Review – Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids”

When I first heard this song, I was taken aback by it and really didn’t know how to feel about it. First off, it wasn’t a beach song. Chesney has been living off these songs for the last decade, so when it wasn’t a beach song I think my ears were startled because they’ve been trained to expect it. Chesney’s last hit single, “Pirate Flag,” was just awful and had been a while since Chesney has done something that made me think. Second, is that supposed to be hipsters on the cover of this single? Is this Chesney’s new angle? I digress. Compared to other blogs that strive for more traditional sounding country music, Country Perspective isn’t as hard on Kenny Chesney for his songs. They aren’t meant to be taken seriously and they’re certainly easier to listen to than Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan songs. And that is the case once again with “American Kids.”

The song starts out with an electronic/acoustic beat, evoking similar sounds to Sugarland’s “Stuck on Glue,” another song I absolutely can’t stand. But you’ll realize that this song isn’t anything like that one and comparing the two is kind of silly. Chesney then begins to sing and the lyrics are blatantly laundry list. Several brands are listed off and other clichés about growing up in America are named. Now notice I said blatantly because this song is meant to make the listener experience nostalgia. While some listeners surely will experience nostalgia from hearing “American Kids,” I really don’t experience any nostalgia. Others will probably feel this way too because you really can’t sing a song about nostalgia, which is what this song is all about. It’s got to be the subject of the song that evokes it. For example, Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee” reminds me of my days of youth in the summer spending time with my friends. Nostalgia is a personal thing. You can’t sing about a bunch of clichés in hopes to appeal to everyone’s nostalgia because everyone is different.

Now if you approach this song with the attitude of being carefree and fun, it’s a pretty good song in this aspect. I was tapping my feet as I listened to it because it is a very likable song. The clapping and the shouts of “hey” are a little annoying, but I’m able to overlook it. The instrumentation in “American Kids” tries to be like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers, but it’s a light version of those respective bands’ sound. But that works because this is a party, summer anthem song that you dance to and aren’t supposed to find any significant meaning to it. I’m happy there isn’t any EDM or rapping involved. That in itself is an accomplishment.

I’m appreciative of Chesney trying to go outside the box. His last album Life On A Rock was a huge disappointment and didn’t garner a lot of attention. When making this next album apparently Chesney and his team had recorded and mixed the entire album when Chesney decided he hated it and they completely scrapped all of the material. They then made this song and the rest of his upcoming album. At least this shows Chesney cares about his music and isn’t trying to just makes “hits” like Jerrod Niemann admitted recently. “American Kids” is on fire on the iTunes charts and on Billboard. Expect to hear this play on radios for the rest of the summer.

Take this song for what’s it worth: A feel good song that is fun and light-hearted. It’s hard to hate “American Kids,” but I don’t love it either.

Grade: 6.5/10

The Worst Country Songs of 2014 (So Far)

There’s been a lot of great country music in 2014. Unfortunately there has also been a lot of bad country music in 2014. And not just bad, but possibly some of the worst country songs ever. Bro country is still in full force and is showing no signs of going away soon. EDM and rap are being infused into more and more country music. And country rap has the potential to break out and become a mainstay in mainstream country music. At the end of the year Country Perspective will crown the Worst Country Song of 2014. Some of these will surely be top candidates, while others will fall off the list because they’ve been topped in horribleness. So join me in booing the worst “country” songs of 2014.

Jerrod Niemann – “Donkey” & “Drink to That All Night (Remix featuring Pitbull)”

Donkey is one of the most godawful songs I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s easily in the top ten worst country songs ever list. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to sing about riding a donkey down to the “honky tonky”? If you can make it through the whole song, you deserve a medal. He also managed to make “Drink to That All Night” even worse with the remix. I can tolerate Pitbull, but he should be nowhere near country music. Niemann is really trying hard to sweep the “Worst of..” awards here on Country Perspective.

Tim McGraw – “Lookin’ For That Girl”

When I heard this song and saw what McGraw currently looked like, I was pretty sure he’s going through some sort of midlife crisis. He looks like a damn baked corpse on the cover of this single and there’s so much auto-tune and EDM elements pumped into this song that it’s even making Avicii blush in embarrassment. McGraw was clearly trying to keep up with the “youngsters” with this song and he failed miserably. It bombed on the charts and the radio. Many of McGraw’s longtime fans were pissed off about this song and turned against him because of this horrendous song. “Lookin’ For That Girl” also gave us this gem of a line: “That girl, she’s a party, all nighter/Little Funky Cold Medina/Little Strawberry Winer.” What the hell does this even mean?

Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan – “This is How We Roll” & “This is How We Roll (Remix featuring Jason Derulo)”

How could I forget about these clowns, the biggest offenders of ruining country music today? This song plays non-stop on your local country radio and if you listen long enough, you’ll drive your car into oncoming traffic to make the song get the hell out of your head. Florida Georgia Line will coast off this song for another year before being forced to make new music noise to pollute the radio airwaves. This song of course was made after “Cruise” and it’s remix finally ran out of gas. The music video for this is even worse than the song itself. To milk this cash cow a little bit more, they decided to make a remix with Jason Derulo. Fortunately it’s not doing as well as they had hoped it would. I guess bro country fans have a line drawn on how bad music can get too.

Brantley Gilbert – “Bottoms Up,” “Small Town Throwdown (featuring Thomas Rhett & Justin Moore)”

Brantley Gilbert’s new album may have gotten an average review from me, but it still had some absolutely bad songs. “Bottoms Up” is the perfect anthem for drunk frat bros. It’s also ironic because Gilbert is a recovering alcoholic. Whatever makes you money, right Mr. Gilbert? “Small Town Throwdown” is about something that doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as a small town throwdown. I guess this supposed to be another drinking, bro country song? Yeah I’ll go with that. At least Gilbert writes his own music.

Dustin Lynch – “Where It’s At (Yep, Yep)”

“Do I hate this song? Yep, yep. Is this a laundry list song full of bro country clichés? Yep, yep. Have you figured out what’s the most annoying part of this song yet? In between singing something about ball caps and his girl, Dustin Lynch utters “yep, yep.” This happens throughout the song and you will inevitably get it stuck in your head making you beg for mercy that the ear worm leaves your thoughts.” Click here for the rest of the review.

Luke Bryan – “Play It Again” (Released as a single this year) & “She Get Me High”

“I was like oh my God, this damn song again is playing on the radio and I want it to go away. Don’t play it again, don’t play it again, don’t play it again.” Those are my modified lyrics for “Play It Again.” I think it represents the song better. I swear radio stations just alternate between this song and “This is How We Roll” all day long. It’s everywhere. Girls just eat this song up, even though it’s just recycled from another song Bryan has done that was a big hit before this one. “She Get Me High” hasn’t got a lot of radio play, but now it’s probably going to after I just pointed this out. First off, the song title isn’t using proper grammar and this bugs the crap out of me. And second of all, like most Bryan songs, it’s about drinking and a girl. Please don’t let there be anymore new Bryan music in 2014.

The Rest of the Worst:

Lady Antebellum“Bartender” 

I’m tired of giving this band a pass. Make better music already,

Jake Owen“Beachin'”

I was a little harsh on this song. But it still sucks.

Brad Paisley“River Bank”

This makes the list based on my sheer disappointment in Paisley and this song.

Cole Swindell – “Chillin’ It” & “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight”

Not bombastic enough to be worst of the worst. But I’m sure Swindell will try harder on the next album.

Rascal Flatts – “Rewind” & “Payback”

Irrelevance sucks doesn’t it, Rascal Flatts? They desperately try to appeal to young people and fail hilariously.

Dan + Shay – “19 You + Me”

This is Rascal Flatts’ replacement. London Fog models who sing pop country bubblegum songs.

 

I could keep going on and on, but I’ll stop. Let me know in the comments if I missed any of your favorite worst country songs of 2014. 

Florida Georgia Line Set to Release New Single

Well folks we all knew this was coming. Florida Georgia Line has been coasting off the same music the last two and a half years, so eventually they had to make new music. And that music has arrived. They’re releasing their first single from their sophomore album on July 8 and it’s called “Dirt.” As you can see above, the duo announced it on their Facebook page. According to The Examiner, the writers of the song are Rodney Clawson (he wrote Lady Antebellum’s “Bartender”) and Chris Tompkins (wrote a couple of Carrie Underwood hits). There are several rumors swirling around about this song, with some even suggesting this song sounds more traditional than their other songs. I’ll believe this when I see it. These are rumors after all. Country Perspective will be reviewing “Dirt.” I don’t have high hopes, but stranger things have happened. We could be in store for one of the most shockingly good songs of 2014 or more of the same old bro country stuff. Stay tuned.

Album Review – First Aid Kit’s “Stay Gold”

Every once in a while when listening to music, you’ll get blindsided from something out of left field. This is music that is so good or bad that it just takes your breath away when it hits your ears. Today’s album is so damn good I couldn’t help but smile the entire time I listened to it. There is no use in beating around the bush. First Aid Kit’s new album Stay Gold is absolutely phenomenal. The Swedish sister duo of Johanna and Klara Söderberg are like a fresh breath of air when hearing them harmonize together. It’s so pure and raw. Throw in spot-on instrumentation and you got one hell of an album.

Stay Gold starts off with “My Silver Lining.” This song is about finding the good in every situation. The sisters really show off their range in this song and is a good start to the album. This is followed by “Master Pretender,” the most explicit song on the album. I reason I say most explicit is because of the following line towards the latter part of the song: “I always thought you’d be here/But shit gets fucked up/And people just disappear.” It’s a haunting and jarring line. The melody of this song gives it a carefree feel, which is perfect because the song is about exploring and relationships.

The album’s title track, “Stay Gold,” is about wishing things would stay good, but it continues to fail and falter. The mood of the song is hopeful and determined in the face of bad recent happenings and striving to “stay gold.” It’s really one of the more underrated tracks on the album in terms of depth. “Cedar Lane” is one of the softer tracks on Stay Gold. It’s a song about reflecting on past love and hoping that love returns again. “Cedar Lane” is deepest song on the album and what really makes it one of the standouts is how the little things all come together. Everything is cohesive and paints a picture in the listener’s head, while also evoking that same emotion from them.

“Shattered & Hollow” has a similar theme to “Cedar Lane,” which is a reflection of a past relationship. It’s also a song about striving for more in life and trying to escape a feeling of emptiness. The emotions of this song are complex because the lines are about hopefulness, but the theme is about the hope being a part of the past and being gone now. “The Bell” is a complex song in terms of what its about. To me, I interpret it as it being about a person running away from a marriage (the line about running from the bell) and not wanting to return home. Instead they choose to travel, while reflecting on the choice. I really enjoy the harmonies at the end of this song.

This is followed by “Waitress Song,” is about exploring different experiences and journeys in life. The melody of this song is whimsical and light-hearted, really giving the song the perfect emotion of wandering. It’s really about finding yourself. “Fleeting One” is about a woman’s relationship slowly ending and falling out of love with her man. The woman slowly breaks out of the relationship and looks for her true love. The sisters really showcase their high vocal range well in this song.

The penultimate track on the album is definitely my favorite track on the album. “Heaven Knows” is an upbeat and fast song about a person seeing their partner slowly lose their identity and becoming a lie. They know they’re a liar and this has caused them to stop trying. They know their partner is better than what they have become. But then the person contemplates what happens if the relationship ends. This is indicated when the shrillest line on the album is uttered by the sisters: “What’ll we do if it comes down to it/If it all goes, straight to hell!” Really adds a punch to this song. Stay Gold concludes with “A Long Time Ago,” which is a reflective heartbreak song. The person in the song realizes they were never good enough for the other person and how they were never the right fit for them. A soft ballad that closes out a dynamic album.

I know this doesn’t squarely fall under country (it’s categorized as “alternative” on iTunes). It doesn’t fall under any one genre, but rather many. You hear elements from country, alternate country, folk, pop and Americana. It really reminds me of The Mavericks’ In Time album from last year, in that both do a great job of combining so many different elements and mixing them together to create such interesting and innovative music. Some traditionalists won’t like this album and that’s fine. I know First Aid Kit may not be for everybody. But if you’re somebody who can put on blinders when it comes to genre and just appreciate great music, then you should like this album.

Stay Gold is definitely more than good enough for me (and country enough). It’s one of the best albums of the year in all genres. This is the one of the top contenders for Country Perspective’s Album of the Year.

Grade: 10/10