Parmalee

I tweeted "you can't spell 'Parmalee' without 'lame'" and the band liked the tweet. Take of that what you will. I don't know how these guys mounted a comeback; I thought for sure "Hotdamalama" would have torpedoed them. But a painfully boring wedding ballad with a Z-list trap artist somehow got them back on track. So what do they do next? Release practically the same damn song, just with less Blanco Brown. This has exactly the same cadence as its predecessor, and just like everything else, there's no sense of "band," just Matt Thomas' vanilla-ass voice and a backing track that sounds like it came off a Christian pop karaoke CD. There's no personality to the lyrics either; just the same sweet little nothings of holding hands, the first time, part of my world, baby baby baby (seriously, why do love songs overuse "baby" so much?). This is so boring that I'm just going to stop here and move on to the next review.



16. "Tell 'Em Why" by Redferrin

I didn't know who or what this was until I saw it on Trailer's list, and it was a single so it qualifies for mine. He's released several singles on Warner but I haven't seen any promotion for him whatsoever. No ads in the Billboard country update, no reviews, no streaming figures, nothing. And if this song is any indication, my theory is that Warner's embarrassed. Redferrin's raspy drawl sounds like if you had an AI mash up Tyler Hubbard, Jason Aldean, Chase Rice, and three or four other assorted bros. And the premise is douchey too. He's basically saying "yeah, we broke up, but tell 'em it's all your fault" -- and the only reason that doesn't seem worse is because other than "I always gave my best" he doesn't really give any reasons why he thinks he's right and she's wrong. But that's just made worse when we get to "now ya up in my IG' creepin' / Trnya hit my new girl in the DM" which kinda makes me think... hey, his ex seems a little douchey too. How do you make a breakup song where you can't root for anyone? Redferrin found a way.


15. "Soul" by Lee Brice

Brice has had this uncomfortable "fake nice guy" tone to his songs for years now that just makes him seem like a tryhard. "You're Mozart in the sheets" is the kind of pretentiousness you get from a guy who always carries around a copy of Pride and Prejudice but never reads it. And that's not even the worst line in the song, because coming up next is the part where he rhymes "holy mother of Moses" (you mean the woman best known for throwing baby Moses in the river to hide him from the Pharaoh) with "kiss you from your head to your toeses." The hook "I like your soul" is also painfully forced, and has nothing at all to do with the rest of the song. Even Brice's vocal feels forced, with the way he goes from zero to falsetto on the "toeses" line and then still somehow gets lost in the finger snaps and backing vocals. In a discography that includes him ripping off the melody of "Body Like a Back Road," name-dropping Microsoft, and singing about peeing, this is by far his worst.


14. "Easy Tonight" by Niko Moon

His least-bad song to date, but that's not saying much. I don't get his obsession with snap beats. Never mind how his vocal range is so limited that he has to go for a forced talk-sing that makes Walker Hayes sound like Gary Morris in comparison. On paper, I don't entirely hate his "no sad songs" motif: sometimes you just want to spread a little happiness. The problem is, I don't think he has any of that either. All of his songs are the same rehash of "drinking with my buddies" without a clever hook or anything that feels even remotely personal. If he could at least contextualize his eternal happiness -- maybe give a specific scenario, a bad thing in life he's recovered from, anything (seriously, you can't even name what brand of beer you're drinking?) -- then his artistic shortcomings might be mollified at least somewhat. But as it stands, Niko Moon's one-dimensional happy happy happy makes almost too easy of a target.


13. "Rolex® on a Redneck" by Brantley Gilbert and Jason Aldean

Why is Brantley Gilbert still releasing music? From the beginning he's recalled the worst dregs of the post-grunge scene. You could convince me he's an ex-member of Hinder and I'd believe you. Especially because his songs have the same snarling douchey tone as something like "Lips of an Angel." And this one is the same, just with more snap beats. And with this song, he staples on another forgotten relic of early-noughts music: glam rap. Am I supposed to buy that a country boy who's trying to be a butt-rock bro and hasn't had a hit in ages can afford to bling out his truck? At least "Fancy Like," awful as it was, had a goal that seemed attainable to a good ol' boy. But in a time where this song's target audience is probably saving up just to afford a McDouble, this seems all the more tone-deaf. And that's before we get to Jason Aldean, who's clearly too elite to even care anymore.



12. "Get Down Like That" by Gary LeVox

If you had asked me what Gary LeVox's first post-Rascal Flatts single would be, I would have taken 50 guesses before I got to "jacked up party in the woods anthem #39,487." Rascal Flatts did a lot of songs that just plain did not fit his unusual voice at all, but this is the worst mismatch yet. There's a weird processing on his voice that actually manages to bury his nasal-ness for once, but that just makes him seem even more out of place in a sea of bonfire, beer, boobs clichés. I don't need a 52-year-old man trying to show me how to "get down" when that's not something he's ever been known for doing. And what the hell is that sound around 2:20 in where it sounds like the synthesized horn section just threw up? Was even the music sick of Gary here? A Christian song or a love of family song would have been unoriginal, but at least it would have sounded like a good fit for his voice. This is just "you're not cool, dad."


11. "To Be Loved by You" by Parker McCollum

Ow, my ears. This one is ranked where it is for one reason: it's one of the whiniest songs I've ever heard in my life. Maybe it's just the wheedling way he sings it -- actually, no, I take that back. Even from a lyrical standpoint, this is a brat who won't shut the hell up. Lyrics like "Will it kill you to tell me the truth? / What in the hell does a man have to do to be loved by you?" sound like they're coming from the mouth of an entitled brat. Especially because we get literally zero details about what he's doing that makes him think he even deserves her love. It's just "me me me, pay attention to me me me, look at me, I'm trying soooohard and yet you still won't love me." Maybe if you'd stop bitching and actually put some genuine effort in, you might get somewhere with her. Ever think of that?


10. "Truth About You" by Mitchell Tenpenny

For the most part, the song can't decide what it wants to be: the vocal and musical tones are earnest and anthemic, and lines about meeting in the middle clash with all his angry attempts to figure out who's cheatin' who. But when he gets to the hook "If you quit telling lies about me, I won't tell the truth about you," it becomes uncomfortably threatening and misogynstic. This is not a guy who's bitter about an acrimonious end; this is a guy who's going to dox you unless you tell the story his way. Call the police. Maybe there's subtext I'm reading into this because it's coming from the same guy who gave us "Bitches" (which has eluded my lists only because it was never a single). Or maybe he's just a giant tool entirely on his own merits. I guess when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a tenpenny nail.


9. "Country On" by Luke Bryan

CountryOn, apply directly to the goofball. How did a great writer like Mark Nesler get roped into this? It's a lazy, pandering shout-out to good ol' hard-workin' boys in a fifth- or sixth-level dilution of "40 Hour Week (For a Livin')." That alone would make it hokey and toothless, never mind the tone-deaf pro-cop line and "thoughts and prayers" cliché for the soldiers. Even the chorus is lame with its "hey, hey, USA" chant, mollified only somewhat by "we ain't seen our better days" (a welcome subversion of the sanitized Norman Rockwell "good ol' days" nostalgia that usually makes these songs even worse). But then they just... run out of lyrics halfway through and country on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. It's a little heavier produced than Luke usually goes, but in the end, it's still got his emotion-less, range-less drone of a voice and the right level of pandering to get another #1 hit with zero staying power. (And after "Up" bombed, I actually kind of wanted him to stumble a bit harder to see if that would make him try something different...)


8. "Country'd Look Good on You" by Frank Ray

I found a lot of fascinating info on this guy when creating his Wikipedia article: he's Mexican-American (his real name is Francisco Gomez) and a former police officer. His first single "Streetlights" keeps some of that south-of-the-border flavor with nylon-string guitar, horns, and a few lines sung in Spanish. So what does he actually chart with? Stereotypical country-boy list song #3,999,999. Snap beats, muddled guitar, no bass, and a processed vocal with no phrasing. Back roads, alcohol, full moon, blue eyes, her waking up in his shirt. I knew what this song would sound like before I even heard it over the speakers at work for the first time. It's the kind of song that breaches top 20 and is completely forgotten -- seemingly by even the record label, as I saw zero promotion for this while it was active and have heard no word on a follow-up since. But maybe that's a blessing in disguise. He could easily leave BBR right now and independently release more songs like "Streetlights," and I bet he'd heat up in a way this stale bit of radio fodder didn't.


7. "How It Oughta Be" by Shane Profitt

While I do agree with a couple of his sentiments (take it from the son of a teacher; that profession's underpaid as hell), it immediately drops into cliché after cliché: cold beer, mama's chicken, high gas prices (seriously, people have been bitching about that since the gas station was invented; knock it off already). But there are two lines in particular that irked me: "somethin' good about somebody's all that oughta be told." So... no criticism of anyone? You do know criticism can be a good thing to help someone improve, right? (Like say, a no-name music writer giving a negative review of a song by a guy who seems like he otherwise has potential.) And of course we get to "oughta be off your ass when that anthem gets sung." I thought Take a Knee-l McCoy ran that argument into the ground years ago because people don't know what "peaceful protest" means. He does show promise in terms of delivery and production, but I think if he's going to break through, he needs to get off the soapbox first.


6. "AA" by Walker Hayes

He's just trying to set a good example for his kids; what's wrong with that? Well for one, it's hard to come across as a struggling everyman when you're swimming in money from Applebee's commercials. It's hard to come across as condemning alcohol when your last song name-dropped Natty Lite. And it's hard not to be grossed out about the line "keep my daughters off the pole" when your oldest one is, what, 16? The one genuinely good line ("I married up and she married way, way down in Alabama...") is negated by leading into yet another shoehorned-in college football reference for extra pandering points. Like all his other songs, it has the same awkward fumbly talk-singing and a drum machine that sounds like it was run over by a truck first. He sounds far less like a "real person" and more like the bumbling sitcom dad who was already a tired cliché when I was in kindergarten. But what really pissed me off was finding out that everyone I know who likes this song doesn't even know what AA is. That's a failure in communication right there.



5. "She Likes It" by Russell Dickerson and Jake Scott

The "boyfriend country" trend was clearly fading out this year, and this may very well be its last gasp unless Dan + Shay's "You" manages to pull itself out of the mud. Both men on this song have such wispy vocals that they make Justin Bieber sound like Tom Waits. The production consists entirely of a drum machine and guitar, yet still manages to clip so hard that my radio visibly vibrates when this song comes on. Lyrically it just lists off a bunch of sweet little nothings, and the hook "she likes it when I" doesn't even build to anything. I don't even know why Jake Scott was put on here, as the song makes literally no sense as a duet and there's zero attempt to make the two of them mesh artistically or even give a pretense of even being in the same state when their parts were recorded. Having them bond over their common ways with the opposite sex, or even having them competing for the same girl (or having them direct their love to each other) would at least have made this mildly interesting. I know this kind of romantic fluff isn't for me to begin with, but honestly, between this and "AA," even the wine mom demographic deserves better.


4. "Progress" by John Rich

I know this is another washed-up has-been stringing together conservative buzzwords for an audience he already knows will agree with him. So if it's not for me and it's not relevant, why even give it an entry? Because I feel its faults stand on their own. Blaming every perceived problem on an unquantified "they"? Straw-man non-sequiturs like "they say let go of Jesus and let government save"? Claiming that you, a white straight male, are being victimized and silenced? Check, check, and check. But lest it seem that I'm reviewing the politics and not the song, I will point out that John Rich is honestly not that bad as a producer. This sounds perfectly fine. But as a vocalist, he is way too laid-back to convey the anger he supposedly feels. Aaron Lewis' "Am I the Only One"may have been worse overall (mainly by having one overtly racist lyric), but Lewis at least felt passionate. This just feels like most of Rich's output lately: too lazy and cynical to even get angry at anymore, just enough to make me roll my eyes and wonder how we got from "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" to this.


3. "Dutton Ranch Freestyle" by David Morris

David Morris is lucky that his absolute butchering of "Carrying Your Love with Me" (sorry for bringing up memories of that) wasn't a single or I'd have to declare this a tie. Hick-hop at its worst gives us a lazy beat with token banjo and worse flow than that moldy tub of cottage cheese at the back of the fridge. Honestly, I could have put this on the list for the Morgan Wallen name-drop alone, but that's far from the only awful lyric. Where do I start? "I don't want y'all to get offended / Everybody's just so sensitive?” "I am the excrement"? (At least you admit it.) Name-drops of Yellowstone characters that, because they say nothing about those characters, go over the head of someone who doesn't watch the show? The abrupt switch from bar hookup to bragging about clout you clearly don't have as a Z-list TikTok rapper who probably won't have another single ever? This guy makes Colt Ford look like Merle Haggard in comparison.


2. "You Proof" by Morgan Wallen

To quote Spectrum Pulse, "the disinterest in actually changing feels palpable." And that's a great summary of Wallen here: after several years of drunken antics that normally kill careers, he's still wallowing in boozy self-pity, and not even acting like it's a problem as long as his stans keep him rolling in dough. And I could get angry at that, or how the "no such thing as bad publicity" machine has made this the longest-running #1 in the history of the Country Airplay charts. But entirely on its own, it's just a horrendous song. Joey Moi's tendency to smother every vocal in reverb and Auto-Tune is at its worst to try and bolster an even weaker than usual vocal read. The production is smothered in trap snares and other instruments so processed I can't even tell what they are. Hell, it isn't even in minor key. Lyrically, there is literally zero detail about the woman he's trying to forget -- not a description of who or what she even is, what she did that brought him here, just a litany of empty "trying to forget you" phrases amid all the alcohol name-drops. I need something Morgan Wallen-proof.



1. "Don't California My Texas" by Creed Fisher

Fun fact: the first time I heard this song was at a construction site by my house. The next song they played was by Uncle Kracker. I've mentioned before that "Texas, fuck yeah" is one of my least-favorite country music tropes (my disdain for "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" actually led to Trailer calling me a heretic), but that's actually the least of this song's issues. While have the same old guns, beer, wave the flag, "this country's going to hell" right-wing rhetoric (and for some reaspon, potshots at electric cars), what pushed this one to the top of my worst list is not one, but two homophobic lines. If you've read any of my stuff before, you probably know I'm pansexual and try to support the LGBTQIA+ community in any way I can. So to have someone come in and say "don't bitch and moan 'bout all the things that you don't have" -- especially in a year fraught with anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric such as the Club Q shooting -- makes this one of the most insulting pieces of music I've ever heard in my life.


(Dishonorable mentions: "Beers on Me," "Half of Me")

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