Review – Blake Shelton’s “Every Time I Hear That Song”

blake-shelton-every-time-i-hear-that-song

Any longtime reader of Country Perspective will know I haven’t really cared for the music of Blake Shelton in the last few years. Shelton had no problem with making bro country and has been trend hopping ever since with his music. It’s felt like ages since he put out a good single. His current If I’m Honest era has certainly drawn my ire in the singles department (and the artwork department for the outright creepiness). Lead single “Came Here to Forget” both bored and annoyed me, not to mention is a lie. Then there was the obnoxious, outright mean-spirited “She’s Got A Way With Words,” which led to me writing a parody of it. Third single “A Guy with a Girl” was forgettably mediocre. So now that brings us to the album’s fourth single “Every Time I Hear That Song.” Right way we get an annoying electronic, almost buzzing-like sound to open the song. Thankfully it mostly fades away and the song for the most part maintains a safe pop country sound. The song is about how every time the guy hears a song it brings him back to the memories of a past relationship, where the highs and lows of it put him through an emotional roller coaster. It’s a song that relies heavily on the nostalgia factor, that the listener is supposed to really be drawn by. I would be more drawn in if we didn’t get these annoying vocal effects in the chorus (“On your front lawn and oh-oh-oh, I still think about you oh-oh-oh”). It’s just unnecessary and takes away from the song. The lyrics do at least provide solid emotional context and saves the song from being completely weighed down by unnecessary production elements. “Every Time I Hear That Song” is an okay song and while not a high bar to clear, it’s the best single he’s released from If I’m Honest (not counting Christian radio single “Savior’s Shadow” of course).

Grade: 5/10

 

Recommend? – Eh it’s worth a listen I guess

Written by Aimee Mayo, Chris Lindsey, Brad Warren and Brett Warren

Review – Jason Aldean’s “Lights Come On”

Jason Aldean Lights Come On

It’s 2016 and Jason Aldean is still producing absolute shit. One of the things that has allowed Aldean to not only survive, but thrive for so long is his chameleon-like ability to flawlessly appeal to the current popular sound. At the same time he sprinkles in just enough quality on his album cuts to make you not completely hate him. In other words, he perfectly plays the audience. It says a lot when he only made the round of 16 in our Worst Country Artist Tournament, when this is an artist who helped introduce rap to the genre and cranked out bro country with glee. Once upon a time Aldean was a solid artist. Then he went to rap country then bro country then metro bro and now he’s back to making rock music that sounds like country with his new single, “Lights Come On.”

I said above that Aldean loves to appeal to what’s popular, but he doesn’t do that with “Lights Come On” because I don’t hear any club beats or something disco-y. That being said it still isn’t country music. This is just pure arena rock. The blaring guitars and the loud drums populate this song throughout. It’s like a bad Brantley Gilbert from five years ago. As for what the song is about and what it’s trying to say….I got nothing. This song doesn’t say anything. It’s just a bunch of words thrown together with the loud production and Aldean’s boring vocals. I find it hard to focus to even listen to the song, as it just bores me to tears. Just look at the chorus:

When the lights come on, everybody’s screaming
Lighters in the sky, yeah, everybody’s singing
Every word to every song to a girl to take it home tonight
When the lights come on, everybody’s feeling
A hallelujah high from the floor to the ceiling
Yeah, the drink that we’re drinking, the smoke that we’re smoking
The party we throw, it’s going all night long
When the lights come on
When the lights come on

If any of you are up to it, please let me know in the comments what exactly the theme is here. And how many writers did it take to write these genius lyrics? If you’re answer is 6, you’re right. The team of Jimmy Robbins, Jordan Schmidt, Brad Warren, Brett Warren and Florida Georgia Line wrote these lyrics. How in the hell does it take six people to write lines like this:

You’re a crack-of-dawn, Monday-morning, coffee strong
Poured everything you got into a paycheck Friday night
You’re a Powerstroke diesel, backhoe-riding king of beers, 18-wheeler
Driving, living life in between the lines
Of clocking in and quitting time

There’s nothing else to say about a song that has nothing to say. “Lights Come On” is just noise that fills space, nothing more and nothing less. There is absolutely nothing fulfilling or moving about this song. It’s sole purpose was to net radio play and endorsement deals from the likes of Bass Pro Shops and Pepsi. This is worse than terrible music because at least terrible music makes me feel rage and anger. I just want to passively loathe Aldean more after hearing this. But hey I’m sure Aldean fans will love this after drinking about ten overpriced beers at some overpriced music festival this summer. “Lights Come On” is the equivalent of a light, nagging headache. Just avoid it or have some aspirin on-hand after hearing this song.

Grade: 0/10

Album Review – Tim McGraw’s ‘Damn Country Music’

Tim McGraw Damn Country Music

Over the last week there have been two albums everyone in country music has been abuzz about: Eric Church’s surprise new album Mr. Misunderstood and Chris Stapleton’s award-winning Traveller. It’s completely understandable and justified why these two albums are getting so much attention. But when you’re done paying attention to these records, don’t overlook the brand new album from Tim McGraw, Damn Country Music. In the late 2000s, McGraw was embattled in a dispute with his now former label Curb Records and as a result went a while without releasing new music. Finally he was able to move on and join Big Machine Records, which despite having a lot of artists who chase trends, allows more creative freedom for their artists (Maddie & Tae and The Mavericks being great examples). The first album he released under them though, Two Lanes of Freedom, wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. Many thought it might have been best that Curb was preventing him from releasing music.

This was followed by Sundown Heaven Town, with its lead single being “Lookin’ For That Girl,” which is widely regarded as McGraw’s worst single ever. Then McGraw surprised many when Sundown Heaven Town turned out to be a really solid album. He then followed this up with three really good single choices in “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” “Shotgun Rider” and “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools.” All performed well at country radio and many started regarding McGraw as one of the few artists who can regularly bring substance to a country radio climate desperately needing it. In other words, it was a return to what made many enjoy McGraw’s work in the first place. Despite an interesting lead single choice, I was definitely intrigued in what McGraw would bring to the table with his new album Damn Country Music. And as I said up top, you don’t want to overlook this album because it’s pretty good.

This album has a lot of interesting sounds through it, some expected and some unexpected. Well it starts off with the unexpected in “Here Tonight.” It’s a Celtic-folk influenced song where McGraw is joined by his oldest daughter, Gracie McGraw. The theme of the song is living for the moment and enjoying whom you have in your life. It’s an all-around solid song that immediately draws you into the album. This is followed by “Losin’ You,” which is a weird combination of steel guitar and palpable electronic influences. You’re probably expecting me to tear the production on this song apart, but I have to say it grows on you after a while. Still it’s just too loud at points and brings the song down. The songwriting isn’t half bad, but this song just has too many things going on to really get into it.

“How I’ll Always Be” is McGraw’s personal anthem of how he’ll always be country and he has no plans of changing. He’s a fan of the simple life and many country things. The line that best exemplifies this is when McGraw sings, “I’m a little more old Hank Williams than that trendy crap.” The song is a tad cliché, but I feel like this is McGraw’s message to everyone that he has no plans of going back to appealing to trends like when he released “Lookin’ For That Girl” and plans on just being himself. It feels honest, authentic and I think many will feel this when they hear it. The album’s title track is a love letter to country music and how a country song can be so impactful on your life. The steel guitar is present throughout the song and McGraw’s vocals sound great. Once again it’s a reassuring message that McGraw loves country music and putting his money where his mouth is. I see this as a strong contender to be released as a single to radio.

The slightly electronic-influenced “Love Runs” is next. This sounds like your classic Tim McGraw song. Written by Andrew Dorff, Brad Warren and Brett Warren, this is the kind of love song that has made McGraw many fans over the years and will continue to make him new fans. This song just fits him and really is a good fit on country radio in 2015, perfectly balancing between a country sound and a sound that will attract radio listeners. This is one of the highlights of the album and I’ll be surprised if it isn’t a single. “What You’re Lookin’ For” is a heartbreak song about a man realizing his woman has grown tired of him and wants to leave. So he encourages her to walk out the door and go find what she’s looking for instead of continuing something that is clearly over. It’s a mature take from a veteran artist on the standard heartbreak song and something younger artists need to take a cue from. Once again the steel guitar is present throughout, but there’s also some noticeable electronic elements. McGraw balances this just enough to make it sound good and proves this to be another solid song on the album. Damn Country Music’s lead single “Top of the World” follows this. In my initial review of “Top of the World,” I was quite critical of this song. While I’m still not fond of the opening of the song, the song overall has grown on me and while I still wouldn’t call it a good song, it’s not a bad song either. It’s a decent song that is better than most at radio.

The deepest song on the album and the best on it is “Don’t Make Me Feel At Home.” The song is about a man who is having an affair because he feels lonely at home. He’s meeting this woman at a hotel to regain a sense of love and passion again, something that has been missing in his life. The man contemplates whether or not this is right or wrong, basically leaving it up to the listener to decide. A big credit has to be given to the songwriters of “Don’t Make Me Feel At Home,” L. David Lewis and Kim Williams. They craft a brilliant story full of emotion and making the listener think as they hear it, a mark of a truly great song. McGraw tackles love again in “Want You Back.” It’s a mid-tempo ballad written by Ashley Gorley, Hillary Lindsey and Rodney Clawson, a troika that has written many hits. I think they wrote another one in “Want You Back,” as it’s another song I could see doing well at radio. It’s catchy, solidly written and has enough steel guitar for many country fans to appreciate. This is one of the more under-the-radar songs of the album, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Big & Rich join Tim McGraw on “California.” This isn’t a surprise collaboration, as McGraw appeared on their 2014 album Gravity on the song “Lovin’ Lately” (he was also a co-writer of the song too). Their present isn’t heavy though. The song is about a woman who is in love with moving to California and as a result in love with breaking her man’s heart, something the man is well aware of and has accepted. It’s again a solid heartbreak song from McGraw. McGraw closes the album with “Humble And Kind.” It’s a beautiful song about life advice, but above all you should always be humble and kind. The brilliant Lori McKenna wrote this song and kudos to McGraw for putting this on his album. It’s another example of McGraw having a great eye for well-written songs (remember he recorded Chris Stapleton’s “Whiskey and You” over a decade ago). This is one of the must-listens of the album and a fantastic way to conclude Damn Country Music.

I came in expecting to enjoy Damn Country Music, but not this much. The songwriting on this album went well above my expectations, offering a variety of themes and ranges of depth. Ironically, Tim McGraw did not help write a single song on this entire album. In fact he only helped write one on his previous album and none on the album before it too. Most of the time this indicates bad music, but not with McGraw. He has never been known as a brilliant songwriter and instead has a great eye in terms of picking music from talented songwriters. It appears he has followed my advice, which has always been if you can’t write something good, go find people who can. The instrumentation on here is really good too. Even his dabbling in electronic influences are interesting. I definitely recommend this album and I’m excited to see what singles get released from it, as there are plenty of great choices. Damn Country Music is one of the better mainstream country albums I’ve heard in 2015.

Grade: 8/10

 

 

There’s more official audio of the album on McGraw’s YouTube page, which you can find here.

Review – Michael Ray’s “Real Men Love Jesus” is Trash in Every Way

Michael Ray, a pretty face from Florida singing pop country, somehow got a number one song in country music with his debut single. Ray was pushed, pulled, molded and thrown up to the number one spot on the airplay chart with “Kiss You In The Morning”, an ultra-cliché, paint by the numbers bro country hookup anthem. Naturally, with a successful debut single, it makes sense to release a follow-up single to radio. And Ray picks a song that’s even more cliché and stupid: “Real Men Love Jesus.”

I don’t even know where to begin to dissect this lyrical train wreck. I guess the easy place to start is how many cliché “country boy” tropes Ray sings about. Excuse me, these are tropes about “real men” not country boys. (I’ll get to this in a bit). Writers Lance Miller, Adam Sanders, along with Brett and Brad Warren hit on just about every single piece of country cliché imaginable. Fishing, fast cars, football, cowboys, outlaws, living life too fast, dancing, pretty girls dancing, cold beer, blue-collar pride, mama, fighting when necessary, charming, and never giving up. Oh, and a reference to a classic country song. It’s like they only listened to the third verse of “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” to learn how to write a country song. Honestly, the only thing that’s missing here is American pride. Quite frankly, I’m glad we’re spared a shoehorned line about loving the troops, unlike another Adam Sanders penned song.

But here’s the kicker of it all. According to the song, if you don’t like or do any of the things mentioned, you’re not a real man. If you prefer beer and conversation on the patio with a buddy over a dance club, you don’t exist as a man. If you work a white-collar job where your hands don’t get dirty, might as well hand in your man card now. And if you don’t believe in Jesus, then you’re a fake man. This song is 100% pandering bullshit to southern white males. All the damn tropes these writers toss into this mess have all been used to describe country boys, but have simply changed the description to “real men.” That’s got to be the most close-minded view of gender since RaeLynn.  I can’t even put into words how terrible this damn song is without turning this review into an f-word infested essay, and even that might be a better read then these dumb-ass lyrics.

This song flat-out sucks. I don’t care that the instrumentation is a mid-tempo acoustic melody that actually resembles country music. Johnny Cash could sing these lyrics and it would still be a terrible song. In fact, if Cash wrote and sang a song called “Real Men Love Jesus” then it might actually be good. Cash has a better head on his shoulders than the five people who wrote and sang this song combined. After I heard “Kiss You In The Morning” I didn’t think there could be a more clichéd song in existence. And I can’t believe I’ve been proven wrong. “Real Men Love Jesus” is shit and Michael Ray should stop making music if he’s going to continue recording cliché-ridden, boring, stupid, pandering, shitty songs.

Grade: 0/10

I’m not linking this garbage. Instead, here’s a better song about being a “real” southern man.