Review – Brad Paisley’s “Without A Fight”

Brad Paisley Without A Fight

If you asked me to name the five biggest disappointments in popular country music the last few years, I would undoubtedly include Brad Paisley. For the first half of his career, he was up near the top in terms of churning out quality country music in the mainstream sect. From sentimental love ballads like “We Danced” to humorous tunes like “I’m Gonna Miss Her,” I looked to Paisley for consistently good music. Then over the past few years Paisley has went through a “mid-career crisis,” something many artists when they get older go through where it shows they’re desperate to stay in the spotlight. The lazily written “River Bank” and the sophomoric “Crushin’ It” are perfect examples of it. So when it came out that Paisley’s new lead-off single for his next album would be a collaboration with pop artist Demi Lovato, I just rolled my eyes and said to myself, “No, Brad. Why can’t you stop chasing for attention?” Well that collaboration is out now and it’s called “Without A Fight.” And I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.

I fully expected this song to lean heavily towards a pop sound because after all Demi Lovato is involved. While I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been a fan of Lovato, I do respect her vocally when she tries (there’s a noticeable difference when she doesn’t). You look at “Without A Fight” on paper and it shouldn’t work. Then you listen to it and for the most part it works. It’s a love ballad duet about a couple who spend a lot of time arguing and fighting, but they pretty much always end it by making up in more ways than one. The whole song plays on the dynamic of lovers versus fighters, with both wanting to be able to make up without a fight. But in a weird way they realize the arguing shows how much they care for each other. The song was written by Paisley, Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller, and for the most part capture what they’re going for, although it may lean a little too heavy on the making love part for some listeners. Paisley sounds fine vocally as usual and blends well with Lovato, who’s vocals give it a nice punch (especially towards the end). The instrumentation is kept simple with the Telecaster guitar play throughout, along with some faint pedal steel guitar in the background.

“Without A Fight” may not go down as one of Paisley’s best singles, but to my ears it’s a step back in the right direction. At worst this song is an upgraded version of Chris Young and Cassadee Pope’s “Think of You.” At best it’s a solid, yet unspectacular love song. I think it does a nice job of striking a balance by keeping a country influence and pop sensibilities. I have to give credit to Paisley for picking Demi Lovato because she and Paisley go together well. Ultimately she helps raise the song, which is what a guest collaborator is supposed to do. I’ll be interested to see how much her presence will help this song’s performance at country radio, which had to be one of the reasons behind the collaboration. I gladly eat some crow with this song, so kudos to Paisley for proving my doubts wrong. Let’s hope the album is even better than “Without A Fight.”

Grade: 7/10

20 thoughts on “Review – Brad Paisley’s “Without A Fight”

  1. Derek Hudgin May 16, 2016 / 11:15 am

    Interesting to include Demi Levato here as opposed to a number of country female artists available for the choosing. Don’t get me wrong, she sounds great on this track and their vocals work well together, but I also think this may be a try for a crossover hit for him. Otherwise, why wouldn’t he opt for someone like Cam or Mickey Guyton (who was on tour with Brad and wonderfully sang Alison Krauss’ part in “Whiskey Lullaby” at the shows) to sing the female part of the song?

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    • Josh Schott May 16, 2016 / 11:47 am

      Oh I agree wholeheartedly. Guyton is the logical choice as you pointed out and Cam would be just as great. I think Lovato can help this be a hit at country radio and sell well, but I don’t see it being a crossover hit.

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  2. Ron May 16, 2016 / 11:29 am

    I thought it was an odd choice as well. Demi Lovato doesn’t exactly scream country. Then again neither did Kelly Clarkson and she was a great choice to sing with Jason Aldean and Reba. I guess he wanted someone with a more powerhouse voice than a country one like Cam or Mickey

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    • Derek Hudgin May 16, 2016 / 11:55 am

      I think Mickey has some power in her vocals. Cam is more subdued and wouldn’t soar as high as Demi does on this track. It’s a good song and I’m glad to see Brad release a song that isn’t a lazy, party song.

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  3. Justin May 16, 2016 / 12:04 pm

    Good review, hope to see one on the new joe nichols song

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  4. OlaR May 16, 2016 / 1:59 pm

    Glad it’s not a cheesy ballad. Not sure about the production: the telecaster is too prominent. 7/10.

    Check-Out/New Artists: Post Monroe – “Post Monroe – EP” (KCH Entertainment)
    New female trio. Former Warner Nashville artist Whitney Duncan is part of the trio. The EP contains five tracks & is co-produced by Lady A’s Dave Haywood. The first single is the uptempo-banjo driven “Red Hot American Summer”. The harmony vocals are the real highlight here. My favourite tracks: “Dixie Dust” & “Hell On Me”. 8/10.

    Check-Out/New EP: Nestor Andress – “Falling In Love” (Nestor Andress/590878 Records)
    Nestor Andress (or AnDress) was born in Texas. After a first EP in 2012 (“Shoot Me Down”) “Falling In Love” is the second EP & contains six tracks (released three month ago). His voice reminds me a little bit of Tim McGraw. Songs like “Drunk At A Bar” & “Piece Of Me” sound like Tim McGraw songs too. My favourite tracks: “Piece Of Me”, “I Want To” & “Drunk At A Bar”. 8/10.

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  5. Nadia Lockheart May 17, 2016 / 2:49 pm

    If recent history has taught us anything, it is that Brad Paisley keeps oscillating back and forth between releases that pander to the masses, and releases that are more challenging.

    We got the lighter “5th Gear”, then we got the social commentary-rich “American Saturday Night”. We got the mainstream-pandering “This Is Country Music”, then we got the experimental “Wheelhouse”.

    And when “Moonshine In The Trunk” was released and it was met with a lot of derision, I wasn’t as disappointed as the consensus: reminding everyone here that, much like Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley tries to have it both ways and that the follow-up to “Moonshine In The Trunk” will mark yet another pendulum swing back to meatier material.

    *

    And based off of “Without a Fight”, there’s still reason to believe that will, indeed, be the case.

    Firstly, let me get the obvious out of the way: many expressing fear of enlisting a pop singer as the featured act.

    I’ve always liked Demi Lovato, personally. Sure, she has anchored her pop albums by her share of bombastic ditties, where she can often oversell her vocal performances. But what many who have not listened to her albums extensively is that she is above-average when it comes to song selection among pop artists. Tracks like “Nightingale”, “Stone Cold” and “Two Pieces” proves this and that, when she strives mostly for an understated performance, she can hit it out of the park………………….and it doesn’t matter which genre she is covering.

    So, I have to say I had little doubt Demi Lovato would more than hold her own as a featured vocal here. My main concern, rather, came down to the production being too glossy and, thus, burying the vocals in the mix so the whole loses its potency.

    And much to my pleasant surprise, that turned out not to be the case. The production is leveled about right, and though the arrangement definitely owes to classic rock a lot more than country, it is nonetheless an honest reflection of Paisley’s musical identity who was raised on guitar heroes. So no complaints there.

    I know some may raise an issue with the age disparity between the two performers. Honestly, I hardly notice it whatsoever based on the vocals. Outside of that, I don’t pay much mind anyway in that I think many forget that Demi Lovato is 23 years old now. Still young, but it is nothing new nor creepy to have duets that span generations

    *

    I will say that if I have one main criticism, it’s that the song’s lyrical flow and melody don’t exactly feel in sync here. Most notably in the chorus.

    What I’m meaning to say is that one of Paisley’s best gifts as a songwriter has been his knack at consistently making his songs feel conversational with the way the lyrics always seem at marriage with the melodic structure of a song. But here, I feel it doesn’t stick the landing quite as well. It does feel like they cram just a bit too much into the chorus lyrically and so it takes longer for the chorus to melodically sink in and hit you.

    I guess what I’ll also say is that, as much as the lyrics in the verses suggests some anger and frustration in the relationship, both Brad and Demi would have benefited by better conveying that anguish in their vocals. I don’t know: something about their interpretation of the lyrics sounds a bit too neutral at times. I get that they want to sound more upbeat in the chorus, but the verses sound too restrained vocally.

    *

    All in all, though, this is a promising sign for Brad’s forthcoming album.

    Not that I really had any doubt he would turn back to more mature material after a mostly juvenile “Moonshine in the Trunk”, anyway. Still, it’s good he’s showing it rather than merely telling it.

    I’m thinking a Strong 6 to a Light 7 out of 10 for this.

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    • Josh Schott May 17, 2016 / 3:08 pm

      Demi is only 23?! It feels like she’s been around for a while and easy to forget she’s so young. I will say I kind of enjoyed her single last year, “Cool For The Summer.”

      And I agree that the chorus doesn’t flow as well as it should. Part of why I only gave it a 7. But yes I’m glad Paisley is contributing something with more qualities than flaws to country radio again. This looks like it’ll be a big hit at country radio too, as it got the most adds this week. Lovato’s presence will help it get even more eyeballs and attention.

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      • NoahHibiscusEaton May 17, 2016 / 4:19 pm

        Oh, I enjoyed all the singles from “Confident”.

        I love how both the title track and “Cool for the Summer” actually have some edge to their production. Lovato actually listened to a lot of metal music growing up, so it probably explains in part her ability to interpret edgier material well. I also loved the brass instrumentation of the title track. And she can sing the hell out of “Stone Cold”.

        The sad thing is, I didn’t care for most of the remaining songs off of the album. They were just too forgettable and oddly had little resemblance to the title of the album. I thought her eponymous album was much better and, even more odd, they released mostly the wrong singles from that album (I liked “Neon Lights”, but “Made in the USA” and “Really Don’t Care” were too juvenile). “Demi” as a whole, though, was a solid album.

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  6. toledom May 19, 2016 / 9:09 am

    I’m just glad to be listening Brad’s voice in a good song again.

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