When an album is preceeded with “Kick the Dust Up” and
“Strip it Down,”
you can only assume the album will be more of the same. So when I listened to Kill the Lights, I was expecting an album of trend-chasing, radio-ready singles and hoping for at least one or two good country songs thrown in at the end as an afterthought. I should expect more from an artist like Luke Bryan, but that’s unfortunately not the case. I can be thankful, I guess, that the album does offer a few good songs at the end, although this leaves me wondering why Luke Bryan uses his status and potential to churn out shit like “Kick the Dust Up.” Oh, wait…because quality doesn’t equal airplay. So unfortunately, most listeners will not get to the end and hear the good on this album.
“Kick the Dust Up” opens the album, and I am not going to waste my time explaining why this is horrible. If you’ve heard it, you know it’s terrible bro country garbage, and if you like it, you aren’t going to be persuaded by my bashing of it, so let’s move on. Next is “Kill the Lights,” which is another boring bro country anthem, infused with more pop elements so that it is hard to tell whether he’s trying to keep his core fans or appeal to Sam Hunt fans. It mixes the worst of both of those trends to make a completely obnoxious song that will probably be a massive radio hit. Also, the chorus sounds remarkably close to his 2013 hit “That’s My Kind of Night” in terms of rhythm. I hated that song the first time, and this version isn’t any better. I already explained my problems with “Strip it Down,” and actually, hearing it in the context of the album, it’s not that bad. This speaks to the quality of the album rather than the quality of “Strip it Down.” It is another trend-chasing song, only now he is chasing the “Burnin’ it Down” trend established by Jason Aldean. Three songs, and I haven’t heard any country whatsoever–unless you count the references to back roads, present in all three songs, which I don’t.
The scene shifts from the back roads to a club with “Home Alone Tonight,” a duet with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild. This had potential to be one of the better moments on the album, but it boils down to a song about taking a “payback picture” and sending it to their exes, followed by a text saying they aren’t going “hhome alone tonight.” Instead, they are going “shot for shot for shot” with a stranger and then hooking up. Karen Fairchild should be embarrassed to be included in this song; this is the same voice that gave us “Girl Crush,” and now she is using it for evil.
From there, Kill the Lights moves up from terrible to songs that are more mediocre and forgettable. “Razor Blade” is a straight pop song that deals with a woman who “won’t cut you like a knife, like a knife, that little look in her eyes will cut you like a razor blade.” “Fast” is a boring song infused with hip-hop beats about how life goes by too fast. Six songs in, and still no country. Next is “Move,” a rocking song about watching a girl move in the moonlight. Aside from being a bro country dance mix, this song loses hope when Luke Bryan does a spoken-word bit in the middle; also he says “M-o-v-e” way too many times. Having said that, it’s much less annoying/offensive/obnoxious than his previous bro country material. Next is “Just Over,” a breakup song that uses the word “over” to explain that he thought she would “come over, stay over, wake up hung over, still head over heels for me” but “it’s just over.” This is decently written, but its main problem is production; eight songs in, and no country. However, he could release worse singles than “Just Over.”
“Love it Gone” brings in the first country touches. This is a song about “loving gone” all of his woman’s troubles. This is still a forgettable song to me, but at least it sounds like pop country. “Way Way Back” reverts back to pop and sings of getting “way way back” to the early days of a relationship. Apparently their relationship started on a back road though, as he goes to this yet again.
All of a sudden, “To the Moon and Back” comes on. I hear acoustic guitars and stripped-down instrumentation. Here is a country love song about loving a woman “to the moon and back.” I hope this will be a single. It should be noted that this is the first time Luke Bryan sounds like he is not bored singing. This is the Luke Bryan that sang “Do I,” “Rain is a Good Thing,” and “All My Friends Say.” “Huntin’, Fishin’, and Lovin’ Every Day” is next, and you will either hate it because it has clichés, or you will like it because it has country instrumentation and sounds believable. Personally, I enjoy this song because Luke sounds like he believes what he is singing. It talks about country life, but not in the cartoonish way that “Kick the Dust Up” does. It proves a song can be lighthearted and talk about country life without being offensive. Last is “Scarecrows,” a song that reminds me of Florida Georgia Line’s “Dirt.” It reflects on the mark left on those old back roads, saying, “we’ll always be here wherever we go, just like the scarecrows.” This is a heartfelt country song and one of my favorite Luke Bryan songs to date. You will never hear “To the Moon and Back” or “Scarecrows” if you do what I would have done and ignore this album because of “Kick the Dust Up” and “Strip it Down.” I only heard these songs because I reviewed it, and they proved that Luke Bryan is capable of so much more than the crap he releases to radio. So, I would not recommend this album by any means, but do listen to the last three songs.