Collaborations have been quite popular in the world of mainstream country music in the past couple of years. There have been a lot if you sit down and think about it. Among the collaborations you have Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan collaborating on “This Is How We Roll,” Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore coming together on “Small Town Throwdown” and Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood on “Somethin’ Bad” to name a few popular ones.
None of those collaborations impressed me because quite frankly they all sucked. The latter one really disappointed me, while the other two weren’t huge surprises. So when I heard Keith Urban and Eric Church collaborated on a new single, I was intrigued. Sure I’m not the biggest fan of either of these guys’ work, but I respect their talent and I felt there was potential with this pairing. So without further ado let’s look at “Raise ‘Em Up.”
The song begins with an acoustic guitar, which is omnipresent throughout the entirety of the song. This is combined with some typical modern country production to give the song a vibrant and upbeat attitude. The song can fly by if you don’t pay attention. While the instrumentation isn’t my exact cup of tea, I really don’t have any qualms with it. It’s solid, radio friendly and respects the roots of country sound for the most part. This is a pop country sound that works for me.
As for the song itself, it’s quite interesting. The phrase “raise ’em up” means a variety of things in the song, from raising a beer in celebration to raising your own kids. Regardless of whatever the meaning is at that moment in the song, they’re all going for the same feeling of down-to-earth, everyday life. It’s a sentimental, feel good song that is supposed to relate to the everyday man as they drive down the road on the way to work. I think for most listeners the song will be an accomplishment in this aspect.
For me personally, it appealed a little bit in the emotional aspect. For the most part though, I just can’t get into this song because it’s simply doesn’t go far enough. It would have been better if it was longer and told more of a story. Instead it just uses vague and at times clichéd themes, similar to most nostalgia/sentimental songs that have come out in recent memory. This is on the writers of “Raise ‘Em Up,” which are Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston and Jeffrey Steele. I have no problem if a song uses just a few clichés if it feels like it belongs instead of being forced. Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown” is a perfect example of this. Also the pandering lines towards the troops made me cringe a little and those definitely felt forced.
As for the decision of pairing Keith Urban and Eric Church, I think this was a great choice. I thought their voices went really well together and it sounded natural. This song really fits Church well because this type of song is right in his wheelhouse and most of his popular songs are similar to “Raise ‘Em Up” in terms of theme and tempo. Urban didn’t try to over sing in this song either, which in my opinion has ruined some of his songs. The only issue I had with the vocals in this song were at the end with the “Ohhhhhs” being echoed over and over. This space could have been better utilized improving the story and theme of the song. Other than that I thought the vocal performances of Church and Urban were solid.
I honestly don’t know how to feel about “Raise ‘Em Up.” It’s certainly not a bad song, but it’s not a great song either. I mean if it came on the radio I wouldn’t start singing along, but I would have no problem listening to it. I think most listeners’ perception of this song will be based on how big of a fan they are of Urban and Church. Their fans should like this song, while the rest of us are kind of confused on how to feel about it. The song has been nominated for the 2015 Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, so hence the timing of this song being released as a single. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t have a lot of success on the charts. These two each have a dedicated fan base that will really rally a lot of support behind it. So it you’re a fan of one of these artists, check out “Raise ‘Em Up.” If you’re not, then you won’t miss anything.