Review – Hunter Hayes’ “21” Is Another Teen Pop Song

Hunter Hayes 21

Recently it was just announced that this fall Disney is launching Radio Disney Country. Then it all made sense to me. What am I referring to? I’m referring to all of the straight pop music that’s been churned out as country music this year. I mean this isn’t anything new and we’ve witnessed this for a few years now. But this year it has been worse than normal. The poster child for Radio Disney Country of course and the first to comment on the announcement is Kelsea Ballerini. Her music fits perfect with what Disney wants. The male face for this Mickey Mouse country music is Hunter Hayes, as he’s mentioned in the announcement too. Again, not a big surprise. Hayes has always made pop country or pop music in his short career so far. Only his decent guitar play and the fact that the music being made around him is even worse has shielded him from more criticism than expected. Well after seemingly disappearing for a while, he’s back with his new single “21.” And he hasn’t changed one bit.

“21” is very much in the same vein of the offerings we’ve gotten from Ballerini and Dan + Shay. It’s straight pop music with an acoustic guitar buried in the background. This is your standard adult contemporary sound that we’ve heard for years now from “country” artists. In other words, the instrumentation on this song is bland and unimaginative. The song itself is…well bland and unimaginative too. It’s about life always being a party and how you should live it up like you’re young everyday. It’s the delusional bullshit that television brainwash teenagers into thinking everything is fine all the time and there are no consequences mentioned. I also think Hayes is trying to have sex with a girl, but he’s going about singing it in the most PG, clean way possible:

You and I, girl, we gotta get away
And make tonight the best night of our lives

We get it, Hunter. You want to go parking, but you don’t want to blatantly say it so parents won’t get angry at their children for listening to your music (they should be angry you’re listening to Hayes period, but that comes down to preference). I thought it was neutered enough with the bros of country music substituting the word “horny” with “crazy” because apparently that’s too risqué for country radio (yet Florida Georgia Line gets away with the “pink umbrella in your drink” line). I digress.

I have nothing else to say about “21.” This song is so boring and lacking that I can’t even get angry about it. The quality is staying the same in mainstream country, but the offensiveness is starting to subside and instead we get the safest lyrics possible. The word “risk” doesn’t exist in the vocabulary of mainstream country artists. They’re putting out the most squeaky clean, milquetoast songs they can put out right now. I’m not sure what’s more maddening to me right now: these completely boring songs or artists like Thomas Rhett releasing blatant Motown ripoffs. Hunter Hayes is capable of more and instead like his fellow peers decided to release something that is neutered and not country in every way. “21” is pop music and it does not belong in country music.

Grade: 0/10

49 thoughts on “Review – Hunter Hayes’ “21” Is Another Teen Pop Song

  1. Derek Hudgin June 19, 2015 / 11:23 am

    So when are Dan + Shay releasing “13”…The song about your first crush in Jr. High?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Josh Schott June 19, 2015 / 11:26 am


      Liked by 1 person

      • Derek Hudgin June 19, 2015 / 11:29 am

        Taylor’s given us a pop party anthem with “22.” Now Hunter with “21.” I really do wonder if this will be a pattern for something?


        • Josh Schott June 19, 2015 / 11:35 am

          I think it is. Hunter & Kelsea are trying to fill the void the Taylor left. She was big with teenagers and country music is still trying find a Taylor replacement, especially with the Disney deal now.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Raymond June 19, 2015 / 11:44 am

    I don’t think it is bad from a pop perspective. And heck Hunter sounds like he is having fun so there is that. I feel from a country music point a 3 out of 10. One thing though are u guys just like only like traditional country mudic. I am not defending this even if it enters guilty pleasure which is something I wanna know if you guys have any of. Back to my point. It feels like lately you guys are giving 0/10 anything mainstream a 0 to me should be songs that are so awful that have nothing redeemable even when it comes to yhe petformer


    • Josh Schott June 19, 2015 / 12:09 pm

      But this is Country Perspective, not Pop Perspective. Everything is reviewed through a country lens and a country lens only. As far as “just liking traditional country music,” where have you been? Traditional country is country music. Pop country songs that are actually a little country and well written get praised (see Carrie Underwood’s “Little Toy Guns”). Why are we giving 0/10 to anything mainstream? Not true. Did A Thousand Horses new album just get a 0/10? Nope. This song had nothing redeemable and if I never heard it again it would be too soon. It was manufactured (not written) purely for radio play. It has no substance. But some will argue that this song is just trying to be fun. A song doesn’t have to be pop to be fun. Actual country music can be fun. Look at Dwight Yoakam and Jon Pardi. “21” stinks and it got the appropriate grade in my mind.


      • Raymond June 19, 2015 / 3:45 pm

        Ok Josh can you at least say you have a guilty pleasure song in country music. Dwight and Jon both traditionalists so yeah. Whose to say that some of the pop-country can’t be fun. Like Lady A Bartender. My point is that when I read these reviews it comes off like with these 0 scores you make it sound like no one should like this at all. That it should be put in a wasteland. I just that bugs me.


    • Derek Hudgin June 19, 2015 / 12:34 pm

      I gotta piggy back on Josh here. There’s pop, then there’s pop country. Now to go with your guilty pleasure route, I can tolerate “I Want Crazy” as a pop country song. It’s not good, but it’s not terrible and there seems to be a bit more effort in the songwriting area. But “21” is just straight pop aimed at teens to get them excited about growing up. The “da da da das” are obnoxious. This sounds like something that would have been recorded for that musical camp movie with the Jonas Brothers or High School Musical.


      • Raymond June 19, 2015 / 3:38 pm

        Oh no Derek I am not trying to defend this it is just I feel like at times you gives have such a strict definition of what is country. No offense.


      • Derek Hudgin June 19, 2015 / 3:56 pm

        Then again, Raymond, I don’t think it’s as strict as you suggest. Like I said there’s pop then there’s pop country. For example, take new female artists Cam and Kelsea Ballerini. Cam has some pop elements in her songs like “My Mistake” or “Half Broke Heart” but her music is still rooted in Country and those roots are rather present in her music. And as for Kelsea…well you know my thoughts on her.

        Kelsea, this Hunter song, Jake, Keith, Luke all have new songs that are VERY pop and not at all rooted in country music. That’s why they get 0s, and there’s been a lot of them lately.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Raymond June 19, 2015 / 4:01 pm

        They do not have to be rooted cant you guys be a little nice I say since there is so many of the 0s can you distinguish the 0s and the 0.5s it is hard to tell the true botton. Seems fair


      • southtexaspistolero June 19, 2015 / 4:11 pm

        Being nice is for The Boot and Taste of Country. Me personally, I want honesty. And that’s why I visit blogs like this, Farce the Music, and Saving Country Music.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Raymond June 19, 2015 / 4:15 pm

        I want nice and honest too much to ask for?


      • Derek Hudgin June 19, 2015 / 4:20 pm

        I felt like Josh was rather nice in his approach to giving this a 0. It wasn’t as if he berated the song like “Kiss You In the Morning” or FGL. And to Josh’s credit, he even said Hunter Hayes is capable of doing better job. This review is a “slam” at one song from a multitalented artist who can make good music, but just decided to release a bad pop song.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Josh Schott June 19, 2015 / 4:28 pm

          This was exactly what I was getting ready to say. I thought I was pretty fair with this review and I’ve slammed 0/10 songs much much harder than this. And really I don’t see a point after a song gets below 3/10 of distinguishing it’s degree of awfulness. It’s all shit once you get towards the bottom of the scale.

          Liked by 1 person

      • southtexaspistolero June 19, 2015 / 4:27 pm

        I want nice and honest too much to ask for?

        For music that sucks this bad, with the mainstream component of the genre in the shape it’s in, nice and honest are mutually exclusive. It’s long, long past time for crap to be called crap, with no punches pulled and no f@cks given.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Raymond June 19, 2015 / 4:28 pm

        Ok but I do want some distinction what is a 0.5 there has to be some of the 0s that could get a slight bump. Also I have noticed for the most part you and Josh I think have the same opinion on everything.


      • Raymond June 19, 2015 / 4:39 pm

        Maybe I should take a break from this site. Also poor choice of words Josh at least I dont try to cuss in my comments. But it is quite clear I am outspoken so maybe I will stop commenting since I am starting to get the.feeling no one agrees with my opinion and that since I like pop to pop-country you guys think I am crazy. Whatever music is subjective but calling songs the s word that is a little too harsh.


  3. fromthewordsofbr June 19, 2015 / 11:49 am

    Radio Disney Country? Sounds like Disney just invented a new name for Hunter Hayes’s music.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromthewordsofbr June 19, 2015 / 11:49 am

      I swear this is the next “bra-country” or “metropolitan country”.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Breanna Ottley June 19, 2015 / 2:38 pm

    While some of the statements in this article are true I have to disagree. Hunter Hayes music is far from unimaginative, you can’t judge a artist after only one song. Country music is evolving with the time, its supposed to do that and we aren’t always going to like it.


    • southtexaspistolero June 19, 2015 / 3:58 pm

      Aaaaaaand, once again, we get the old “country music must evolve,” in the context of the music sounding, well, less country. I still have yet to get a good explanation for why this is the way it should be.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Cobra June 19, 2015 / 10:29 pm

      And to quote what soneone on here once said, this song isn’t the evolution of country music. It’s the DEevolution of it.


  5. Zack June 20, 2015 / 6:20 pm

    I haven’t heard this song, nor do I plan to, but I would like to join in on the choir preaching that songs like this, as well as Jake Owen’s new one, Keith Urban’s latest, and many, many others are not country in the slightest. There is nothing wrong with incorporating other sounds into country, hell people have been doing it forever. The 90’s of country music was a perfect example of songs and artists who were able to successfully merge country with other sounds like pop and rock. The thing is though, is that those songs were country first and foremost, with mere pop and/or rock “influences”. The problem with today is that there a bunch of songs that merge it the opposite way, making sure that the pop rock and even *shudder* rap elements pervade over the country (if there even is any) elements. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that either, if you wanna make music with mere country INFLUENCES, that’s cool. Yelawolf successfully merged his rap/hip – hop music with rock and even country. The thing is, is that he knew what genre he was in and wasn’t trying to bullshit a country audience claiming that since one of his songs features a fiddle, it’s country. Going back to my main argument, it seems that all of these country artists today are pushing songs, to the country genre mind you, with influences are clearly WAY more pop than country. If you’re pushing a song to the country genre, then yes Raymond, the song must be rooted in country, which none of these 0/10 songs are. Sure, someone like Carrie Underwood may sound more pop than country, but at least her songs are lyrically strong and tell a story, something that has always been a staple in the format. Most, if not all of these 0/10 are just cliche, checklist songs that are made to entertain, not to inspire. Adding in other genre influences to country is not “evolving” the genre at all. It’s merely borrowing. And the more more we see songs that aren’t country being pushed to country, the further the genre slips from its identity. I may sound like a broken fiddle with all of this, but it obviously needs repeating: you never see other genres trying to replicate something they’re not. They know what they are. People who run the industry today are inviting pop/rap/rock stars into the genre to make country look “cool”, when the thing is, country is cool when you see it for what it really is.

    There’s always been room for country-pop in the format.(noticed I didn’t say pop-country). But there is no room for pure pop songs masquerading as country songs. And the argument of passing this crap off as “fun” is as cliche as the songs themselves. You know what’s a fun COUNTRY song? Alan Jackson’s new tune, A tune that not only features country instrumentation, but also has intelligent lyrics set to a sing-a-long melody. Josh and Derek aren’t mean with their reviews, they’re honest. And that’s what’s made them popular and held in high regards by other music blogs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Scotty J June 21, 2015 / 2:13 am

      Well said Zack!


      • Zack June 21, 2015 / 2:39 pm

        Thanks Scotty!


  6. Raymond June 20, 2015 / 9:18 pm

    Fine you guys are right I am wring happy now. This is why I hate giving my opinion here at times everyone else disagrees


    • southtexaspistolero June 21, 2015 / 6:46 pm

      I don’t see what you have to get so worked up about. You got a reply to your comment, and it was backed up with solid reasoning. Yeah, you didn’t agree with it, but it happens. Nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong. They’re just opinions. Which you’re free to ignore. Such is another reason I don’t read The Boot and Taste of Country – I find them both to be generally full of crap and as such I ignore them instead of asking them to, say, be more honest with themselves and their readers.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Raymond June 21, 2015 / 7:20 pm

        Ok but I do.not need it to where you guys make my opinion look wrong it is like I am the only one with an opinion on this and Kelsea but you guys are like this is pure pop. No it is pop-country but it is like I am getting judged for liking this song. But whatever.


      • southtexaspistolero June 21, 2015 / 7:45 pm

        Whatever, indeed. Who am I to argue with such sterling logic?

        If you think your opinion is being made to look wrong, or that you’re being judged, that’s more of a reflection on you than any of us.


    • Derek Hudgin June 22, 2015 / 7:12 am

      We disagree about some artists. Such is life as music fans. For the most part, I think most of us do a fair job presenting our disagreements and varied opinions in a non-attacking way. It’s natural in debates for one party to try and convince the other that they’re wrong – that’s how debates work. And with all due respect, you try and convince us and tell us that we’re wrong like when it comes to Kelsea. Debates are a give and take of a speaker telling the other why they think they’re right and why they think the other is wrong. Like southtexaspistolero says, it could be more a reflection on yourself if you let yourself get upset for feeling like this.

      I don’t think anyone here purposefully tries to attack you and your opinions to make you feel small, and I apologize if anyone on here does. You have a different standard to judge music by, Raymond. It’s different than most who comment here, and as a vast minority, I can see how frustrating it may be. But you have to understand it’s people sharing their opinions (which are different than yours) and you are always welcome to reply and continue the debate. But if you find yourself getting worked up and frustrated, ignoring those comments can be a great route too.


  7. Raymond July 6, 2015 / 12:42 pm

    I imagined there was some possibly very vulgar comments at your review. I understand being passionate but my gosh those Hunter Hayes fans are like I think psychotic monsters.


  8. Kali July 13, 2015 / 1:16 pm

    I agree that Hunyer Hayes and Dan+Shay are not traditional country. No debate about that. But they do target the teen audience. As a teen, I love them! I may look back when Im forty and chuckle about it, but right now I think they are awesome. Especially Hunter Hayes. I’m a fan of traditional country music too. But sometimes young people want a break from the deep lyrics or honky tonk sound. Fun pop that you can dance too without explicit lyrics and some pretty good guitar is a win for me. Also would like to acknowledge that Hunter Hayes and Dan+Shay put on great concerts too. Saw D+S open for Hunter Hayes.You can tell who likes their music by who goes to the concerts. Teen/tween girls and twenty year olds were the majority haha.


    • Kali July 13, 2015 / 1:18 pm

      Also would like to say that I am not a fan of pop Pop. Usually explicit and incredibly dumb lyrics. And its usually electronic, blech. So for the sake of dividing Hunter Hayes from that genre, Ill go with saying he is country pop : )


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