Album Review – Kip Moore’s ‘Wild Ones’ is Mainstream Country’s Best Rock Album

Kip Moore is much more of a natural rocker than many of his country counterparts, save for maybe Eric Church. But even after Moore’s debut album Up All Night, there are comparisons being made to the likes of Springsteen more so than Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean. Even seeing Moore live in concert (back when “Young Love” was his radio single) proved that rock music was better suited for Kip’s voice, and Kip and his team have tapped that side for his newest album, Wild Ones. This is not a country album by any means; it’s a rock album, but a fairly decent one if I do say so myself.

Wild Ones kicks off with the roaring title track. This song is simply about how Kip Moore and his friends like to party on the weekends. Content wise, this song offers nothing new, but one of Kip Moore’s strengths as a songwriter is that he tells these familiar stories from different angles. There’s no mention that the wild ones are partying on tailgates or back roads, they’re just partying somewhere and having fun. The beat picks up a little bit with “Come and Get It.” Here Kip is thinking about his woman and wants to have that passionate time with her. I like the production behind Moore’s vocals; the guitars layer steadily as the song rises and peaks at the bridge. You can tell there was some thought put into the music.

Kip sings of summer love in “Girl of the Summer.” In this familiar tale, summer has come to an end and the girl in this summer fling has left him without a trace. Kip reminisces of the times they made out in a photo booth, drove with the windows down, and sneaking into junkyards for a late night rendezvous. “Girl of the Summer” has a slower tempo in the verses that rises to an anthemic chorus. Again, this is a frequent story out of Nashville, but Kip adds enough of his own flair to the story for it to have some originality. “Magic” is a love song where Kip thinks her kisses and touch are more magical than any fairytales or TV magicians could create. The production in this song has a sort of fantasy feel to it which is a nice fit given the title. This song seems like a filler song. It’s not bad, but there’s nothing in the song that makes it stand out.

“That Was Us” is mid-tempo rock song with what sounds like a pop drum loop included in the mix. Similar to “Wild Ones”, this song depicts a couple of buddies who let it loose on the weekends and aren’t afraid to drink, smoke, fight, and make love. The song depicts a short timeline with actual character names as they meet and find love. But the third verse finds Kip and his friend hunting down an abusive boyfriend of a female friend until they’re pulled over by the “blue lights.” There was some effort put into telling more of a story here, but like many of the songs here, it’s not all that original. After this is the hard rocking “Lipstick.” This is a song that doesn’t have much of a story or that good of lyrics, but the rock production is awesome. Simply, Kip says he’s been everywhere and will travel anywhere to meet his lady and kiss her lipstick. The verses simply list place after place from Texas to Wisconsin and California to New York. The purpose is achieved after the first verse, yet we’re still treated to two other verses that name more places for no real reason. However, the lead guitar lick helps create an infectious melody behind Moore’s voice.

Kip experiments with an 80s inspired rock melody with “What Ya Got On Tonight.” While Kip travels and meets other beautiful women, he continues to think of the one who has his heart and wonders what she’s wearing. The lyrics are shallow, but again, the production is great and helps cover up for the lyrics. However, Wild Ones, turns the corner at this point and starts to have a bit more variety with lyrical content. “Heart’s Desire” shows Kip Moore in more desperate light after a relationship goes south. He’s a mess because he knows he messed up, but her love is still his heart’s desire. Kip Moore’s raspy voice aids in his delivery as he tries to make it through while still wanting her love to come back to him.

Next is one of the best songs on the album, “Complicated.” This is a love song, but it’s not a pretty fairy tale love. It’s a more realistic look at love with two imperfect people making it work through life’s twist and turns. “All I know sometimes you love it, sometimes you hate it, but what good’s love if it ain’t a little complicated? No it don’t always go like you always hoped it would, but sometimes complicated is pretty damn good.” I like the way the story is laid out and pop rock production makes song even more appealing and easy to listen to.

This is followed with the album’s lead single, “I’m To Blame.” From my review of the song: “The lyrics are pretty safe, and average for a country ‘bad boy’ song. They aren’t offensive, but nor are they groundbreaking, original, or inspired. ‘I’m To Blame’ is a short, catchy jam coming in a quick 2:14 for its run time. He doesn’t waste time with guitar solos in the song; the lyrics are packed in tightly.” Curiously, another song about Kip Moore being himself regardless of anyone else’s opinion follows. “That’s Alright With Me” finds Kip telling us, again, that he likes to drink, smoke, likes good-looking women, and makes no apologies for who he is or what he does. While the content of the verse of these two songs show different sides of Kip Moore, the messages are essentially the same. “That’s Alright With Me” seems like another filler song, and I think it’s placement in the track list was poorly thought out.

Kip offers up another pop rock love song in “Running For You.” Moore has fallen for a girl who wants to run off and chase her dreams wherever the wind blows her toward. Unfortunately for him, he’s unable to travel alongside her, but he knows she needs to go, and let’s her. But his vow to her is that he’ll be there for her when she needs him to. While the production on this song is more on the generic side, this song probably has the best lyrics on the album. The album ends with “Comeback Kid.” This slow-tempo rock song is about how Moore may not be the best right away; he always bounces back and never gives up. He’s thankful that his love continues to have faith in him. It’s a nice song with an honest delivery from Kip Moore.

Like I said above, Wild Ones is a rock album, not southern rock, just plain rock and pop rock. And as a music album I do like it. There were songs with a good rock production that was enjoyable to listen to, and songs where the lyrics and stories stood out more. Even the songs with familiar stories seemed fresher. Kip Moore and his writing team put more thought into these songs than you’d find on many other mainstream “country” albums. Even Moore’s song “Backseat” (which you’ll find on the deluxe version of the album) is a well-written exploration into a boy losing his virginity. Moore spends most of the time on the anticipation, nerves, and vulnerability involved with that action. In comparing that hook up song to the likes of “Strip It Down” or “Burnin’ It Down”, “Backseat” has much better writing. Overall, Wild Ones, has its moments, but there are still some flaws. I like it as an album, but this is Country Perspective, and the fact that this rock album is marketed as country is one of those flaws. With that said, Wild Ones may be the best non-country country album out of Nashville this year.

Grade: 5.5/10

Review – Miranda Lambert & Little Big Town’s “Smokin’ and Drinkin'”

Miranda Lambert & Little Big Town Smokin' & Drinkin'

So about “Roots & Wings” being the next single for Miranda Lambert, we now have an answer. Unfortunately it’s not going to happen now or at any other time. We were probably just lucky for Ram Trucks to allow her to release a full version of the song, let alone get it released as a single to radio. It’s a shame because it’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever heard from Lambert. Of course it probably didn’t help that her last single “Little Red Wagon” stalled out at radio and didn’t perform that great sales wise, so they couldn’t go with such a country song as a followup. Instead Miranda Lambert’s new single is “Smokin’ and Drinkin’,” which also features Little Big Town. I’m not surprised to see this as a single because Little Big Town is hot right now on all of the charts and just reached the top ten in airplay on the Billboard chart last week. Lambert is trying to rebound and what better way than to release a single featuring the hottest group in country music right now.

First off this song is nowhere near as good as “Roots & Wings.” It’s not even close. “Smokin’ and Drinkin'” is a song about…well smoking and drinking. Okay it’s more than just this. The song has a reflective theme, with the people in the song thinking back to their younger years and how they rebelled against their upbringing by smoking and drinking. The song is part nostalgia, part “wiser with age” thinking. It’s very broad and doesn’t get too deep. What you hear is what you get with this song. Now upon the first couple of listens you think this song isn’t half bad, but the more I listen to it the more I’m bored by it. And I think I can put my finger on why: the instrumentation and the vocals.

The lyrics are at least decent, but the instrumentation gives me a lukewarm feeling. It sounds like 80s pop rock, something I found myself saying a lot when reviewing Little Big Town’s Pain Killer album. From the synth to the drum loops, I’m certainly not impressed. The vocals bug me even more though, especially at the beginning of the song. Lambert’s voice sounds animatronic-like and dare I say robotic. When Lambert and Little Big Town harmonize in the chorus, I expect to be blown away as both Lambert and lead singer of Little Big Town Kimberly Schlapman can be great singers. Instead I’m underwhelmed and left wanting a lot more. It’s really hard to distinguish the different voices in the harmonies too.

Lambert and her team had a chance to really impress everyone by releasing “Roots & Wings” as a single or really one of the traditional tracks off of her Platinum album. Instead we get 80s pop rock that simply makes me say, “meh.” I’m really not sure how this will perform on the charts. On one hand, as I mentioned in the opener Little Big Town is hot right now. On the other hand, two female vocalists on one song is a big red flag to the likes of Keith Hill and radio programmers. I could see this going either way on the radio charts. Regardless I’m back to being unimpressed by Lambert singles and continue to hope that the next one is better. “Smokin’ and Drinkin'” is definitely not amongst the worst in mainstream country music, but you can thank the lower than ever bar for that. Some will use this to try to defend this as a good song, but I won’t because my bar hasn’t lowered. I can neither recommend nor not recommend this song. It’s a song that simply exists.

Grade: 5/10 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯