Album Review – Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Dig Your Roots’

Florida Georgia Line Roots

Surprise! As you can see from the title, I decided to review something none of you were expecting: the new Florida Georgia Line album. For the past few months the site has moved away from negative reviews and started to focus solely on all of the great music that’s being produced. It wasn’t just because I felt we weren’t reviewing enough of great music. It was also because we were just sick of doing them and didn’t feel challenged and needed a break from it. But now I’m in the mood again to hand out a negative review now and then and what better to place to dive back in than Florida Georgia Line. Their last album Anything Goes won our inaugural Worst Album of the Year award in 2014. So I prepared myself for the worst with their new record Dig Your Roots, especially when I saw it was 15 songs long (my rule of thumb is no more than 12). While there is a fair share of bad music on this album, there’s actually a few positive things surprisingly.

The sound of crickets, frogs and a banjo play in “Smooth.” Something tells me this isn’t a sign of what’s to come on this album. Although I’m surprised the banjo continues throughout the song with some slightly heavy pop production. The song itself is about how smooth a girl is, from her body to her personality. For a song about a girl from Florida Georgia Line, there isn’t a lot of misogyny here. This is actually one of the better songs on the album, so I guess the start is smooth. That quickly changes though on the album’s title track, “Dig Your Roots.” We’re immediately hit with Brian Kelley rapping. Wonderful. The guy who never sings finally gets to say something and it’s terrible rapping. The song is about digging your roots, essentially appreciating family and where you’re from. An admirable theme, except the production is so damn annoying and overbearing it’s hard to hear the lyrics. This is the first of many moments on the album where Joey Moi completely ruins any chance of a song being good.

“Life Is A Honeymoon” takes a tacky Kenny Chesney direction, as Florida Georgia Line tackles beach music. For some reason this duo thinks they’re good at reggae, but they’re not. They did however have enough foresight actually bring someone onto the song who does. That would be Ziggy Marley, the son of reggae legend Bob Marley. If he did this song it might not have been half bad. But this is on a country album, not a reggae album. The album’s smash hit lead single “H.O.L.Y.” is next. As I explained in my original thoughts on this song in the Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music, this song just has no edge. It’s vanilla, banal and a straight adult contemporary track. And I feel like all this song gets done doing is repeating the word “holy” over and over. It’s just so obnoxious. Then there’s the line about touching heaven and I couldn’t roll my eyes any harder.

The one that never sings gets his chance to shine again on “Island.” In fact Kelley gets to sing for the entire song and it’s actually not the only time it happens on this album. This song is about a man feeling like he’s on an island with his woman because she’s the world to him. As much as it pains me to say it, I enjoy this a little bit as a harmless pop song because it has a good hook and there’s some sentiment there. It could have been better if the writers of this song actually took more time to add depth to it though. The current and second single of the album “May We All” follows. I just covered this in the Pulse too, but I would actually like to present a different take on it. After giving it further listens and hearing it in the context of the album, I actually like it more (I probably shouldn’t have re-read Sturgill’s rant before reviewing it). The themes of the simple life and the lessons you can learn throughout them still aren’t creatively amazing, but they pull it off and McGraw’s presence really helps give the song a sense of legitimacy about it.

“Summerland” is the kind of garbage I’ve come to expect and hate from Florida Georgia Line. This vapid, shallow summer song is why people hate the duo. It has absolutely nothing to say and shamelessly forces lots of clichés and namedrops to satisfy the gullible demo of people who enjoy this music. It’s like a Pitbull song, only there’s no charisma whatsoever and the lyrics aren’t catchy. This song belongs in the garbage bin next to everything Chris Lane has ever released. The barrage of annoyance continues on “Lifer.” I don’t know where to start with this Sharknado mess of a song. The lyrics sound like something the Internet wrote. It’s not country, even if they jammed an out-of-place steel guitar into the chorus. I bet that was the last thing added in the song. I think my biggest problem with this song is when the duo utters they’re “a product of George Strait.” They also reference the great Strait song “Check Yes or No.” Words can’t properly describe my reaction to this, so I need some help from actor/Mongoloid Nicholas Cage. Take it away Nick:

Nic Cage laughing

The problems of “Summerland” show up again on “Good Girl, Bad Boy.” The lyrics are so awkwardly terrible, as the duo sings some dull, meaningless tune about the ultimate cliché of a good girl and bad boy dating each other. Riveting stuff! Are Danny and Sandy going to pop out and break into song and dance too? “Wish You Were On It” wishes it were edgy with its sudden stop and starts throughout. This is supposed to be a heartbreak song, but like Cole Swindell on his new album earlier this year that’s full of these types of songs, the lyrics do nothing to create a sense of heartbreak. The same can be said of the instrumentation, which is more upbeat than anything resembling sad. This song was defeated before it even began.

The most insulting song on Dig Your Roots might be “God, Your Mamma, And Me.” This is the much hyped collaboration between one of the current terrors of country music and one of the biggest headaches of 90s radio. This is the song with the Backstreet Boys. I did not miss these guys and they still annoy me. But you know as angering as it is that the Backstreet Boys are featured on a “country” album, this is probably the most honest admittance from Florida Georgia Line. They’re full of shit when they proclaim to be a product of Strait, but they’re absolutely the product of boy bands of the 90s. So I’ll give them credit for honesty on “H.O.L.Y. II: Electric Boogaloo.” The sleepy “Music Is Healing” is next. I say sleepy because you’ll immediately forget this song after you hear it. Set to a dance pop beat, this duo sings about how songs are healing. A sentiment I agree with, but Florida Georgia Line has no clue what it means to make music that is a therapeutic experience when 90% of their output is about partying and tailgate sex.

At a whopping 15 songs long, I expected this album to have one “Dirt” moment and it finally happens on “While He’s Still Around.” With Kelley on lead vocals, it’s about a son wanting to make the most of the time he has left with his father before he passes away one day. He hopes to have many more moments and make him a proud grandfather before the inevitable phone call comes saying his father is dead. The instrumentation consists mostly of acoustic guitar and a hint of steel guitar (Joey Moi actually restrained himself from ruining it). This is an honestly pretty good country song and I would say even better than “Dirt,” making this Florida Georgia Line’s best song ever. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this is a single. Also a fact about this song that might stun you is Chase Rice helped write it.

“Grow Old” follows and is yet another pretty good song from the duo. This time with Hubbard on lead vocals, the song is about a husband hoping to spend the rest of his life with his love and grow old together. The song even goes into detail about how the relationship isn’t going to perfect all the time and they’ll suffer through hardships like counting pennies and eating out of a microwave to get by. There’s even noticeable steel guitar. Despite the mess at times on this album, Florida Georgia Line can claim two pretty good country songs on it. Dig Your Roots finally comes to an end with “Heatwave.” What I said about “Summerland” above you can essentially repeat for this song. You think they would want to end the album with their two best songs, but instead they wanted to remind us of the crap they settle on to churn out.

Dig Your Roots is a pretty mediocre album, but is also the best Florida Georgia Line has released so far in their career. Their first two albums were pretty close to bottom of the barrel, so they had nowhere to go but up. It’s only a small improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. The two songs that stand out by far are “While He’s Still Around” and “Grow Old,” two of the best songs they’ve ever released. There are a few average/above average tracks, while the rest you can easily skip. The majority of the album is filled with the kind of crap we’ve come to expect from Florida Georgia Line. For their sake they’ve successfully evolved into a safe, adult contemporary sound that will save them from the fate of irrelevancy that many bro country acts are now facing. Surprisingly Dig Your Roots is not one of the worst country albums of the year, but Florida Georgia Line is still nowhere close to calling themselves good, let alone a legitimate country act.

Grade: 4/10

Review – Dan + Shay’s “From The Ground Up”

Dan + Shay have carved themselves a distinct niche in mainstream country music apart from the bro party atmosphere. Instead of adhering to the anthemic hook-up trends, these two went the direction of Rascal Flatts with a more tender approach to their songs. As many mainstream acts continue push musical boundaries and sing of one night stands, Dan + Shay stay steady on their path of pop country (if you can even call it country) with their new single, “From The Ground Up.” This is a song poised to kick off the campaign for the duo’s second album. And in light of Thomas Rhett’s success with “Die A Happy Man,” Dan + Shay look to find their own success with a boy-band esc. love ballad.

“From The Ground Up” is a simple story of love. The narrator and his new wife are ready to start a family and build their love and life from the ground up. From the simple beginnings of laying the foundation and putting in the work, just like their grandparents have done over 65 years. The lyrics are the narrator’s devotion to his wife and their future, reading just like a wedding vow. The lyrics are cheesy and hit all the necessary little notes to rope in the mass of females with a belief in true love. “Beside you I’ll stand through the good and the bad. We’ll give all that we have, and we’ll build this love from the ground up.” The lyrics are sincere, and they have way more heart than most attempts at love songs on the radio recently. The disjointed stanzas and half-finished clauses read a little choppy, but the intention of the message is obvious.

The production though, doesn’t help the song. The melody is an orchestra-like arrangement of strings, pianos, and bells with a faint electric guitar and a simple percussion beat. It sounds like a musical arrangement you’d hear on an old Backstreet Boys or N’SYNC song. It’s almost as if the producers weren’t sure that the loving power of lyrics was obvious, so they overproduced the melody so the listeners know it’s powerful and meaningful. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how contrived the vocals sound with the forceful inflections. Dan + Shay and their team apparently need to have a hit love ballad in their repertoire, and the producers left nothing to chance.

“From The Ground Up” just sounds too contrived. A simple piano arrangement with some assistance from a dobro or steel guitar would have been just as, if not more effective in complimenting the song’s message (and also give the song some essence of country music). The buzz words are there in the lyrics that anyone with half a brain can decipher that “From The Ground Up” is meant to be a tender love song. The lines about being a shelter through the wind and the rain are just too cliché among the other clichéd love lines. This isn’t a bad song from Dan + Shay at all, it’s just so obvious that they’re trying to make sure “From The Ground Up” is received as a powerful love ballad.

Grade: 5/10

EP Review/Rant – Sam Hunt’s X2C

 

If a song isn’t country, yet has a country label put on it, does it still make it a country song? Apparently to Sam Hunt the answer is yes. Normally I don’t review an EP, but when I came across this piece of work I decided to make an exception to the rule. I don’t understand what the hell is going on with Sam Hunt and his purpose in country music. His debut single, “Leave The Night On,” entered the Billboard Hot Country Songs top ten a couple of weeks ago and even climbed a spot to #9 last week, yet the song is in no shape or form country music. What is the appeal of this guy’s music? I just don’t get it. So I decided to take a look at his newly released EP, X2C, to see if I could better understand this out of nowhere “country” artist (Spoiler alert: It’s really bad). We’ll break it down by song.

(Warning: Graphic Language ahead)

“Leave The Night On” – I already covered this song and this is what I had to say about it:

There is absolutely nothing country about this song. It sounds like something Jason Mraz would sing. And just look at Hunt on the single cover. He looks more dressed to spin music for a night club than sing country music. At least the bro country artists look somewhat country in their stupid backwards baseball caps. The song will either fizzle away in a month’s time or become one of the surprise hits of the summer. Unfortunately it’s the latter. (Click here for full review)

“Ex To See” – This song is a little more country. Just kidding. This is still pop music. I guess light acoustic guitar play in the background qualifies it as country in Hunt’s eyes? This sounds like something Train would sing or some indie pop artist. No, actually this sounds like an acoustic version of a Backstreet Boys song. Nothing in it qualifies it to be country, unless you count the bro country-light lyrics that plague this horrendous song. Does the EP get any better with the third song?

“House Party” – Nope! It’s another generic, party pop song. What the hell is the point of this song or this EP? Again, Sam Hunt this is not a country song! Smash Mouth made music with more substance than this. Thankfully there’s only one more song to go…

“Break Up In A Small Town” – Is this a country song? Fuck no. “But hey he’s singing about a small town! That counts right?” No, it does not gullible bro country fan. I’m sick and tired of hearing about small towns in “country” songs. Maybe that’s why I hated Eric Church’s new album so much. “Break Up In A Small Town” features spoken word in the whole first minute of the song. When Hunt is “singing,” it’s borderline rapping (shitty rapping I may add). There are also synths and electric beats that are laden throughout this song too. I just can’t anymore. Fuck this song.

If this album was labeled as pop music instead of country music, I think I would still hate it because it’s so generic and so blatantly trying to be four hit singles that gullible music fans will eat right up. Sam Hunt’s X2C EP deserves to burn in a deep, dark pit of fire and should be kept as far away as possible from human civilization because these songs sound like they were created by cold, emotionless robots. I wish the reptile aliens made of light in Sturgill Simpson’s “Turtles All The Way Down” would show up, beam these songs up into outer space and shoot them deep into the galaxy never to be found again.

I thought Jerrod Niemann’s album High Noon was going to be the runaway favorite for Country Perspective’s Worst Country Album of 2014, but at least he had a few songs that sounded remotely country. Nothing about Sam Hunt or his music is country. But since this is an EP I guess this doesn’t qualify him for the award, however all four of the songs above are top candidates for Country Perspective’s Worst Country Song of 2014. The full length album comes out later this year and if that whole album is the same as this EP, it will supplant Niemann for worst country album of 2014. I’m not sure if I’m going to review that or not because I never want to hear another Sam Hunt “country” song ever again. X2C is a steaming pile of dog shit that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Grade: 0/10