Album Review – Brantley Gilbert’s ‘The Devil Don’t Sleep’

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Keep in mind Brantley Gilbert’s last album wasn’t terrible. In fact it was actually quite decent. I had multiple nice things to say about Just As I Am, despite some bad singles. When Gilbert tries he can make good music, but this new album doesn’t really feature Gilbert trying. It instead features Gilbert at his absolute worst and indulging in his worst tendencies. First it must be stated that The Devil Don’t Sleep is not a country album. No, this is straight up butt rock for the most part. Click on the definition I’ve linked and tell me it isn’t the perfect description of this album. Gilbert has never really wanted to be a country artist, but rather a rocker. This has always been his targeted fan base and he targets them well with this album. Of course I hate butt rock, as do most people. Now you might say I’m being overly harsh and outright mean, even before I get into the album. But this thing is 16 songs long and I had a headache before even getting halfway through. Needless to say I did not have a pleasant experience listening to this album. I guess I should start with what songs I liked on this album because it’s quite brief.

The album’s opening song “Rockin’ Chairs” is without a doubt one of the best of the album because it isn’t the same old recycled butt rock clichés that plague this album. The song is about living it up while also striving to live to the day you can sit back in a rocking chair to reminisce about those days. It’s a somewhat mature outlook on living the party life. It also features some nice acoustic guitar play to open the song and Gilbert’s vocals are used to the best of their abilities. The album’s final song “Three Feet of Water” is a quiet piano ballad that actually has something to say. The song is about seeking forgiveness from a life of wrongdoing and sees some actual emotion from Gilbert. The instrumentation is well arranged and frames the lyrics appropriately. It’s a shame that the album’s one good song is buried beneath so much crap, but I do applaud Gilbert for managing to produce one song I actually like on this record.

Now let’s get to the bad. The lead single of the album “The Weekend” somehow annoys me even more than it originally did. The lyrics are just so stupid and vapid that I want to rip my hair out in anger out of the sheer lack of intelligence on display. Casual misogyny fuels the fire of “You Could Be That Girl.” We get the disgusting line from Gilbert of “you know how to hit your knees” to the girl he sees as his one. This quickly followed by a clarification of a girl who will pray for him, but I’m not an idiot. This is an intended double entendre that you the listener is supposed to find clever and funny. “Bullet in a Bonfire” had a very small chance of being a compelling song about abuse, but instead the moral of the song is solving violence with more violence. But oh it gets much worse with “Bro Code.” This might be Gilbert’s worst song ever. The IQ level of this song is a Tapout shirt wearing frat bro shot gunning Monster energy drinks as he jerks off to underground MMA videos. The word bro gets said so many times and the sneering attitude of Gilbert as he and some random bro treat a woman like a piece of meat make for the ultimate douchebag anthem. You truly have to hear this masterpiece of asshattery yourself to understand it’s awfulness.

The rest of the album for the most part is split between songs with obnoxiously loud guitars interrupted by the grunting vocals of Gilbert and really sleepy ballads with no teeth and creativity. Gilbert’s vocals range from Cookie Monster gargling sandpaper to bored droning. The lyrics for the majority of the songs on this album are the most predictably tripe, faux outlaw tough guy word associations that many have come to expect from Gilbert on his worst material (by the way Gilbert wrote or co-wrote every song). Outside of a few songs, Brantley Gilbert’s The Devil Don’t Sleep is at best a huge waste of time. At worst it’s butt rock at it’s most butt rock. I didn’t think I would hear one of the worst country albums of 2017 by the end of January, but I’ll be highly surprised if The Devil Don’t Sleep isn’t a contender for Country Perspective’s Worst Album of 2017 award. It’s that damn awful.

Grade: 2/10

 

Recommend? – No No No No No No

Album Highlights: Three Feet of Water, Rockin’ Chairs

Wallpaper: The Ones That Like Me

Horrendous Songs: Bro Code, The Weekend, You Could Be That Girl, Bullet in a Bonfire

Bad Songs: The rest of this album


Album Review – Kenny Chesney’s ‘Cosmic Hallelujah’

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If you asked me what mainstream country artist I get questioned the most on when it comes to my position on them, it would be hands down Kenny Chesney. I usually have a pretty negative or lukewarm take on his music and this seems to take a good bit of people off guard, much to my surprise. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to be impressed by an artist whose career has consisted mostly of music about the beach, simplistic themes that have been done to death and drinking. I thought his last album The Big Revival really drove this across, but apparently it didn’t. So now Chesney returns with the followup to it, Cosmic Hallelujah. This title just screams bullshit to me, but I still gave it chance since there’s not many other releases coming up in November. It was pretty much what I expected all along and further reinforced my stance on his music because Chesney does absolute nothing new on this album.

This is same old tired schtick from Chesney I’ve heard for years from him. There’s a boring, generic song about how we should live it up because we’re alive, so let’s crack a can of (insert current Chesney beer sponsor) and party that I feel like I’ve heard a 1,001 times and counting. Can you guess which song I’m referring to? Trick question! This actually refers to multiple songs, including “Trip Around the Sun,” “Some Town, Somewhere” and “Winnebago.” Of course pretty much every song alludes to this theme in some way or another. Chesney sings about only listening to pretty girls on “All the Pretty Girls.” I don’t what the hell the appeal of this song is and I don’t really want to waste precious air and time on trying to figure it out. It’s three and a half minutes I’ll never get back.

“Setting The World On Fire” is this album’s big hit so far, despite the fact the guest of the song Pink sings more than purported main artist of the song, Chesney. The only thing I have to further add about this song is I would rather be listening to Pink over Chesney any day because her music is actually interesting. There’s a song on this album called “Bar at the End of the World,” which makes no sense because I thought Chesney and Pink already set the world on fire. Yeah I know this is a bad joke, but I assure you that this is more interesting than the song, which is also a bad joke.

I was expecting to like at least one song on the album and the most likely candidate seemed to be “Jesus and Elvis.” That’s because two of the three songwriters on the song are Hayes Carll and Allison Moorer, who I greatly respect and enjoy their work. Well I don’t even like this one because this song seems to have an idea, but never does anything with it. The theme seems to be reuniting with old friends, but this is never expanded upon or has anything meaningful to say. We just keep hearing Chesney drone on about velvet paintings of Jesus and Elvis. The album’s lead single “Noise” is so damn boring that country radio didn’t even like it and they’ll usually play any bullshit Chesney sends to them. That should tell you all you need to know about this lame attempt by Chesney to say something about the prevalence of media today. What’s sad is this is probably the best song on Cosmic Hallelujah. And I haven’t gotten to the very worst of this album.

I’m on record as not being a fan of Chesney’s hit song “Boys of Fall” due to the fact it’s a song that over-glorifies high school football to the point I want to puke and features some of the most saccharine bullshit I’ve ever seen spewed about sports. And this comes from a sport fans. So you can put me down for the same thing when it comes to this album’s concluding song “Coach.” Also I’m officially predicting this will be Chesney’s current single in the fall of 2017. If I had to pick the dumbest song of the album, it would have to go to “Bucket.” Written by Brett James and Craig Wiseman, this song is getting drunk and saying fuck it to your responsibilities. This isn’t just me showing anger; this is what the song is actually about as Chesney sings a line about how you should replace the b in bucket list with an f. Some will argue this is just a dumb fun song, but I argue this is just plain dumb.

There’s a lot of boring crap on this album and it makes me want to rip my hair out. But there’s only song on this album that really pisses me off and that’s “Rich and Miserable.” This might be the worst song of Chesney’s entire career, even worse than “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” It’s a stilted, clunky, heavily pop influenced song that is essentially “Noise 2: Electric Boogaloo.” Chesney does not sing on this song, but is rather somewhere between shouting and mumbling. I think the title of the song perfectly personifies where Chesney’s career and mindset is at this time.

I can confidently say after listening to Kenny Chesney’s Cosmic Hallelujah that I never want to hear it again for the rest of my life. I absolutely hate this album and I was actively angry as I forced myself to listen to it. If you made me choose between listening to this album or Florida Georgia Line’s newest album Dig Your Roots, I would choose the latter every single time because the latter actually has some good songs. Chesney clearly isn’t trying anymore and just wants this paycheck. At this point he’s just rehashing the same old songs we’ve heard from him year after year.

Grade: 3/10

 

Recommend? – Hell No!

Album Highlights: Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing to see here.

Bad Songs: Rich and Miserable, Coach, Bucket, All the Pretty Girls

Wallpaper: The rest of the album


Stream The Entire Album Below I Guess:

Review – Brett Eldredge’s “Drunk On Your Love”

One of the lyrical trends in pop country this year that really draws my ire is songs where males compare their affection to females with being high/drunk. It’s not an interesting way to describe your infatuation, and it’s certainly an overused trope ever since Ke$ha’s “Your Love is my Drug.” Brett Eldredge’s new single is aptly titled “Drunk On Your Love,” and I’m sure you can connect the dots of where this is heading. We opted not to do a full review of Illinois because the album was rather bland and uninteresting, but reviewing the singles released from the album will suffice.

“Drunk On Your Love” doesn’t even try to be original or different. Eldredge co-wrote the song with Ross Copperman and right away the clichés begin pouring out. “The second she walked through the door, I caught a buzz. One taste from your lips knocked me out just like a drug.” All Brett Eldredge wants to do is continue to feel this high from her touch and her love. There’s no attempt to bring any sort of natural story to this song. It’s like a teenager who just discovered the effects of drugs and alcohol and lost his virginity all in the same night. Then he decided to write a song about it. Simply put, the lyrics are stupid, simple, and childish.

Perhaps the most obnoxious thing about “Drunk On Your Love” is the constant repetition of words in the chorus. “Now I know why, why I’m feelin’ so high, high ’cause I’m still drunk, drunk on your love, on your love.” Nearly every other word gets echoed because the hook is terrible and there needed to be some inflection or effect added so it could stand out to listeners. There’s a unique, yet intriguing production to the song, though. A percussion sound of hand drums mixed behind a sort of accordion sounding ring certainly helps the song stand out among the hip hop influences of most songs. However, on top of that intrigue are random pops and sound effects that still turn “Drunk On Your Love” into an overproduced, non-country mess. This unique pop production was chosen because something in this song needed to stand out among the crowd for it to be a radio single contender.

I liked Brett Eldredge’s debut album. “Raymond” is a wonderful country song, and I’m quite fond of “Beat of the Music.” Bring You Back had just enough quality to instill some hope that Brett would carve his own path. Only now do I realize how naive I was to think that. Illinois as a whole is a sophomore slump in album quality with “Drunk On Your Love” joining “Lose My Mind” as a leading example of that slump. Here’s just another stupid, boring song to add to mainstream country’s over saturated pot of crappy pop songs.

Grade: 1/10

Album Review – ‘The First Time’ Proves that Kelsea Ballerini is Another Pop Singer Trying to be Country

My first post for Country Perspective was my opinion on who could replace the gaping hole left by Taylor Swift after her official move to pop music. Included on my list were names like Kellie Pickler, Brandy Clark, and Sunny Sweeney as I was hoping, and still am hoping, to hear more classic sounding country coming out of the female side of the spectrum. However, Music Row seems to have an answer for that void in the name of Kelsea Ballerini. This newcomer is already off to a strong start in mainstream country, and wouldn’t you believe it, she has Taylor Swift on her side as well.

That tweet by Taylor Swift only helped Kelsea Ballerini gain some momentum in her country career. Country Perspective has been calling Kelsea Ballerini the female equivalent to Sam Hunt. Kelsea’s debut single is just in the top ten, and now she has a debut album called The First Time ready with more pop garbage to infect country radio.

Why do we call her Sam Hunt’s female equivalent? Well allow me to present Exhibit A: the lead track on The First Time called “Xo.” Before you get your hopes up, this isn’t some cute pop country ode to a Trisha Yearwood hit. This is 100% pop/rap/dance crap that has no business being anywhere near country music. This song is about how Kelsea’s out with her man, but his ex girlfriend is at the same place, and Kelsea can tell there’s still sparks there. “You’re still in love with your ex, oh, and I ain’t one to be nobody’s second best, no” she sings in the chorus. Kelsea also makes it very clear that while she’s blonde, she’s not dumb. But she’s only smart enough to notice where her man’s attention is, not take the next step to kick the guy to the curb.

“Peter Pan” is a bit friendlier with a more natural pop country production. Here she compares her boyfriend to Peter Pan as he won’t grow up and be a man. The fairy tale references work well here and aren’t overdone. I have no problems with this song. Following this is another song where Ballerini doesn’t want to put up with boys. The lead single, “Love Me Like You Mean It” shows Ballerini wanting to get with the bros, but she’s annoyed they can’t commit. As Josh wrote in his great review of the song, “These lyrics are confusing and quite frankly shallow in terms of depth. This is bubblegum pop meant to appeal to radio and casual listeners. In a world with common sense this is on pop radio. But we live in a world where pop music being passed off as country music is the norm.” I couldn’t have said that any better.

Kelsea Ballerini continues to prove she belongs in pop more than country with “Square Pegs.” This is pop song where Ballerini does a sort of pseudo-rap encouraging people to be themselves regardless of whoever may criticize you. It’s a good message, but delivered poorly with fluff like “Everybody gotta be themselves, everybody gotta dream out loud, everybody gotta be themselves, square pegs make the world go ’round.” This is not a country song by any stretch of the imagination. “First Time” is a ballad about how Kelsea was stood up, again, by an ex-boyfriend. She sings, “goodbye should mean goodbye the first time” while she believes he’s out with some other blonde saying the same things to the new girl that he said to her. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. She at least realizes that old adage is true and vows to stick to her guns next time. And as if this pop album couldn’t get worse, Kelsea Ballerini records a song that’s just like a bro-country love song in the field, only from the female point of view. Here’s how the chorus to “Looking at Stars” begins:

So baby pick me up, I’ll be in the drive
Take me where the moon’s hanging in the sky
We can park it by the river, get out and throw the tailgate down down down

Really? I guess it’s no surprise seeing as in “Love Me Like You Mean It” Kelsea sings about wanting the boy with the hat back. But this overdone, clichéd story is now being sung by females. Seriously, how is no one in Nashville sick of writing these songs yet?

Remember that time in “First Time” where Kelsea Ballerini thought Mr. Stood-Me-Up might be different and she was proven wrong? Well in “Sirens” she hears warnings about some douche guy coming to town. You know, the guy who’s reputation for being trouble is so big that it crosses county lines. And does she listen to those warnings? Hell no, he’ll be different for her. WRONG! This little pop rock song finds Ballerini cleaning herself up again after yet another failed fling. However, Kelsea Ballerini has one song on The First Time that is actually pretty good. “Secondhand Smoke” is a ballad about how a girl who grew up in an angry home. The parents fought all the time and implanted the idea in her head that fights end in goodbye. But Ballerini doesn’t want to be the same way; she wants to get over those demons so she can have healthier relationships. The story is quite similar to Taylor Swift’s “Mine,” but the delivery of the song couldn’t be more different. I hope this gets released as a single over the rest of the pop garbage on this supposed country album.

The pop production continues with “Dibs.” Here’s Kelsea Ballerini calling “dibs” on some hot guy she sees at a bar. And she makes it very clear in an annoying spoken word breakdown about what she’s calling dibs on:

I’ll calling dibs
On your lips

On your kiss

On your time

Boy, I’m calling dibs

On your hand

On your heart

All mine

Kelsea Ballerini tries to prove herself as a girl power icon with “Stilettos.” Hearts are broken, she’s feeling sad, but she won’t let her confidence be shaken. She will walk tall in her stilettos and hold herself high. This is great, but, again, it’s another pop song that very much isn’t country music. The production of this song, from the music to Balerinni’s vocals, sounds a lot like Taylor Swift to me. With that said, I’m not sure if Taylor would ever sing, “so you can take your new blonde out to get your drink on.” This is at least the third different song to call out blonde girls as the other girl. I can’t imagine its a slight against blonde girls in general seeing as Kelsea is blonde herself, but it’s interesting that she makes that detail quite clear.

I listen to her song “Yeah Boy” and think of Billy Currington’s “Hey Girl.” In fact, if Currington walked up to Ballerini and just said “hey girl” she’d probably respond with “yeah boy” and off they’d go to some pick-up truck in a field. This song is yet another song where Kelsea Ballerini simply sings a bro-country song from the female perspective. I’m done. There’s no originality in this one. The album ends with Ballerini’s ode to youthful rebels in “Underage.” It’s about teenage girls acting out: fake IDs, drinking wine, racing cars, etc. It’s a list song about ways teens act immaturely and rebel against the rules. It’s curious, though, that a song called “Underage” would reference R. Kelly as their go-to jam in the car. I can’t imagine this is a coincidence considering the sex crimes R. Kelly has committed. That alone takes all credibility and decency away from this song. Seriously, who thought that was a good idea?

Just like Sam Hunt’s Montevallo and just like Lady Antebellum’s 747, this is pop music. It’s rap and electronic noise try to pass itself as an “evolution” of the country sound. Don’t let yourselves be fooled. Sure you’ll hear various country sounds like banjos shoved in the mix, but that serves no purpose other than to make you think it’s country music. This is a pop album, not a country music album. Kelsea Ballerini can sing well, but she is a pop singer who would be laughed out of the country genre if we lived in a just world. If you ever wondered what it would sound like when you cross Sam Hunt with Taylor Swift, just listen to Kelsea Ballerini’s The First Time. I’m all for getting more female voices on the radio, but not like this. I can think of dozens of female country singers who all deserve a single charting near the top ten before the wannabe pop princess, Kelsea Ballerini.

Grade: 1/10

Album Review – RaeLynn’s Me EP

One of the many The Voice alumni from Team Blake, RaeLynn is still looking to establish herself in country music. Why country music? A because she was coached by Blake Shelton. B because country radio is so diverse in pop sounds and influences that even RaeLynn’s bad pop music can find a home. I’m going to be frank, the production of this EP is rather awful. Where other “country” artists like Lady Antebellum or Sam Hunt released albums that featured decent pop music, RaeLynn’s new EP, titled Me, is crappy pop music combined with country elements. RaeLynn also clearly shows that she’s singing songs for young, teenage girls, further polarizing herself from the general country population. There are only five songs here, so I’ll break them each down.

“God Made Girls”: This song faced quite a bit of criticism from Josh and I last year. And, rightfully so, the song was nominated for worst song of 2014. I can’t really say anything new about this song without beating a dead horse, so here’s a short snippet from Josh’s original review of the song: “This song is insinuating that girls were made to look pretty and basically be objects for guys. Isn’t that what these lines are saying? A girl should live up to the stereotypes.”

“Kissin’ Frogs”: The basic premise of this song is that RaeLynn doesn’t want to tie herself down right now. Eventually she’ll find Mr. Right and they’ll live happily ever after, but for the time being, she just wants to have some fun. There’s a lot of fairy tale references: “I don’t need a mister trying to fit that perfect slipper on my foot” and “right now there ain’t nothing wrong with having fun and kissin’ frogs.” Also she specifically cares to mention “making out” as what she means by having fun to further confirm that this is meant for a young demographic. The song starts out with some nice banjo and mandolin sounds, which are quickly abandoned for a roaring pop beat in the chorus. And newsflash, RaeLynn still can’t sing, and the chorus sounds worse due to the fact that she’s borderline screaming.  In fact, the second verse starts out with “right now the only thing that matters is the radio and screaming every song.”  At least RaeLynn is a little self aware here. Yet sadly I could see this song faring well on country radio since the bar for quality right now is set so low.

“Careless”: As far as pop country goes, “Careless” has a rather safe, friendly sound. It’s the least annoying of the five. There are some pop effects with the melody, but overall it’s not bad. And in the hands of a better singer, it could actually sound like a good song. Lyrically, the song’s about one of those rotten relationships where the guy cares too little and keeping the ever-pining girl still hoping and waiting for things to change. Here RaeLynn ponders, “Maybe if I care less, you would care a little more.” The song still features a girl wanting a guy who’s probably a jerk, but the chorus flirts with the idea of her wanting to turn his attitude on to him “I bet if I turned this heart off, baby, it would turn you on. I bet if I blocked you, you’d be blowing up my best friends phone.” Oh, joy, yet another reference to “blowing up phones.” As empowering as “Kissin’ Frogs” and “Better Do It” are for girls, “Careless” is a song that confirms to girls that they should still try to make the guys care for them, regardless of how the guys really feel.

“Boyfriend”: RaeLynn has a crush on another girl’s boyfriend, but she’s not going to take him away. RaeLynn will just sit back and wait for the inevitable end of this relationship because she can see in the boy’s eyes that he’s also pining for her. The lyrics here are terrible. There’s a random name drop of Shania Twain that serves absolutely no purpose to the song or story. There’s also a line about how what’s meant to be will always find a way to be, which is bothersome because there’s no indication that this relationship has a forever feel. The worst part about this song is that RaeLynn does spoken word on the border of rapping. She can’t even sing, let alone rap. And yet, the rapping continues in the final track.

“Better Do It”: Just to get through the good of this one, the empowerment of the song that I referenced before is that RaeLynn wants her guy to make up his mind. Basically, you said you’re going to leave, so leave because I don’t want to deal with your mind changing every other minute.  Now to the ugly: the fact that I was able to sit through the whole three minutes of this atrocity is shocking. If the CIA wants some approved torture techniques, put this song on repeat at full blast. The first words we hear are from an annoying, distorted voice, presumably RaeLynn, saying with a valley girl sort of attitude, “If you say it, you better do it” over and over again. And that phrase is repeated all over the song. RaeLynn also borderline screams in the chorus, before she raps the bridge at the end. Throw in the awful pop production of this song, and I’ll claim that this song is worse than “God Made Girls.” It’s a way-too-early nomination for worst song of 2015.

This is the main problem with country radio’s current identity crisis. Now that bro-country is on it’s way out, we’re basically at a point where the producers don’t yet know who to target. So it seems to be a time where they’ll release a little bit of everything to see what sticks. RaeLynn’s Me EP is without a doubt targeting young teenage girls. And the worst part she’s targeting them with conflicting messages. Songs like “God Made Girls” and “Careless” reaffirm years of stereotypes and attitudes women should have in respect towards men and relationships. However, songs like “Kissin’ Frogs” and “Better Do It” have more empowerment to fight those stereotypes behind their messages. And as if I haven’t said this enough, RaeLynn cannot sing or rap. I can’t see how the general mass of country fans can buy into her. It seems like producers are trying to recreate early “Tim McGraw” and “Love Story” Taylor Swift with RaeLynn. Yet, RaeLynn appears to be too immature. Taylor Swift did show some maturity in some of her early songs, but even songs where she didn’t, there was an easy listening production to them. Me is incredibly annoying in its production, and with RaeLynn’s immature, pandering lyrics, I don’t see how anyone over the age of sixteen can find enjoyment from this EP.

Grade: 0/10