Luke Bryan What Makes You Country album cover

Album Review: Luke Bryan–What Makes You Country

Rating: 4.5/10

Okay, so honestly, this is the kind of album that really doesn’t give me much passion to write. It’s not great, it’s not terrible, it just exists. The vast majority of it is just kind of forgettable. That’s a pretty good summary of this, and I could take the quality songs from this and easily fit them into Memorable Songs.

But the fact that I can pull songs from this into that feature is improvement in and of itself. I feel I at least owe Luke a proper review because he’s showing some maturity and making at least marginally better music. His last album was mostly horrendous, and I’ve hated a good majority of his singles for the past five years. So when you go from spectacularly awful to okay, and even sprinkle in some quality, it should be commended. I’ve been one of Luke Bryan’s biggest critics–anyone who knows me at all will know this–and so I can’t ignore it when the guy’s making better music.

So let’s talk about the quality because you actually do get a few really solid tracks here. “Drinking Again” reminds you that one, Luke can actually use his charisma for good, as opposed to singing hookup songs in trucks, and two, that not all drinking songs are bad. This one’s fun and catchy and would make a good single. I daresay his fans would have enjoyed it more than the insufferable mess that is “Light it Up,” and hopefully, he will release this. “Most People Are Good” is just simply a nice song, and when the world’s going to hell all around us, we need stuff like this to remind us it’s not as bad as the media would have us believe. This is not going to be anyone’s Song of the Year or anything, but it’s a case of less is more, and it’s just nice to hear a song like this. Also, the production, as is actually the case for most of this record, is much closer to pop country than much of Bryan’s previous output, and although modern, this actually sounds like it should be allowed to be in the genre. “Land of a Million Songs” displays some of that too, as we have some prominent piano featured here, and the song itself is another highlight, an extremely well-written tune about doing anything to make it in the music business and constantly looking for things to say and adding verses to your songs. I can’t believe we’re getting a song like this from Luke; actually, it reminds me of a hidden gem we might have seen on one of Blake Shelton’s more recent albums–you know, before he released this current piece of shit. Side note here, isn’t it sad that Luke Bryan has actually produced a better album than Shelton this year?…but I digress.

Then we’ve got some decent songs–not anything necessarily to write home about, but definitely some more proof that Bryan strove for more maturity with this project. “Pick it Up” actually portrays a grown man–I didn’t know the same person who sang “Light it Up” was capable of this–hoping his son will learn from him and adopt some of his cool habits and good values. It’s kind of cheesy, but I’m sure it’s personal to Luke, and that’s more than I can say about every sex anthem by a river in a truck he’s ever produced. The title track isn’t bad either; it’s pretty catchy, and the overall idea is nice, asserting that anyone can be country, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what background you have. Good idea, but played out badly, as he then asserts he’s country because of pretty much all the clichés he normally uses in all his other songs. Still, I see what it was going for, and I’ll give him some credit. Same goes for “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset,”–it’s the same clichés as well, but at least there’s a story and a bit of depth to this.

There’s nothing that makes me cringe quite like any of Luke’s previous work, except the God-awful “Light it UP.” Even his loyal fans aren’t liking this too much, as they know it’s creepy and lame. His neurotic obsession with his cell phone would be enough to make me break it off if I were the girlfriend, but hey, that’s just me. Also, like him or not, Luke does have charisma, allowing him to pull off a lot of his previous material, and here, he just sounds completely checked out. The whole thing would really just be lifeless and boring but for the embarrassing lyrics. We don’t have anything else that horrible, but we do get some ill-advised R&B sex jam attempt in “Hungover in a Hotel Room” that just shouldn’t exist. It is just not sexy in the least bit and therefore does not accomplish its purpose at all. And there’s “She’s a Hot One,” which honestly sounds like a leftover from one of Bryan’s bro country albums that didn’t make the cut–and understandably, because it’s like a wannabe version of all those songs. I can’t be too disgusted by this one because it’s just…lame.

As for the rest, there’s literally nothing to say. It just runs together. The good thing here is that none of this is atrocious, and Luke Bryan has certainly proven he’s capable of atrocious. The bad thing is that although it’s a major improvement for Luke, it’s still not a good album. It’s just under exactly half good, and that’s simply because it drags along to fifteen tracks. “Win Life,” there at the end, isn’t a bad song, but by this point, you’re just tired of listening. They could have trimmed this down a little and risen this rating to a 5, even a 6. As it is, the ultimate flaw is it’s uninteresting. But that’s also a noticeable sign of growth because while the quality does stand out, the lesser material mostly just fades into the background. Coming from someone as polarizing as Luke Bryan, that’s improvement, and maturity, and he’s shown both on this album. I hope we get more interesting selections next time, but he’s definitely going in the right direction, even if he’s not quite there yet with this record.

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The Good

The Terrible

12 thoughts on “Album Review: Luke Bryan–What Makes You Country”

  1. I checked out those songs you labeled as good and my main problem with them is just how forced the Titles of the songs are when put into the refrains. He does not rhyme them in and it just feels completely awkward. It somewhat ruins the songs for me. It is kind of like when Aaron Watson put that “Off the Hook” part into The Look. It just doesn’t fit into the puzzle of the song and writing that came before it. But as far as the content of these songs go they are alright but it isn’t anything great either. The album as a whole is not bad as background noise while your typing a paper at work. It would not be a bad album to put on when other people are over that don’t like the in depth traditional country like ourselves. This album is something to sooth the masses without making yourself crazy as well. But holy hell Drinkin Again might be one of the worst songs ever…. I don’t find that song good at all. I was looking for a window to put my head through. I guess I am not feeling it as much as you are.

    1. Interesting comment about the hooks, that’s a good point. Also, thanks for mentioning Jake Ward, I really enjoy “Where the Wind Blows.”

  2. Sorry I got into that comment a bit too much. I feel your review was good and I enjoyed it. Also, I am glad You liked it (if you didn’t you can be honest you won’t loose me as a reader or hurt my feeling). But if you really did like it I would be more than willing to make a quick playlist made on Spotify of some artists similar to that. I would try to make it of people you probably have not heard of.

    1. If I didn’t, I would be honest. In the spirit of that honesty, feel free to share the playlist here, I will say that I use Apple Music, but other readers will surely appreciate it. If it’s intended for me to check out, just post a list, and I’ll check them out on Apple Music, no need to make it on Spotify.

  3. These are Just Songs I think are good, underated, or fairly unheard of. Only Reason I am making this is I love spreading new music to people and just because I just have one song up here by an artist by no means they just good on a single. Alot of these artists have great EP’s ( or more) as a whole. Believe it or not this was me keeping it short. Hope I trimmed it to the bests. I will say The Highlights are Mark Jones and Twenty Paces, Koe Wetzel (Yes, I know the opinions about him and the flaws but these songs are not grunge rock they are great) , Damon Curtis, and Jon Stork. Really though these are a good 17 songs. I will post a spotify list similar to this underneath this comment for anyone who wants a listen. This is not your standard alternative country (Sturgill Simpson). Its more in your Cody Johnson wheelhouse so if its not your taste in country that’s fine.

    1. Mark Jones and Twenty Paces ” Fast and Free”
    2. Ty Dillon “When She Laughs”
    3. Corey Hunt Band “Hannah Belle”
    4. Jon Stork “Waitin’ on Another Fight”
    5. Koe Wetzel “Tell It All Town”
    6. Koe Wetzel “Love”
    7. Ray Johnston Band “Watching The Lord Turn on the Lights”
    8. Hunter Hutchinson “Some Things Never Change”
    9. Randall King “Hard Livin’ Illene”
    10. Tanner Fenoglio “This Town”
    11. The Statesboro Revue “Huck Finn”
    12. Parker McCollum “Hell Of A Year”
    13. Parker McCollum “Lonesome Ten Miles”
    14. Mike Ryan “One Way”
    15. Kaitlin Butts “Bored If I Don’t”
    16. Kylie Frey “Too Bad” ft. Randy Rogers
    17. Damon Curtis “Here’s to Goodbye”

    1. Thanks for the list, some of this I know very well. Big fan of Kaitlin Butts, hopefully we’ll be getting more music from her in 2018. I enjoy the McCollum songs too, although I’m not as huge of a fan of his album as many people. I also enjoy “Too Bad” and think that was a very underrated song this year. As for Koe Wetzel, I have listened to the album. Not really my thing, but definitely a lot more talent ther than many are giving them credit for. Haven’t heard of most of the rest, thanks for the list.

      1. Holy Hell if you have not Heard of Statesboro they are just amazing so many great songs your in for a treat. I put it on there for others but I thought you would have had to heard of them before. Anyway have fun with it. Let me know what you think of it.

        1. My bad, I actually have heard of Statesboro and have done a review on them, just forgot to mention them when I wrote that comment. They have a really unique, cool sound. I reviewed Jukehouse Revival on here back in the early days of this blog when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so probably not the best highlighting of them, but it’s something lol.

          1. so what did you think of the playlist? I know it was probably a stretch for alot of the stuff cause from what you seem to review this style doesn’t seem to be the stuff that floats your boat but not everything has to be Colter Wall. Even though that seems to be what people on these sites all push. I like listening to that stuff a couple times but it doesn’t have playlist appeal to me for some reason. So this is what i end up listening to because country radio is pop and all the same. Happy medium for me I guess. Hopefully you liked it too.

          2. Hey, I dig Colter Wall, but yeah, a lot of that stuff is either downright boring, or it’s good in album form but not necessarily in playlists, I enjoy a lot of this too, though, maybe more than you realize. I grew up with this stuff all over the radio in Oklahoma, and I try to feature this right along with the Colter Walls of the world. Anyway, like I said before, a good chunk of this I knew and like, but my favorite thing I hadn’t heard before was Mark Jones and Twenty Paces, thanks for sending them my way for sure. Also, that Kaitlin Butts song is great, and I’m glad you sent me this because I heard it live in September at Medicine Stone, and I wanted to review it then but could not find a studio version. I don’t know if this was released after that or if I just overlooked it, but I will hopefully have time to review it now. I’d like to see another full album from her in 2018.

  4. “Most People Are Good” is surprisingly pretty decent, and like you said, it actually sounds more like a country song and has a nice melody. He’s actually showing a hint of maturity for a change, as well. Some of the lyrics are still a bit clichéd, but overall not too shabby, especially for Luke. I would’ve liked “Land Of A Million Songs” better if it weren’t for that annoying mandatory drum machine, and the fact that it has the same dang beat as nearly every song on the radio. There is a decent country song buried somewhere under that production, though, and I suppose it’s still a step in the right direction for him.

    I’ve actually heard that “Most People Are Good” is the next single. If that’s true, it will easily be his best single in quite some time and a refreshing change from the awful “Light It Up.”

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