Album Review – Brett Young’s Self-Titled Debut Album is Music Nyquil

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So you’re walking into a bar looking to get yourself a nice drink. You walk up to the bartender in the mood to try something new and ask for the best new beer he’s got. He says sure thing and hands you a glass full of supposedly great new beer. You take a drink and immediately spit it out, exclaiming to the barkeep this is just warm tap water. He insists it’s great and flavorful. This is Brett Young and his music in a nutshell and the bartender is Big Machine Records. Young’s first two singles “Sleep Without You” and “In Case You Didn’t Know” bored me out of my mind, so I wasn’t going to be surprised if there were more of these type of songs on his self-titled debut album. But I held out some hope maybe he gives us something interesting. I can say after listening to this album that isn’t the case.

Somehow every song on this album is a snooze fest like the first two singles. I thought Chris Young’s I’m Comin’ Over would be the most boring, toothless album I would ever talk about on Country Perspective. But Brett Young (no relation of course) somehow has managed to deliver a more vanilla album and I wrote an entire rant of how much I’m Comin’ Over bored me. It’s truly amazing how safe this album is and how it stays as far away as possible from anything remotely risky. It’s like Young looked at Chris Young, Brett Eldredge and Martina McBride and challenged himself to make music more boring than those three combined. And I understand why these artists make such bland music. It sells really well and resonates with a lot of people, which I respect your right to choose to listen to this music. But I don’t understand how you can listen to this when almost anything else is more interesting to hear. You’re probably wondering why I’m not breaking down the tracks by now, but there’s absolutely no point when every song sounds the damn same. Each one fails to stand out and makes me wish I was listening to anything else. At least Sam Hunt pisses me off with his music. This music from Young makes me feel nothing.

Brett Young’s self-titled album is something that has happened and exists. I will not remember it and will only listen to it again if I need help falling asleep because sleep aid is this album’s most useful trait. What’s worse is the success of sleepy music like this will only encourage more artists to play it super safe and never take any risks. If people are happy and content with hot dogs, why bother with serving up prime rib? It’s much easier and cheaper. As long as something sells major labels don’t give a flying shit whether it’s good or even interesting. Brett Young’s self-titled album makes for great commerce, but terrible art.

Grade: 3/10

 

Recommend? – No

Album Highlights: None

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: The entirety of this album


Review – Brett Young’s “In Case You Didn’t Know”

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One thing I’ve always jokingly said about major country labels is how they seemingly pull an endless amount of attractive looking new artists off some assembly line somewhere. I imagine it’s located deep in the bowels of Music City, where all of the major executives gather behind a glass case watching their next big thing get meticulously put together by a machine to check mark off all of the major demographics they’re looking for in an artist’s appeal. Big Machine Label Group’s Brett Young fits the mold of one of these artists. A youthful, slightly hunky image that gets the ladies’ attention and a voice that’s just good enough to fit on country radio, but wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary on pop radio. If the latter didn’t come across on his first single “Sleep Without You,” it certainly comes across on his second one “In Case You Didn’t Know.” This is the type of song every major label loves: they can PR the shit out of this being deep and sentimental because the song is slow and people are easily manipulated. Really though this is your run of the mill love song that the Brett Eldredges and Dustin Lynches have been inundating country radio with for years because this overly saccharine, milquetoast bullshit is polarizing proof. It’s so damn dull and boring you can’t get angry at it because you’re either A) someone who eats this shit up, or B) have fallen asleep by the end of the song. Warning: Don’t listen to this when driving because you will end up in a ditch, as you’ve fallen asleep while behind the wheel. This will be a big hit though, but fortunately you won’t remember it because this is easily forgettable fodder.

Grade: 3/10

Recommend? – zzzzzzz….

Written by Brett Young, Tyler Reeve, Kyle Schlienger, Trent Tomlinson, Blake Tomlinson

(It took five people to write this snooze fest?! Really?)

Album Review – Ronnie Dunn’s ‘Tattooed Heart’

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If you’ve followed Ronnie Dunn’s career in recent years, especially on social media, you would find that this is an artist who has no idea how to deal with being out of the spotlight and being in the back nine of his career. It’s something I’ve talked about a lot on my blog regarding older artists facing the reality that they’re no longer in their prime and have to accept fading into the background in favor of younger, more marketable artists. I’m not saying that this is fair and in fact I’ve argued against the ageist radio system in older artists’ favor. I’m just pointing out reality. Dunn has accepted this at times and other times doesn’t seem to accept it so much. He’s argued for traditionalists and he’s argued for more modern sounds. Long story short he’s been really inconsistent. So it’s no surprise on his new album Tattooed Heart that he’s once again inconsistent and seems to hedge his bet between traditional and modern, leaning more towards the latter many times on this album.

There are many things I find wrong with Tattooed Heart, but before I get to that there are some songs Dunn gets right. One of these times is “I Worship The Woman You Walked On.” The song is about a man speaking to the ex of his current love and telling him about how he’s now loving the woman he had walked on before. He explains how he appreciates her the way he never did. The song importantly comes off more as empathetic rather than vengeful, which it easily could have. Another good song from Dunn is “Only Broken Heart in San Antone.” If there’s one theme Dunn can nail it’s heartbreak and he does it on this song. The song has a very cool and easy-going feeling about it, but this also perfectly encapsulates the loneliness of the broken-hearted person who can only see lonely in a moment of heartbreak. This song also features the most pedal steel guitar of the entire album, which would have really benefitted other songs. The only song to feature any fiddle on the album is the final song “She Don’t Honky Tonk No More.” It’s a song about heartbreak and wanting not only a shot of alcohol in this moment of pain, but classic country like Strait and Jones. This a solid song, but it unfortunately contradicts a lot of the rest of the album.

I originally praised “Ain’t No Trucks in Texas” and after giving it fresh re-listens it just doesn’t resonate as much with me and suffers from much of the same problems I have with “Damn Drunk” and that’s it’s overuse of clichés. While they’re used to get the overall point of the songs across, they each get tiresome with more listens due to these very same clichés. They’re not necessarily bad songs, but clunky and lazy and with more effort could have been good songs. The clichés are most nauseatingly bad on “Young Buck.” This is essentially a letter written from an old bro to a new bro. It praises the cliché bro who drives trucks, chases girls and is the consummate “good ole American boy” according to this song. Songs like this make me gag because it frames reality like it’s some corny, drive-in movie from the 50s America.

You would think Reba’s guest appearance on a song would lead to something good, but “Still Feels Like Mexico” feels like the same old crap we’ve heard from Nashville pop from the synth-y production to the predictable beach love theme. This song is not much different from Luke Bryan’s “Roller Coaster” or Jason Aldean’s “A Little More Summertime.” In fact I would say it’s worse than those songs. Dunn probably should have taken the time to take cues from Reba’s latest album, which chases modern sounds a couple of times, but for the most part is decidedly Reba music that complimented her strengths and didn’t alienate her fan base. Or in Dunn’s case, doesn’t confuse the shit out of the listener, who I imagine expects more traditional country from him.

The biggest problem of this album is also it’s greatest irony. Older artists like Ronnie Dunn love to complain about pop artists like Beyoncé performing at country awards show and say that country can stand just fine on it’s own, yet on their albums have palpable, straight up pop influences. Take for example “That’s Why They Make Jack Daniels” and “I Put That There.” These are straight up pop songs and bad ones at that if I might add. So it’s okay to poorly steal from other genres, yet decry their artists? Once again the hypocriticalness and ineptness of the genre shines through. The hypocriticalness reaches critical mass on the title track, Dunn’s cover of Ariana Grande’s “Tattooed Heart.” It’s not that Dunn’s cover of this song is terrible, it’s just that doesn’t fit him and it’s a blatant attempt at crossover appeal and trying to be hip. It’s so transparent and not to mention is worse than the original version. This was a song meant to be sung from the point of view of a young woman, not a 63-year-old man. This old meme sums it up:

buschemi-meme

Ronnie Dunn had a few good things going with Tattooed Heart and if he built on them this album could have been good. Instead like many other artists on major labels he falls prey to the lure of renewed fame and spotlight by chasing after modern appealing sounds and covering a pop starlet. Ronnie Dunn can do better and has shown this many times throughout his career in Brooks and Dunn. But he’ll never rediscover it if he continues to chase after something that just isn’t there anymore. You can’t rewind the clock and you can’t re-live the past. You can only move forward from where you’re at now.

Grade: 4/10

 

Recommend? – No

Album Highlights: Only Broken Heart in San Antone, She Don’t Honky Tonk No More, I Worship The Woman You Walked On

Bad Songs: Young Buck, That’s Why They Make Jack Daniels, I Put That There, Still Feels Like Mexico

Wallpaper: I Wanna Love Like That Again, This Old Heart


Review – Tucker Beathard’s “Rock On”

Tucker Beathard Rock On

Oh look, another new artist being shoved down our throats. If there’s one thing Music Row doesn’t run out of, it’s starry-eyed, young artists hoping to be big country stars and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make it big. Nowadays they all have the perfect look that make label executives swoon and Tucker Beathard is no different. It helps tremendously too that Beathard is the son of Casey Beathard, who is a well-known country writer. As Thomas Rhett can attest, nepotism can be a big help. Beathard has been around for a few years, but is just now starting to get a big push as he’s part of Big Machine Label Group’s Dot Records imprint. His new single “Rock On” is the newest pick by the On The Verge program, which ensures singles skyrocket up the airplay chart. You’ve probably never heard of it and it already is up to #30 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.

There’s one thing that stands out clear as day right away to me when I hear “Rock On.” Tucker Beathard is a terrible singer. His voice is absolutely grating to the ears. I would describe his voice as party whiny and part jagged. He could not carry a tune in a bucket. Beathard is basically a quieter, poor man’s Brantley Gilbert as a vocalist. With a voice this bad it’s hard to even listen to the song. Speaking of the song, it’s about a man pondering about an ex who has now moved on and while he wished her the best, he still lives with the regret of not putting a “rock” on her finger. In other words, this guy is sitting around thinking about a relationship that will never happen that he blew and just repeats over and over how he should have committed. While the hook of “rock on” is catchy, that’s about the only appeal I can see to the casual listener. The song just isn’t that interesting, which was written by Beathard, his father and Marla Cannon-Goodman. The generic rock instrumentation is even more boring.

Overall “Rock On” is just another mediocre, generic song that country radio will force down listeners throats. It’s same song, different face. Even if you gave this song to a competent vocalist, the song still wouldn’t be appealing. You know you’re listening to a bad song when three and a half minutes feels like five minutes. I can see this song appealing to fans of Brantley Gilbert and other country artists who churn out rock trying to be country. Otherwise I think once the On The Verge push stops, this song will sink like a rock. Then again Chase Bryant and Lee Brice still manage to find airplay. As long as you’re willing to play the game with country radio, your song will get played. I think a better name for “Rock On” would “Turn Off,” as about 30 seconds of this song will make you want to do the latter.

Grade: 2/10

The Hodgepodge: The Band Perry Has Officially Split from Big Machine Label Group

After a couple of weeks of speculation, The Band Perry and Big Machine Label Group have officially parted ways, as announced on Tuesday March 1st. All this is in light of a failed rebranding process for the band, trying to become a pop anthem powerhouse. After balancing pop and country throughout their first two albums, including some great country songs in “If I Die Young” and the Glen Campbell cover “Gentle on My Mind,” The Band Perry released “Live Forever” as the jump-start for their pop move. “Live Forever” charted poorly, barely scratching the surface of the top 30 before stalling and dropping out.

Reactions to “Live Forever” were mostly negative, and the band’s upcoming album Heart + Beat was delayed, apparently to schedule a collaboration with Nikki Minaj, though that was only a rumor. The band then revealed another song from their new pop arsenal, the hilariously pop/hip-hop anthem “Put Me In The Game Coach.” That song sounded like a forgotten song from Disney’s High School Musical. Saving Country Music dutifully documented the head scratching saga of The Band Perry’s failed move into pop. As the band’s videos disappeared from the internet for 24 hours, then reappeared, many began to wonder if The Band Perry and BMLG were done with one another. And now we know they are.

The group’s turn to pop was doomed to fail from the get-go. It seems either they didn’t know what made good pop music, or the producers didn’t know what to do with them. Either way, the idea of turning from country to pop with a feel-good motivational anthem was the wrong choice. Grady Smith said it best back in December:

Aside from the fact that the songs were terrible, there’s a few of reasons why this turn to pop with the help of a major label has failed. The first could simply be that The Band Perry just isn’t an attractive pop sell. The reason why Taylor Swift’s move to pop has worked is because Taylor Swift developed a fan base who will buy anything she records, even 8 seconds of white noise. Taylor Swift fans idolize Taylor Swift because she’s more than just a singer and songwriter. She was a pillar of strength and comfort for young, teenage girls struggling through high school, and as that initial fan base has grown, so has Taylor’s music. The Band Perry doesn’t have any kind of core fan base, nor are they anything more than just a singing group to those fans.

Secondly, The Band Perry tried too much too soon. The group was just coming off a Grammy award for their recording of the folk country “Gentle on My Mind.” From a business standpoint, how do you not try to capitalize off that? And I’m not saying that every song they recorded needed to sound like “If I Die Young” or be a folky style of country. However, if you want to move to pop and have never really had a true pop song, wouldn’t it make more sense to test the waters with a pop song as an album cut/future single?

As opposed to having “Live Forever” has the lead off single for the third album, maybe they should have had something along the pop-country lines of Kelsea Ballerini as a lead off single, then drop “Live Forever” as a second single after the album is released to first gauge reactions to the song. I understand that releasing the song ahead of the album does gauge reactions and help the label predict the album’s success, just as they did. But if you went with my devil’s advocate scenario, I would think it would make the transition easier, and it would almost guarantee an album release by having a radio pleasing pop country single to rally behind before moving into 100% pop territory. That’s exactly what the Zac Brown Band did with “Homegrown” before eventually sending “Beautiful Drug” to radio.

We don’t know who spearheaded this whole move. Did The Band Perry want to be a pop group selling out arenas with generic anthems, or did the decision makers at Big Machine Label Group want another crossover artist under their belt? From what we know about how these major labels work, I think it’s more likely than not that the latter was the case, and the group was contractually obligated to play along. That’s just a theory and I could be 100% wrong.

Regardless of who was the driving force behind the move, the fact is that the move didn’t work. It was poorly planned, poorly executed, and a majority of people didn’t latch onto the idea. What’s next for The Band Perry is anyone’s guess. The group members remain in high hopes for their future. A release from the label’s chains should allow for them to make the music they want to make. Hopefully that music is the more country stylings the band has brought us over two albums. If that music is the pop direction they were headed, then at least The Band Perry should be able to release that music to their fans who want to hear it. For right now though, the soap opera of The Band Perry has appeared to reach its conclusion while we wait to see what the future holds for this country trio.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Loretta Lynn will release a new album called Full Circle tomorrow.
  • Texas Country singer turned mainstream Granger Smith will release his newest album Remington tomorrow.
  • Chris King’s Animal was pushed back to a release date on March 11.
  • Randy Houser’s newest album, Fired Up, will be released on March 11 as well.
  • On March 18, the Dave Cobb produced Southern Family will be released.
  • Jake Owen’s newest single will be called “American Country Love Song.”
  • Wade Bowen has announced a new album called Then Sings My Soul. The album will be available for pre order starting tomorrow and released on March 18th.
  • Kelsea Ballerini’s newest single will be “Peter Pan.”

Throwback Thursday Song

“Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band – This 2011 single from Zac Brown Band is easily my favorite song from the group. I would even make the argument that “Colder Weather” is one of the best mainstream singles from the past decade. And if you haven’t heard it, the song’s cowriter, Levi Lowrey, performs the song with a third verse that didn’t make it into the Zac Brown Band recording.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

“Waves” by Miguel feat. Kacey Musgraves – “Waves” is a song off Miguel’s third album, Wildheart. Miguel released a 5 song EP with various remixes of his original song, including this one where Kacey Musgraves provides vocals. I like this remix, and Kacey sounds great singing R&B.

Tweet of the Week

Am I allowed to write in candidates when I vote in November? A Willie Nelson presidency would seem to bring promises of better country music!

Two Maren Morris iTunes Reviews

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I don’t get the critique of the first one. Hippie? That’s your only complaint? That’s a stupid reason to hate an EP. The second review though is one I agree with. Maren Morris has a unique vibe to her music that I’m on board with.