Maybe it’s something to do with the last name Young–because this reminds me of the entirety of Brett Young’s latest effort in that it’s forgettable, boring, and yes, could put me to sleep. Let’s even forget about the beats, the trend-chasing, and the fact that Chris Young’s deep, traditional country voice is being used to produce something as non-country as this–because those problems pale in comparison to the fact that I’ve listened to this song three times and can’t remember a single line beyond “we’re winning when we’re losing sleep,” and I can only recall that because it has to be the laziest hook in mainstream country songwriting ever. Not the worst, but definitely the laziest. The actual song is an attempt at seduction, which, I might add, Chris Young has the voice for. That is what takes the song down from a mediocre, inoffensive 5-ish to a 3; it’s the lazy lyrics, Chris Young’s obvious boredom, and the general lack of charisma and care by an artist who can pull this off that bring this song down. IN short, the problem is that Chris Young is better than this in general, and better than this at these types of songs–see “Tomorrow,” and even if you found it slightly douche-leaning, see “Lonely Eyes.” At least he sounded engaged during that song, even if it boils down to being another song about picking up a girl in a bar. The one thing I can say for this song is that it’s inoffensive. IN fact, it really doesn’t evoke any feeling at all.
I could have included Chris Young in my recent piece about artists I wished would get back to themselves, but I honestly forgot about Chris Young because after some strong singles, instead of turning into a trend-chaser who began releasing atrocious music, he took the safe route with his last album and released one of the most disappointing, bland records I’ve ever listened to. That’s arguably worse than being atrocious; at least horrible music is remembered. I had hoped that Chris Young would return to more meaningful songs and realize more of his potential, but if this new single is any indication, his next album will be just as forgettable–and even less country.
Written by: Chris Young, Chris DeStefano, Josh Hoge
Vince Gill has had one of the most successful careers in country music history, earning numerous awards, as well as inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Grand Ole Opry. Unlike other artists his age, he is aging gracefully. He isn’t pulling an Alabama and releasing a “Southern Drawl” in misguided hopes for radio play. He is still making the records he wants to make, and his signature tenor voice has been unaffected–if anything, it has only grown stronger on this record. Even if you don’t like Vince Gill’s discography, you probably like Vince Gill himself; he seems to be one of the most respected and well-liked people in the business. In fact, it took me some time to review this record because I am an unashamed Vince Gill fan. But I have finally hit on the problem with this album–it’s not a bad album by any stretch, and there are a few songs you will keep coming back to, which I will point out. If you aren’t a Vince Gill fan, you may really enjoy this album–but if you are familiar with his work, this will mostly just make you want to listen to better Vince Gill material.
As I said earlier, Vince is making the albums he wants to make; he has a songwriting credit on every track and was a producer. It is for this reason that I can’t immediately dismiss the production on this record, but I do want to address it now, lest I should have to on every song–the production is heavily influenced by r&b, although not the trend-chasing r&b of Thomas Rhett, more like an age-appropriate version. I might call this 80’s R&b country, and since this was obviously Vince’s decision, I won’t critique it, except where it especially helps or hinders certain songs.
“Reasons for the Tears I Cry,” the album’s opener, is a heartbreak song. Vince Gill’s voice is as strong as ever as he sings, “I got reasons, reasons for the tears I cry.” This immediately introduces the adult comtemporary/r&b country production which sets the stage for much of the record. This production works really well for the title track, another heartbreak song in which Vince says that he gave up smoking and drinking and his old friends for a woman–all the things she’d left him for. But, “the one thing that I’ll always be addicted to, oh I’m down to my last bad habit, you.” This is one of the standout songs that works because of its slow-burning, bluesy production. “Me and my Girl” is more country-influenced, and is just an easygoing love song that is pleasant to listen to; this one gets better with more listens and is another one you will find yourself taking away from the album.
“Like my Daddy Did” is a song about a man asking a woman to marry him–but she’s afraid that he will walk out on her like her father did. This is one case where I love Vince’s voice and the songwriting, but I think it would have made a great country song; it makes a pretty good adult contemporary song. “Make You Feel Real Good” is one of the fun, upbeat songs signature of Vince Gill; this one is about a man attempting to seduce a woman. “Baby doll, you know I would make you feel real good.” This one is more country and just suits Vince Gill; it’s just fun. “I Can’t Do This” is a beautifully written song about a man watching his ex with another man; Vince’s voice delivers the emotion wonderfully, but it’s another moment where I wish for more country production. We’re all aware of what kind of emotion Vince Gill can evoke in a guitar, but this song features piano. Songs like this make a review difficult, because there’s nothing wrong with it–it’s just not what Vince Gill is capable of.
“My Favorite Movie” is one of the weaker love songs, this one about a love that is real but it is better than anything on Hollywood screens. It’s easier to dismiss a song like this than “I Can’t Do This,” because here the lyrics aren’t great either. “One More Mistake I Made” is the most adult contemporary of the bunch, even featuring a trumpet. If this entire album hadn’t been such a sonic shift for Gill, this song might have been an interesting experiment–as it is, it’s a piece of great songwriting that is made completely bland by production. “Take Me Down” features Little Big Town and is about a woman who can “take me down every time you come around and make me surrender for you.” The driving production fits this perfectly; this song reminds me of something Fleetwood Mac might have recorded. Good to see Little Big Town contributing to something worthwhile, after their wasted collaboration with Miranda Lambert on “Smokin’ and Drinkin’.” This is what they should be doing.
Next is another collaboration, this one with Cam on a song called “I’ll be Waiting For You.” This is another standout of the record; their voices blend flawlessly, and a song like this reminds you of Vince Gill’s skill at love songs. This one is also very country. Definitely listen to this song. I am pleased that both of the collaborations were highlights of this record. “When it’s Love” is a solid song about, well, knowing when it is love–“When it’s love, it’s like a wild raging river, when it’s love, feel like you’ve been delivered. You might as well just surrender when it’s love.” This song could have been helped by different production, but it’s still solid. Then the album closes with the stunning “I Feel a Sad One Comin’ On (a Song for George Jones),” and here is the Vince Gill I’ve been waiting for. Here is his guitar crying, and the sadness of “Go Rest High on That Mountain” and “I Call Your Name.”
It’s this song at the end that ultimately brings down the record; there were great songs on it, but now they pale in comparison when you hear the potential of Vince Gill. And as a Vince Gill fan, every time I get to this point, all the goodwill I felt toward this record is replaced by desire to listen to other Vince Gill work. However, as a reviewer, I cannot deny that this album is actually quite good in and of itself. Regardless of the r&b influence, it features excellent vocals throughout and great songwriting throughout a good portion of it. The collaborations are standouts, as is the title track. It’s almost unfortunate the Jones tribute is at the end, cheapening the rest of the album–but that’s exactly what it does. Give these songs a listen. As a collection of songs, they ar quite good. But as an album, Vince Gill can deliver much better.
Luke Bryan has released a second song from his upcoming album Kill the Lights–and it actually is not a copy of “That’s my Kind of Night” or “Kick the Dust Up.” Country Exclusive didn’t exist when the atrocity that is “Kick the Dust Up” came out, so you were saved the rant, but let me say that that “song” was one of the driving factors behind this blog. I didn’t think I could possibly hate anything Luke produced worse than “Kick the Dust Up,” but then I have underestimated these things before. Enter “Strip it Down,” the r&b/pop copy of Jason Aldean’s hit “Burnin’ it Down.” Incidentally, Luke released this lyric video “exclusively” on Tinder, and I won’t go into a rant about how sleazy this is, but do yourself a favor and go read Trigger’s own rant on SCM Here From the article:
It’s only fair to mention that officially, Tinder is not meant to be exclusively about setting up sex rendezvous. It’s just a dating app. But I’ll tell you this: If I was looking to blow off a little steam and hook up for the night, or was feeling a little lonely and wanted to go looking for love, the last thing I would want to see is the country music Gomer Pyle on there shilling his stupid video. I mean shit, you can’t get away from this guy.
But since SCM took care of that, let’s discuss the song itself. It’s about Luke wanting to reconnect with an old love by “stripping it down.” Immediately, Dierks Bentley’s “Come a Little Closer” comes to mind, as this is basically the premise of that song as well. So let’s compare the two.
Dierks’s is country with some rock. Like I already said, this is pop and r&b, with the only reference to country being the comment about getting back to the way things were “When it was an old back road and an old school beat, Cowboy boots by your little bare feet.” Dirt roads get an obligatory mention even when the song is not bro country. I assume the “old school beat” is the bro country sound before this new r&b/pop/metro-politan disease infected the genre…irony at its finest. Also, Dierks Bentley talked much more about the girl. “I feel like layin’ you down on a bed of sweet surrender where we can work it all out,” “I wanna touch you like a cleansing rain,.” and “I feel like lettin’ go of everything that stands between us and the love we used to know.” Luke does say, “Let me run my fingers down your back” but more often we find lines about the scenery, like the “white cotton sheets,” “feel my belt turn loose from these old blue jeans,” and this completely unnecessary “I wanna drop this cell phone out, Let it shatter on the ground.” It’s trying to be romantic, but it comes off like he is in a hurry to have sex rather than desperate to get back the love they lost. In fact, love is never mentioned, at least not in that context; the song simply says, “We both know that we lost it somehow, let’s get it found, strip it down, down, down.” The word “Love” is mentioned once in the bridge, with the line, “I just wanna love you so bad, baby.” So again, it sounds like he is just desperate to hook up with her. Then again, if they are getting back to the way it was on an old back road with an old school beat, then hooking up with her by a river is probably what he is going for here. Last, but certainly not least, Dierks Bentley’s “Come a Little Closer” shows emotion and actually makes you want to go have sex, whereas Luke Bryan’s “Strip it Down” just made me bored, distracted, and eventually disgusted and ready to rant about it.
This is not headache inducing like “Kick the Dust Up” and maybe wouldn’t have gotten a 0 if I hadn’t compared it to “Come a Little Closer.” But the fact is, I immediately did, and in that light, this song goes from being boring, unoriginal crap to something I hate as bad, if not worse than, his bro country collection. Those songs, at least, did what they set out to accomplish. This, after “Kick the Dust Up,” certainly does not bode well for Friday’s album.