Mainstream country music in 2015 continues to amaze me. And not in a good way. Throughout this year we’ve had a variety of terrible new songs from mainstream country artists and there appears to be no end in sight. The newest monstrosity to rear its ugly head is the new single from Danielle Bradbery, “Friend Zone.” Bradbery of course won season four of The Voice, a show that promises to make new stars. What the show really does is boost sales for its most popular judges Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, while also creating a bunch of forgettable C-list and D-list country artists. These artists are simply filling space and time for labels and radio stations. Bradbery is one of these filler artists. Is she a bad singer? No, she’s actually good. The problem is her music is forgettable and disposable in the whole spectrum of things. I had no plans to review Bradberry’s new single, but then I heard how awful it was and you know how I can’t resist providing commentary on a train wreck.
“Friend Zone” is just all-around terrible and quite frankly offensive. The first offense is the most token banjo ever being thrown in at the very start. In fact this token banjo play is looped throughout the song, brainwashing gullible mainstream country fans into thinking this song is country when it’s anything but country. The song is really a pop rock anthem that panders to country radio, in a desperate attempt to make Bradbery relevant. The theme of the song is about a girl lecturing a boy on not pursuing a girl properly and as a result he’s going to be stuck in the “friend zone.” While this is meant to come off as witty and playful, to my ears it comes off as bitchy, preachy and annoying. How is this song meant to be enjoyable? But the absolute worst part of this song is the chorus:
Let me break it down to the facts
You will never get a girl like that
You gotta step up to the plate with a bat
That’s all I gotta say about that
There are multiple problems with this part of the song. Bradbery’s delivery of the lyrics is done in a Iggy Azalea-like fashion because you know country has to rip off old pop music to be “cool” and “hip.” Seriously I thought there was going to be an interlude of “Fancy” at some point in the song. So they completely misuse a talented singer like Bradbery by making her stoop down to Azalea’s level. Then there’s the line about stepping up to the plate with a bat. At best this is a clunky attempt at pandering to male listeners because it’s a sports reference. At worst this is a faux pas that shouldn’t be uttered in a song about trying to date a girl because the idea of a male with a bat and trying to get a girl’s attention leads to domestic assault like imagery. On top of that the song appears to be going for a trap like sound with the guitar play in the chorus.
I think you get the picture with “Friend Zone.” It’s a terrible song that stinks in any format you put it in. The more I listened to it, the more I got angry. Keep in mind, Bradbery is part of Big Machine Label Group, who appear to be the most egregious offenders of mainstream country music this year. Bradbery is just another artist along for the ride. I’m sure some people will defend Bradbery for this song and say she needed to make it so she could stay with the label and make her own music later, but I’m not going along with this anymore. These artists have a voice and if they’re uncomfortable with it, they need to say so. Going along with it means you’re fine with it and that opens you to criticism from reviewers like me. You can add “Friend Zone” to Country Perspective’s Zero Zone, making it another candidate for Country Perspective’s Worst Song of the Year.