Review – Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here”

Cole Swindell became a hot shot artist in mainstream country music right away. All four singles from his debut album peaked in the top three of the Country Airplay Chart. However, all four singles were bro country party anthems or shallow hook up songs. Cole Swindell, thus far, has been a one trick pony. With that said, he appears to be turning the corner a bit. His newest single, presumably a lead single from a forthcoming album, has a more serious tone. It’s new territory for Cole Swindell to explore with his music. However, the attempt at seriousness comes with some speed bumps and I’m not sold on Cole Swindell as a serious artist with “You Should Be Here.”

Before all you Swindell fans jump to the comments ready to berate me for not liking the song, I’m very aware at the circumstances surrounding the song. I know Cole Swindell wrote “You Should Be Here” with his late father in mind. But being a song about a loved one who has passed doesn’t make the song automatically immune to criticism.

The main problem I have with “You Should Be Here” is that the lyrics still read like a calculated hit. It’s almost as if the song was approached with the mindset of “I want to write a solemn song about a passed loved one, but it still needs to be a hit on the charts.” Mentions of cold beer and saying cheers are hooked into the chorus. The setting is fairly generic, which allows almost anyone to plug the song into their life. It’s a calculated song, written to appeal to the masses. For a song about a father who has passed on, I would have loved to hear something personal, something raw, something real. The lack of vulnerability from the lyrics takes me out of the story. How am I supposed to take this seriously as an “I miss you” song if you can’t tell me anything about the person except for they’d be having the time of their life at whatever place? The entire song can be summed up with: “hey it’s another place that we’d have a great time at. I wish you were still around to enjoy these moments with me.” The lyrics barely scratch the surface of depth and remembrance enough to detract the average listener from the notion that it’s another Cole Swindell song about a boozey good time.

The phrase “you should be here” is the only sense we get from Cole about his feelings toward the late loved one. Compare this to “I Drive Your Truck”, another song using common mainstream country tropes to tell a song about death. But the reason why Lee Brice’s song works is because the story is built around the truck. The story tells us that Brice is in pain after the loss of his brother in the song. “You Should Be Here” doesn’t attempt to bring any sort of real, honest emotion to the lyrics. Also, this is yet another song that Cole Swindell sings with little to no vocal inflection; he doesn’t sell the emotion of the song (unlike Brice who’s vocals soar in “I Drive Your Truck”).

My theory is that there’s a lack of confidence from Swindell. As I said before, he’s a one trick pony. It’s not that I don’t think he’s capable of writing an honest, vulnerable song. But I don’t think he’s confident in himself to do so for a radio single. I think Cole Swindell believes that if he doesn’t write about drinking alcohol and saying “cheers” than he won’t succeed as a country singer. I could go on with this theory, but the point is, “You Should Be Here” seems like a lazy attempt at bringing heart and the pain of losing someone into a song. I appreciate that Cole Swindell is taking some strides in his writing and trying to include more heart and honesty, but I’d love to see some commitment to the task. I connect to an emotion as a listener of music. “You Should Be Here” doesn’t have any emotion. It doesn’t hit the mark for me of a good, heartfelt song.

Grade: 4/10

16 thoughts on “Review – Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here”

  1. Lisandro Berry-Gaviria January 12, 2016 / 12:16 pm

    You hit the nail on the head, Derek. If an artist has the popularity to release a “deep” song to country radio and have it succeed, they should make it as good a song as they can — not just a lazy, flawed attempt at a deep message. This feels like it was written in a couple hours and shoved in front of generic, overproduced instrumentation, with a beer reference thrown in to appease radio. It just makes me want to go listen to Jason Isbell’s “Elephant”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nadia Lockheart January 12, 2016 / 12:27 pm

    My main issue with “You Should Be Here” is much the same issue I have with “The Driver”.

    *

    Both tracks try WAY too hard at soliciting a forced emotional response through both their mawkish production as well as surface-level emotionality in their lyrics………………but are undercut, like you said, by having too much of a sing-songy meter and ad-libbed descriptors.

    “The Driver” has a decent idea going with its verses, but then resorts to selling them wholesale via the obligatory lighters in the air, reach for the rafters “Whoa oh oh!” chorus replete with calls for drinking beer and getting loud and singing together. It’s much the same way with “You Should Be Here”, where the way it reads both on paper and by ear smacks as trying needlessly too hard to make a lighters-in-the-air sing-along song via the clumsy rhyming of “here”, “here”, “beer”, “cheers” and “year”.

    Another point of comparison that comes to mind is Luke Bryan’s “Buzzkill”. Much of the lyrics in that song come off as way too Pat Monahan-esque to take seriously (comparing an ex to a phone splashing in your coffee cup or a fumble on the one-yard line)…………but the production comes across as aggressively desolate through the most obvious means. Watery, reverb-esque guitars? Check! Ghoulish synths? Check. Rumblings of electric guitar to reflect the brooding anger? Check.

    And like “Buzzkill”, “You Should Be Here” relies on a Top Ramen spice packet means of eliciting emotional release with its production. U2-esque guitar reverb, minor key production, tear-your-heart-out guitar solo, twinkling piano. It just comes off feeling more written-by-committee ratherthan distinctively personal.

    *

    Look, I greatly feel for Cole Swindell and the loss of his father, I really do. And I don’t doubt he was genuinely trying at least to convey his heartache through song.

    But this result currently demonstrates how Swindell just doesn’t have the chops to sell a distinctive song with a distinctively personal flavor. He can’t seem to eschew this ad-libbed frame of mind that centers around fraternizing with bros and hanging “with his whole crew”. He deserves some points for at least trying, but it doesn’t make for a good song alone.

    *

    I’m thinking a Light to Decent 4 out of 10 for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. southtexaspistolero January 12, 2016 / 12:30 pm

    Yep, there’s that, and that dreadful production and arrangement with the drum machines and whatnot. Seriously, is it too much to ask that they use real instruments that require more talent to master than just selecting a pre-loaded rhythm at the push of a button?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Josh Schott January 12, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    Well for once Swindell didn’t just recycle the lyrics of “Chillin’ It” for another single. He actually tries, but still swings and misses pretty good. This is nothing but “Drink a Beer” part two, but I’m sure there are many mainstream fans eating this up as “serious” music.

    Liked by 1 person

    • southtexaspistolero January 12, 2016 / 3:27 pm

      Honestly, I thought DAB was a massive improvement over what Luke Bryan had done up to that point. I mean, it wasn’t necessarily something I’d turn off Jason Boland or the Turnpike Troubadours for, but I didn’t think it was bad at all. I have heard it said that the only reason that song was getting a pass from so many people was because of LB’s output up to that point, that it was a half-hearted attempt to be serious, and maybe it was. On the other hand, though, I think it deserves to be asked if we would have all been so cynical about it had bro-country never been a thing and this song had to be judged on its own merits in a better context.

      Oh my, am I defending Luke Bryan? God, I need to go take a shower. Maybe ten.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. lorenzofloris96 January 12, 2016 / 3:49 pm

    I feel the same way about this song, but I’m sure its release was a calculated move. I hate when these garbagic bro country bastards record a song that has a parvence of quality just to show everybody that they’re “great” artists (see Dirt, Die a Happy Man) and then the song gains a lot of attention. At this point little Cole will be able to release other four or five bro country electronic singles and an album full of garbage. excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin January 12, 2016 / 4:00 pm

      And the other thing that bugs me about this song along that line is how Cole Swindell has been quoted to say “this is the song I came to Nashville to write” as if it’s as if it’s the next “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Of course, that quote and sentiment has been echoed on sites such as The Boot and Taste of Country. Give me a break….

      Liked by 1 person

      • lorenzofloris96 January 12, 2016 / 7:43 pm

        Didn’t know that, but if Cole really thinks this is a big piece of art then i don’t know what the hell is in his dumb head. don’t get me wrong I don’t want to criticise his pain for the loss of his father and i understand that the song comes from an honest place, but really it’s not that good. Like you said, he tried too hard to put pain and emotion in the song, he forced them into it and it all resulted in a cheap song.

        Like

        • Derek Hudgin January 12, 2016 / 7:47 pm

          To be fair, the likening to “Sunday Morning…” was my exaggeration, but the bigger point is Cole does think this is a song that’s deep and powerful like the country songs he grew up with. Like many of the songs that made country music great

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Ben January 12, 2016 / 5:15 pm

    I like Cole Swindell and this song, but it feels more like an ode to a buddy song instead of a father that passed away

    Like

    • Dom January 13, 2016 / 12:11 am

      ////

      Like

  7. southtexaspistolero January 14, 2016 / 10:04 am

    I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. But I saw the reaction to this song on a Reddit thread this morning, and people were talking about how amaaaaazing it was, and all I could think was:

    “Obviously none of these people have heard George Strait’s ‘Everything I See.'”

    Liked by 1 person

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