Album Review – Sam Hunt’s Montevallo

Hunt Montevallo

We’ve arrived folks. This trend of letting outside musical influences like hip hop and EDM creep into country music has been a slow process, but with each mainstream release we’ve been subjected to more and more pop/hip hop influenced beats and rhythms in lieu of our beloved country sounds of banjos and steel guitars. And now Sam Hunt has a full-length album released via MCA Nashville. Sam Hunt, a co-writer of hits like Kenny Chesney’s “Come Over” and Keith Urban’s “Cop Car”, brings a slew of hip hop/EDM inspired pop songs on his debut album, Montevallo. This album is terribly mislabeled. For whatever reason, Music Row thought it’d be okay to slap a country label on an album and artist who brings no country elements whatsoever to the table.

To me, this seems like the type of album an established artist, with several hit albums, would release as an experimental album or a way to push personal artistic boundaries, like Garth Brooks’ Chris Gaines debacle or Martina McBride’s R&B cover album, Everlasting. Instead, Montevallo is a debut album from a brand new artist who the powers that be are trying to push-off as the next big thing in country music. What we’re given is a choppy mashup of EDM inspired music with bits and pieces of country culture spliced in to justify its mislabel. With all that said, amidst ten vastly overproduced songs and awkward spoken word portions, Hunt shows glimpses of some strong songwriting capabilities and even a few moments where his voice shines as a singer.

Montevallo kicks off with a slower song called “Take Your Time.” This song is about Hunt, more or less, just wanting to interact with this girl at a party. At first it’s just talking, but as the night progresses Hunt is smitten and wants to blow her mind (if you catch his drift), but the song is just about his thoughts and not necessarily him acting on them. The melody is fairly friendly with a noticeable piano and light guitars, and if you can look past Hunt’s spoken word verses, the writing here isn’t half bad; Sam Hunt does a great job describing the dynamic between a guy and girl in this type of situation, and he sings the chorus rather well in my opinion. It’s one of the better songs on the album, which isn’t saying much. Next up is “Leave The Night On.”  This song is so pop radio friendly. The rest of this album makes it look like an actual country song.

“House Party” is about bringing the party to a girl who doesn’t want to leave and go out. This song is upbeat EDM rock with guitars and DJ Beats, and is really about a large, let’s get loud, house party. Following that is “Break Up in a Small Town” which is a terrible song. Spoken word, rapping, and trying to appease to a country audience by setting in a small town make it awful. Sam Hunt has his niche of music and doesn’t really stray too far from his style. However, “Break Up in a Small Town” is one of those times he does stray in order to try to connect with a country audience. The other time he strays is in the next song, “Single for the Summer.” This song may help Florida Georgia Line focus in bro-country as pseudo-rap/pop tunes about being horny dudes. Hunt was dumped, but hey it’s summer! So let’s forget about her because there are girls in bikinis and hot, naïve rich girls around me, and I’m single. In this song, Sam Hunt says the following line, I kid you not: “I’m out creepin’ till the sun comes up.” These country bros finally have some self-awareness!! Also, this damn song tries to sound country with a steel guitar sound popping in the mix. No, Sam Hunt. Just stop trying to be country. Stop.

Next up is “Ex to See.” Get it, “ex to see” sounds like “ecstasy.” Boy, that Sam Hunt is a clever one with those double entendres. No, this electronic drum driven song is all about him feeling like crap because this girl he likes is only using him to piss her ex-boyfriend off. However, Sam Hunt follows this up with “Make You Miss Me.” There’s some piano and string instruments in the mix, and Hunt writes a compelling story about a girl who basically has ADD and gets bored with new toys/songs/boys quickly and dumps them when she’s tired of them. Sam Hunt says he’ll be good enough to make her miss him. The writing on this track is actually pretty good with lines like “Keep a slipknot in the strings you attach.” And the best part is there’s a female backing vocalist on this track who provides some excellent harmonies behind Hunt’s voice. I actually kind of like this one. It’s not a country song, but I think it’s an okay pop song.

After this is Hunt’s take on his big Keith Urban cut, “Cop Car.” Sam Hunt’s version is much more EDM influenced and subdued than Keith’s pop country hit. Personally, I think it’s a well-written song with an interesting story, and I actually liked Keith Urban’s version, so I didn’t really mind this one either. Hunt’s production fit well behind it. Next up is “Raised On It” which is even more summer pop than “Leave The Night On.” This song kind of reminds me of Jake Owen’s “Beachin’” in the fact that they’re both bad summer songs with rapping/spoken word. The last song is “Speakers.” This song is about having sex in the bed of a truck. Though, to Hunt’s credit, this song describes how it looks and feels in the moment rather than just another truck bed party song. But the chorus feels rushed and it’s rapped/spoken, and I wasn’t getting into this one.

Overall, this album just doesn’t do it for me. I hate that this is marketed as country because it’s not country music at all. Each song is way overproduced and takes away from the listening experience. I can’t connect to the story and lyrics with Sam Hunt’s choppy transitions from spoken word to singing in verses without any sort of rhyme or reason. Montevallo is a full-fledged pop/electronic album that doesn’t belong in the same conversations as debut albums from this year like Jon Pardi’s Write You a Song or Eric Paslay. In fact, it doesn’t even belong in a conversation about country music. Sam Hunt has some good lyrics and writes with some substance at times. Quite frankly, there are some moments here where the electronic production works behind the songs.  But overall to call Montevallo a country album is insulting to the genre.

Grade: 1/10

 

93 thoughts on “Album Review – Sam Hunt’s Montevallo

  1. Josh Schott October 28, 2014 / 11:25 am

    I’m shocked this didn’t get a zero. Are you going soft, Derek? Hahaha!

    But really I am surprised. I would listen to find out, but I’ve already did two Hunt reviews and that was plenty for me. Thank you for reviewing this. I’m not anticipating anymore terrible albums to be released the rest of the year, so yay for us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin October 28, 2014 / 12:23 pm

      I almost gave this a zero or a .5, but Country or not, Sam Hunt showed some real effort and commitment to his craft, regardless of effort. And there’s some actual substance, unlike Anything Goes! I have to imagine that he’s being pushed from producers or Nashville big-wigs to have this kind of sound marketed as country rather than pop. But the few tracks with decent writing and bit more depth give him a 1 point benefit in my book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Derek Hudgin October 28, 2014 / 12:24 pm

        **regardless of genre**

        Like

      • Josh Schott October 28, 2014 / 12:47 pm

        Yeah you can kind of tell he doesn’t really belong nor doesn’t want to be in country, but his producers see dollar signs so the country label gets slapped on. Based on your review I can see where you’re coming from by giving him a 1 because at least he’s trying to make something of substance, whereas Florida Georgia Line just wants to get drunk and stick their pink umbrellas in places.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. jb October 28, 2014 / 11:45 am

    Nice toupee, Sam. (Oh, that’s your real hair? But you still paid somebody to do that to you, right?) I presume that cover photo is supposed make Sam look sexy, or alluring, or badass, or something. Mostly he just looks like the guy from the salvage company who was sent to load whatever that is in the background onto the truck and take it to the landfill. Pro tip: if you want to seem cool, look at the way the current crop of dudebro country singers are acting and do exactly the opposite.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lorenzo October 29, 2014 / 10:25 am

    well I don’t think this album is country by any mean and I agree it’s insulting to call it a country record. but I think it’s waaay better than the crappy albums jason aldean, chase rice, brantley gilbert and thomas rhett put out. Maybe that’s because I hate hard rock and metal (Aldean, Gilbert) while I like R&B (this album is actually good R&B). I also think his songwriting is good (I don’t think I’ve heard songs about trucks and tailgates on this album). as a country album, I’d give it 0 out of 10. as a pop/R&B album, I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin October 29, 2014 / 11:08 am

      I agree 100%. Despite the fact that this isn’t country, Sam Hunt has a much better album than FGL, Jason Aldean, and Chase Rice. “Take Your Time” “Make You Miss Me” and “Cop Car” are well written and work well with R&B groove of the production. I don’t listen to enough R&B to have judged it in comparison, so I’ll take your word on that!

      Like

  4. Cobra October 29, 2014 / 7:59 pm

    I actually liked “Make You Miss Me.” At least he stuck to singing and not rapping, and he toned down and minimized the electronic stuff in it.

    His version of “Cop Car” was also likable, though definitely more pop than country. I actually prefer Mitch Rossell’s cover version.

    I have my own review of the album to be posted tomorrow, but overall, I really didn’t like this album. I would give it 1 star out of 5.

    By the way, if you’re ever looking for a really good singer/songwriter adult-contemporary album, check out something by a guy named Graham Colton especially his album “Pacific Coast Eyes.” He’s a very talented artist.

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  5. Jake Lyons November 11, 2014 / 2:15 pm

    I want to preface my comment by saying I was raised on Tim, George, Garth, etc. in the early 90s. I like the bro country, but for what it is, a pop-upbeat take on the genre that I can crank up on my boat or at a party. I agree that calling some of these new artists/albums/songs country is not accurate.

    I am a new reader to this site so not familiar with much. However the first two articles I read contradicted themselves pretty thoroughly. Both were by the same author, Derek Hudgin. I am sure it was not on purpose but in the piece “A Letter to Fanboys and Fangirls of Pop-Country” he (or should I say you since it looks like you frequent the comments) states the definition of country music and why certain albums and songs should not be in that genre because of that definition. Then in this article you call a song EDM, however if you look up the definition of EDM, I do not believe it adheres to that definition either. I have never been to a rave and don’t plan on it but have plenty of friends who rarely miss one that is within 100 miles. In asking them to listen to the songs from this album, they all agree it is definitely not EDM and would not be played at a show without being thoroughly remixed. So I suppose you should try to be more careful with your wording to stay consistent. Saying it has EDM influences is fine, but saying it IS EDM is wrong to the definition, which puts you in the same boat as the producers who slap a country label on albums you think are not country.

    Again, I am not here to pick a fight, just making an observation, and one that you may want to take into account in future reviews. I actually enjoyed reading your take on the album from a strict country standpoint, as well as hearing what you would rate it if it were given what you believe is a proper genre label.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Derek Hudgin November 11, 2014 / 4:04 pm

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment; I do appreciate your feedback. As I’m sure you can tell, I don’t venture too far into the pop world (or EDM for that matter), so you make a great point that my label of Sam Hunt as EDM isn’t the most accurate. I stick to Country and Rock for the most part; and as I said in an earlier comment I don’t listen to much R&B/Pop to compare this to other artists that make this kind of music.

      Thank you for calling me out on my carelessness on labeling Sam Hunt’s music (and for doing it so respectfully!). Obviously I want to be accurate and respectful in my articles, and I’ll take careful action to be more well informed with my future reviews.

      Like

      • Jake Lyons November 11, 2014 / 4:16 pm

        No problem! I too stick to country and rock for the most part. Personally I enjoy the venture into more pop-like music for an occasional song or two, such as “Burnin It Down” and “Beachin” and hope that Sam Hunt will be able to make more traditional country music if he so chooses as I like his voice and he clearly has a talent for writing songs. But I will agree the full blown bro country albums are a bit much.

        I am curious if you ever saw the TV special on Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” album called “Jake on the Lake?” If not, it basically was a cameraman hanging with Jake on his boat while Jake explained some of the songs from the album. At one point he says he wants to make music that people want to play on their boats, since he spends so much time on his. I think this desire to make more “kick it music” for lack of a better term has brought about the bro country movement. Jake Owen took an inch by being making more upbeat music and FGL and others took a mile and it has snowballed. I am sure there are other instances before that album but just using it as an example.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Derek Hudgin November 11, 2014 / 4:50 pm

        I haven’t seen that special, but I’d like to check it out. With the exception of “Beachin'” itself, I like Jake Owen. I think “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” is a pretty good summer party song. I appreciate songs like that more when they’re part of a variety. Like Owen released songs like “The One That Got Away” and “Alone With You” that have more beneath the surface, and that allows the party songs among them to be enjoyed for what they are, rather than “oh, it’s just another party/beach song from this dude.” That’s my biggest complaint with Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, and the like is that there isn’t a variety from them.

        But I agree that Sam Hunt has the writing chops and a voice to do well in music, and I think I’d like him if he had more country or even rock elements in his songs as opposed to Pop grooves he has on Montevallo.

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        • Jake Lyons November 11, 2014 / 5:02 pm

          Agree about being able to appreciate them more when they are part of a stronger country album, have to let the guys let loose and have some fun from time to time.

          Here is a link I found with info on it the Jake Owen special, unfortunately couldn’t find the video itself, but you might be better at interneting than me.
          http://www.gactv.com/gac/shows_spl/episode/0,,GAC_26200_78308,00.html

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Issy January 15, 2015 / 11:51 pm

    As a long time country music fan…and fan of most styles of music, I have to say its actually cool to see this artist in the country genre. First listen to the album got my attention and I thiinks its great. But then I don’t like to label music. Keep an open mind. I think we’ll see more from Sam Hunt. I sure hope so at least. The spoken word has been done before in country… this is nothing new. Good on him for bringing something fresh.

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  7. Lauryn Bell February 26, 2015 / 9:25 am

    I grew up on traditional country but I actually am in love with Sam Hunts whole album especially Break up in a Small Town. To me his album gives a beat to country music.

    Like

  8. Chris April 23, 2015 / 12:29 am

    You know this album debuted at #3 on Billboard Top 200, #1 on Billboard Country, and Leave The Night On debuted at #1 in airplay and single, right?
    But yeah, you’re right. He sucks.

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    • Derek Hudgin April 23, 2015 / 8:40 am

      I never said Hunt sucked. To reiterate the last few sentences of my review: “Sam Hunt has some good lyrics and writes with some substance at times. Quite frankly, there are some moments here where the electronic production works behind the songs. But overall to call Montevallo a country album is insulting to the genre.”

      When he sings, I think he has a good voice. And there were some songs I didn’t mind here. But this is NOT country music. This is a pop album. His label is marketing it as Country because boundaries were pushed before Hunt, and the average consumer accepts everything that comes out of Nashville as Country. Don’t let the “country” label cloud the fact that this is full fledged, 100% pop/R&B music. That’s why I graded it a 1/10. Not because the music is bad, but because this is a Country Music site and Sam Hunt is not actually a country singer.

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    • Josh Schott April 23, 2015 / 11:22 am

      Chart success is no factor in determining the quality of music. McDonalds sells millions of cheeseburgers of year, but that doesn’t make it the best cheeseburger or even a great cheeseburger. Just like Sam Hunt selling a lot of music doesn’t make his music great. Music is an art that’s completely subjective and can’t be measured with numbers.

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