Album Review — Brett Eldredge’s ‘Sunday Drive’

“What in the world are we all doin’ here?”

They say first impressions are important, whether it’s the first time you meet somebody or the first time you’re listening to a piece of music. Right away Brett Eldredge leaves an impactful first impression with his new album Sunday Drive. It’s such an important question that can resonate with anyone listening. Right away Eldredge reaches out to the listener and makes a connection, inviting them into the music.

The question also indicates the start of a clear turning point in the career of Brett Eldredge. Leading up this album, Eldredge made clear that this material is much different than his previous music. He enlisted Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk as producers, the same duo who produced the genre-boundary pushing Golden Hour from Kacey Musgraves. It showed all the makings of an artist who is ready to fulfill their full potential. But yet the cynic in me wanted to hear for myself to truly be convinced. Once Eldredge uttered this opening line, I realized I was listening to an artist that is truly ready to deliver a memorable album. And then he continues to deliver until the last note is played on “Paris Illinois.”

What’s truly remarkable about this album is how it manages to capture such a broad range of emotions in a painstakingly honest and human way. The lyrics keep it simple and certainly won’t be mistaken for the complexity of Jason Isbell or John Moreland. Yet they convey the same emotional depth because they come from a place of true introspection and personal experience. When you pair this with production that is colorful, vibrant and makes the lyrics come to life, it feels more almost like a movie experience, as I can picture each of these songs in my head as I listen. The only other album released in 2020 I can say this about is The Weeknd’s After Hours.

While every song on this album is great, the two clear standouts are “Sunday Drive” and “Then You Do.” The former grapples with growth and mortality, as Eldredge reflects on the life lessons bestowed upon him by his parents in such simple moments and how their love is still strong as they reach older age. It’s a beautifully sad and happy song, showing the never-ending cycle of life and death. The latter song is a perfect description of the roller coaster of finding relationships and love. It’s surprisingly unexpected, both the joyful discovery of the beginning and painful crashing of the end of it. Just when you think you have it all figured out, then it all changes and you have to begin anew. In a world full of head-in-the-clouds love songs that only highlight the highs and heartbreak songs that only show the lows, this song manages to brilliantly capture the in-between that most people are experiencing.

While there is a sad undertone in several moments throughout this album, there are also many uplifting, happy moments. “The One You Need,” “Crowd My Mind” and “Fall For Me” are great love songs that put Eldredge’s soulful side on display. This is a side I’ve been wanting to see Eldredge show more, as his voice has the passion and warmth suited for soulful love songs. He may not have the raw power that blows you away like Chris Stapleton, but his charisma and polished delivery make up for this.

As I alluded to in the beginning of this review, “Where The Heart Is” is a fantastic choice for an opening song, as it sets the tone well and lets you know right away what this album is in terms of message and sound. “Magnolia” and “Gabrielle” are the more pop country songs of the album. The first is a fun look back at falling in love for the first time and I enjoy the descriptive nature of the track, as Eldredge describes the moment in time with lots of little details that help paint the picture. When “Gabrielle” was first released, I found it to be repetitive. But upon more listens within the context of the album, it’s grown a lot on me and fits perfectly with the theme. This song examines lost love and the lingering questions from what might have been between the once couple. I love the mature approach this song takes, not showing malice or ill will, instead taking the high road and realizing the lessons learned in order to move forward.

“Good Day” immediately made me think of Don Williams’ “Lord, I Hope this Day is Good.” Both songs see the narrator striving and looking for hope and optimism, even if the world around them isn’t looking so good. This is certainly the type of upbeat song we could use in this pandemic world in which we currently live. Eldredge’s lively deliver certainly brings a smile to my face. His bright delivery shines again on “When I Die,” another song with a great message about living life to the fullest and not getting caught up in the problems of yesterday.

There are many excellent production moments on this album, but I particularly enjoy the horns that sneak in on “Fix a Heart” and “Paris Illinois.” The catchiness of the chorus on “Fix a Heart” immediately hooks me and the redemption arc angle of the lyrics feel heartfelt instead of the mawkish selfishness that seems to permeate so many boyfriend country songs that attempt this same angle. The subdued and reserved “Paris Illinois” is the nice sentimental cap off to this album, closing with some comfortably soft horns that make you reflect on the music you just heard.

This is easily the most surprised I’ve felt listening to an album this year. There could not be more of a stark contrast between Sunday Drive and Brett Eldredge’s previous album. It’s simply night and day. Every moment on this album is absolutely enjoyable. The lyrics and production could not shine and compliment each other anymore. Brett Eldredge has never sounded more energized and is at his absolute best on this record. There’s no other way to put it: Sunday Drive is a phenomenal album. 

Grade: 10/10

Review – Brett Eldredge’s “Somethin’ I’m Good At”

brett-eldredge-somethin-im-good-at

Sleepy. Boring. Sappy. Three words that sum up some of Brett Eldredge’s most recent singles. While Eldredge was one of the many who indulged in and gained fame from chasing bro country, you certainly wouldn’t put him amongst the group’s worst offenders. Not only does he have a solid voice, he’s really played it safe most of his career. You look at his singles from his sophomore album Illinois and they’re closer to Chris Young than they are to say Luke Bryan. So I would say the biggest complaint about Eldredge up to this point has been really not standing out and producing boring, forgettable songs. This is almost worse than bro country because when you fail to stand out, you tend to get lost in the shuffle really quick. Eldredge seemed to wisely pick up on this too, as the promotion for his new single “Somethin’ I’m Good At” promised more “tempo” and a song that’s more reflective of his zany personality he displays on social media. And after listening to this song these claims are very much true. It’s a stark contrast to previous singles, as this song is bubbly, upbeat and fun from the start. It’s quite refreshing. The song is about a guy not being a good at a lot and really just being an overall klutz, based off of Eldredge’s self-admitted personality. Despite all of these things he can’t do though, he is good at making his love smile. Sure this is a little cheesy on paper, but the song tactfully has a playful and light air about it. It’s just a fun anthem for the dorky, lovable loser. For some this might be too cute and I can see the song wearing thin after a lot of listens. But for me this song hits just right. I enjoy the message it sends and it’s the kind of laid back, loose song we need in a cynical world. Eldredge finally releases a song that suits him and lets his personality shine. There’s a great sense genuineness that shines through on “Somethin’ I’m Good At” that makes it really easy to enjoy.

Grade: 7/10

 

Recommend? – Yes

Written by Brett Eldredge and Tom Douglas

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [January 23]

Creepy Blake
You get another week of creepy eyes staring back at you. Hey don’t blame me, blame country radio.

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 
  2. Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3 (Up 2)
  3. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” (Down 1)
  4. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Up 1) 
  5. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 (Down 2)
  6. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 2)
  7. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 3) 
  8. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Up 1)
  9. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 (Up 2)
  10. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 (Up 4) [Worst Song]
  11. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Up 1) [Best Song] 
  12. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 3)
  13. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 3)
  14. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 (Down 1)
  15. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Up 2)
  16. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 (Up 3)
  17. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 (Up 1)
  18. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 4)
  19. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 2)
  20. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”
  21. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Up 2)
  22. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” (Up 2)
  23. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 (Up 4)
  24. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Up 2)
  25. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 
  26. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 (Up 2)
  27. Lady Antebellum – “You Look Good” -4 (New to Top 30)
  28. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 (Up 1)
  29. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” (Up 1)
  30. Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” +2 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -28

The pulse drops three spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” 0
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” +1

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Lady Antebellum – “You Look Good”
  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends”
    • This is the second single from Lambert’s great album The Weight of These Wings. It’s certainly not as good as previous single “Vice” and this is probably one of the lesser songs of the album. That being said it’s solid. It’s a clever song about Lambert identifying who she has a friend in, from the frankly honest to the heartbroken. She keeps the song simple and it works. I’m not sure if country radio will get behind it, but it should at least reach top 20/top 15 I think. It should also be pointed out Lambert wrote this one completely herself. While this is certainly not a highlight of her most recent album, one of Lambert’s lesser songs still beats most of the songs at country radio right now. 7/10

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” – Up 4 from #27 to #23
  • Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” – Up 4 from #22 to #18
  • Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” – Up 3 from #10 to #7

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” – Down 2 from #3 to #5

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” (Another bad week and yet again keeps the bullet)
  • Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” (Also had another bad week and is still here)
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine” (This one continues to stay alive too)
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” (Insert what I said above)
  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” – (Bad sales and a really bad week at radio. Also lost bullet. Needs a lot of help to prevent going recurrent)

On The Hot Seat:

  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Call me crazy, but I have the strangest feeling this will somehow luck it’s way into the top ten. It’s odds of making top 15 are pretty good. If it does, I’m gonna laugh so damn hard that Garth has a top ten at country radio in 2017.)
  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Dan + Shay – “How Not To”
  • Runaway June – “Lipstick”
  • Rascal Flatts – “Yours if You Want It”
  • RaeLynn – “Love Triangle”

Note: Well on the bright side, there’s five solo women artists in the top 30 and I can’t remember the last time this has happened. On the obvious negative side of course, the pulse just continues to plunge. This week you can blame Lady Antebellum and their horrible new song. Also labels and their incessant gerrymandering to keep 40 week plus old songs around.

 

As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below. 

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [January 17]

Creepy Blake

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 2)
  2. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” [Carrie missed #1 on Billboard by about 50k in audience]
  3. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 (Down 2)
  4. Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3 (Up 3)
  5. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Down 1)
  6. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Up 2)
  7. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” +1 (Down 2) 
  8. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 2)
  9. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Up 2)
  10. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 2) 
  11. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 (Up 3)
  12. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Up 3) [Best Song] 
  13. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1
  14. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 (Up 2) [Worst Song]
  15. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 2)
  16. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 2)
  17. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Up 3)
  18. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 (Up 1)
  19. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 (Up 2)
  20. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Up 2)
  21. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 3)
  22. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 4)
  23. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 
  24. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” (Up 1)
  25. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (Up 2)
  26. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Up 2)
  27. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 (New to Top 30)
  28. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 (Up 1)
  29. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 (Up 1)
  30. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -25

The pulse drops three spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 
  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (On the bright side it’s always great to see Old Dominion leave the top 30. On the bad side, that means they’re probably releasing new music soon. Joy.)

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World”
    • Ooooh! A new Kenny Chesney single. How exciting! I’m sure he’s got something really creative and innovative for us. Okay enough with the sarcasm. When I reviewed this song on the album review, I didn’t really have anything to say except a bad joke about it. Well there’s nothing really changed. This song is one big snooze fest with Chesney singing of course about getting drunk at a bar and the beach and the sun and for the love of all things holy can Chesney even bother to sound like he’s trying? He’s worse at covering up his mailed-in singles than Aldean. I’m just so sick of Chesney at this point and his complete failure to innovate in any way, shape or form. This song is bland as hell and you’ll forget it as soon as it ends. 2/10
  • Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”
    • Originally when I reviewed this (all the way back in July) I gave this 7/10. I must have been in a great mood that day because this song just isn’t doing as much for me now. The lyrics are still good, but this production is just blah and can get sleepy after multiple listens. So this will fit right in with what’s popular right now. At least Rucker isn’t singing bro country anymore (I think the last time he was here was with “Homegrown Honey”). Revised grade: 5/10

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” – Up 10 from #37 to #27
  • Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” – Up 4 from #26 to #22
  • Brad Paisley – “Today” – Up 3 from #14 to #11
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” – Up 3 from #15 to #12

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – Down 2 from #5 to #7

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” (Really bad week, as it lost 400k in audience. This shouldn’t be too far from recurrent. Only good news is it kept its bullet.)
  • Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” (Well at least new Stapleton music is coming soon)
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine” (How is this still here?)
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” (Still holding on, but by a thread. Pure luck it’s still here)
  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” (Looks dead in the water and done to me)

On The Hot Seat:

  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (The fact this made top 20 in 2017 is surprising. It’s now going to be hitting a lot of resistance and I don’t like it’s odds of hanging around. But I said this a month ago too.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends”
  • Dan + Shay – “How Not To”
  • Runaway June – “Lipstick”
  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know”

Note: The new year’s cleaning appears to be underway. Next week at least four and maybe up to six songs could go recurrent. Not to mention Lady Antebellum is dropping a new single later this week, Sam Hunt is expected to have a new single in February and a host of other new songs are going to be impacting. I don’t have the best feeling about these new songs, but I’m hopeful for some surprises.

 

As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below. 

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [January 9]

shrug

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 
  2. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” (Up 1)
  3. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 1)
  4. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Down 2)
  5. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” +1 (Up 1)
  6. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 (Down 1)
  7. Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3 
  8. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Up 1)
  9. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (Down 1)
  10. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 1)
  11. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Down 1)
  12. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 
  13. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 (Up 2)
  14. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 
  15. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Down 2) [Best Song] 
  16. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 [Worst Song]
  17. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 
  18. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 2)
  19. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 
  20. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Down 2)
  21. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 
  22. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”
  23. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 
  24. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5
  25. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” 0
  26. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 2)
  27. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1
  28. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Down 2)
  29. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 
  30. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -22

The pulse stayed the same this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • None

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • None (The chart is readjusting to the New Year and normal schedule. There should be a lot of movement in the coming weeks, as there are plenty of songs that need to be cleaned off the charts to make way for new.)

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” – Up 2 from #15 to #13
  • Luke Bryan – “Fast” – Up 2 from #20 to #18
  • Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” – Up 2 from #28 to #26

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” – Down 2 from #2 to #4
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” – Down 2 from #13 to #15
  • Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” – Down 2 from #18 to #20
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” – Down 2 from #26 to #28

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” (Unfortunately has hit its peak. Expect a new McGraw single soon)
  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” (This one hopped back into the top five as it lost its bullet, so I’m not sure how the new recurrent rule will play into effect here)
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” (Paltry gains again, as this songs looks pretty much done. Radio never took to it)

On The Hot Seat:

  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” (I would be more positive about this song if it wasn’t currently sitting at 39 weeks on the chart. It will need label pushing to stick around)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”
  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends”
  • Dan + Shay – “How Not To”
  • Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World”

 

As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below.