Oh Jake, I had such high hopes for this new single. I thought you did too, as you said in numerous interviews that you would like to start putting out deeper material and not be known as the “Beachin'” guy. Owen backed this up on his last single, “What We Ain’t Got,” which I thought was the best single he has ever released. As anyone who has followed the The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music on the site knows though, it didn’t perform that well on radio at all. It peaked in the high teens before going recurrent. It didn’t even get close to touching the success “Beachin'” attained last summer. This worried me that Owen would back off on his promise to produce better music, but I was still hopeful about his new single “Real Life.” You look at the cover for it above and Owen has toned his look back. The title of the song sounds promising and there’s not a hint of the beach.
So does it live up to expectations? Does Owen live up to his promise? The answer is sadly no to both. I think Owen really tried to go for something more here, but there’s one big achilles heel to this song that hurts it and has hurt Owen before: spoken word. It annoyed me on “Days of Gold” and “Beachin'” and once again it’s annoying on “Real Life.” Some country artists can pull it off, but Owen just can’t do it. His voice is not emotive nor dynamic enough to make it sound good. He has a good voice, yet he wastes it on spoken word songs like this one. The theme isn’t bad either, as it’s about everyday life in the real world and some of the aspects of it. I really don’t have a problem with the lyrics of the song and I thought the songwriters did a well enough job to avoid the pitfalls of clichés (songwriters: Shane McAnally, Ashley Gorley, Ross Copperman and Josh Osborne). The song could’ve been good if Owen had just sang it and didn’t do spoken word.
The other glaring issue with “Real Life” is the production, instrumentation and arrangement. I’m just going to say it: this sounds like a Smash Mouth song (with a small tinge of country). It felt like I was back listening to pop radio in the 90s. You could interlude this song with Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and they would blend together seamlessly. For a country song, this is never a good thing. Really this isn’t good for a pop song in 2015 either, as this sound is so outdated and cheesy. It was left in the 90s where it belonged for a reason. If Owen wanted to draw on a sound from the 90s, why not 90s country? If you take away the spoken word and give this song a 90s country arrangement, it would possibly be a great song. Instead this is just an embarrassing song and I wouldn’t want to be caught in public listening to it.
I still believe Owen’s next album will have some good country music on it and will be an upgrade over Days of Gold. However, this single doesn’t do anything to inspire people to give him a chance. This is the type of song that makes some people put their nose up at Owen and refuse to listen to his music. “Real Life” is a laughable song and only hurts the reputation of Jake Owen more. Some Owen fans may argue this is an upgrade over a lot of songs at country radio right now and they would be right. But is that saying much? The bar right now at country radio is at its lowest ever and it doesn’t take much to stand out amongst the sea of trash floating around on country radio. I hope Owen gives us something more next time, but for now I recommend avoiding “Real Life.”