Throwback Community Review – Chris Young’s “Aw Naw”

Welcome to Country Perspective’s newest weekly feature, Throwback Community Review! Many of you enjoyed a previous similar feature The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music and it was one of the main inspirations behind this feature. It’s quite simple: each week there will at least one of these. I will present some information about the song and of course a video to listen to it. You will then take to the comments delivering your thoughts and a grade, on a scale from 1-10. Your grades will be averaged to get the community grade for the song. The comments will be open for a few days before I close them to tabulate the average. Songs from any era of country music could go show up here and I’m open to suggestions for future featuring in this space.

Last Week’s Community Grade: Josh Turner’s “Would You Go With Me”7.9

This week we take a look at…

chris-young-an

Artist: Chris Young

Song: “Aw Naw”

Released: May 13, 2013

Written by: Chris Young, Chris DeStefano and Ashley Gorley

Producer: James Stroud

Background: This was the lead single from Chris Young’s fourth album A.M. The single went on to peak at #3 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100. It went on to be certified platinum.

See you in the comments with my own thoughts and grade!

 

Community Grade: 2.4

Album Review – Carrie Underwood’s ‘Storyteller’

Carrie Underwood Storyteller

Over the last few years in country music, female artists have struggled to standout and get played on country radio. Well unless your name is Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood. They haven’t struggled a bit and are regularly featured. Underwood in particularly has really been shining with her singles, as in the last year she has received heaps of praise for them. “Something In The Water” won a Grammy and universally praised by country fans. “Little Toy Guns” had a more pop sound than many liked, but it’s challenging theme and solid songwriting made it standout in the vast wasteland of mainstream country. And her latest single “Smoke Break” is on pace to reach #1 at country radio. This has helped build hype to her new album Storyteller, which has been highly anticipated for months. Underwood promised this album had more twang and more emphasis on telling a story than her previous records, something that piqued my attention. And after listening to this album, this proved to be right. This album also proved to be more complex and connected than it appears on the surface.

Storyteller begins with “Renegade Runaway,” a song that borrows from country, pop and rock to create an interesting sound. The song is essentially a modern-day Bonnie & Clyde-type anthem. I didn’t know what to make of this song after the first few listens, but there’s something about this that makes it enjoyable to my ears, whether it’s the exciting production or Underwood’s vocals. “Dirty Laundry” is about a woman catching her man cheating on her by looking through his dirty laundry and finding stains that are clear evidence of it (perfume and red wine). The phrase “dirty laundry” works as a double entendre in this situation, as his dirty laundry is the dirty laundry that hangs him out to dry and exposes him as a cheater. It’s a solid song, although I thought the instrumentation could be better.

“Church Bells” is an interesting song about a woman falling in love with an “oil man” who she thought was Mr. Right. She was picturing the wedding and the whole nine yards until one night he shows his true colors and hits her out of rage. She gets her revenge by slipping something into his whiskey one night and he dies without anyone knowing what happened. Now I know I’ve said before that answering a wrong with violence is…well wrong. But when it comes to this story I don’t have as much of an issue, even though violence shouldn’t ever be the answer to anything. Then again when you hit a woman I lose any respect for you, so you kind of get what you deserve (what goes around comes around). I will say the songwriting on this is good, despite the production being a little overboard.

One of the more confusing songs on the entire album is “Heartbeat.” This is basically Luke Bryan’s “Strip It Down” or Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” from the female perspective. From the reference to partying in the city to the R&B-styled production, this is no different from those songs. Hunt is also the male background singer on the song. This song might have had a chance at being a romantic love ballad if it was actually country, but instead it chases trends and ruins the song. The lead single “Smoke Break” follows. As I said in my original review, this song does a great job of balancing appeal to the roots of country music and what radio wants. From my review: The song itself is an ode to the working class person. The protagonists of the song are a woman and a man who both work their asses off. Both are clearly tired. Neither drink or smoke, but wouldn’t mind a drink or smoke break. Now some might imply this as literal, but I think the songwriters here (Underwood, Chris DeStefano and Hillary Lindsey) are implying it’s just an expression.

My favorite song on the album is “Choctaw County Affair.” It’s a murder ballad about a couple who thought they could get away with murder, but in the end it catches up with them. I found it slightly humorous how Underwood sings about how one half of the couple, Cassie O’Grady, is painted as the “All-American cheerleader type” when she’s really a cold-hearted “gold digger.” If you recall Underwood had a single a few years back called “All-American Girl” that was nauseatingly clichéd. That song made me roll my eyes because in many instances this good girl is just putting on a front and “Choctaw County Affair” goes there with that thinking. At first I thought the production was a little overdone (and if you think that I understand), but to me it gets it just right. I especially enjoy the harmonica play from Travis Meadows. On an album called Storyteller, this song exemplifies the name the most and credit to the writer of the song Jason White (who also wrote the controversial Tim McGraw song “Red Ragtop” and Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Ain’t It Enough”).

“Like I’ll Never Love You Again” is a rare love ballad from Underwood, who is on record as to saying she doesn’t like to record these type of songs very often because they’re cheesy. It’s a very sweet, heartfelt song that fits Underwood perfectly. It also feels very genuine coming from Underwood, which is important when trying to get people to connect to a serious love song. The songwriting is solid through and through, as Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose wrote it. There are many songs I had to listen to on Storyteller to fully grasp and get a hold of and “Chaser” was one of them. It’s another song where Underwood melds together country, pop and rock to create a weird sound. It feels like this song doesn’t know what it wants to be. If it maintains it’s high energy in the chorus throughout it, I think I would like it more, but the roller coaster energy throughout it makes the song a middle of the road tune at best. Underwood shows off more of her pop rock side on “Relapse.” The production drags this song down, as once again it’s kind of bizarre and indecisive.

The sound of a ticking clock plays in “Clocks Don’t Stop.” This is pretty much a straight pop song and feature the worst lyrics of the album. Chris DeStefano, Hillary Lindsey and Blair Daly are the writers of the song. Everyone is familiar with the first two for the most part, but Daly is probably not so familiar. Well actually she’s more familiar to you than you think, as she co-wrote Maddie & Tae’s “Your Side of Town” (the worst song on their debut album) and helped write many of the songs on Kip Moore’s new album, including his current single “Running For You.” The production in this song is just as bad, making the song very easy to skip. Another standout of the album is hands down “The Girl You Think I Am.” The song is about how Carrie’s parents have always believed in her and thought the best of her, making her strive to be as great as they say she is. It’s an easy song for many to connect with, especially those who have parents like in the song who believe in you fully and push you to reach your potential. Everything about this song flows together well and would love to see it released as a single.

“Mexico” is another Bonnie & Clyde-like tale about being on the run and heading for Mexico to escape the police. Going into this song I was expecting a sunny, summer tune, but I probably shouldn’t have considering Underwood has never did these types of songs. This is the type of song that will grow on you the more you hear it. Storyteller comes to a close with “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted.” It’s another song where Carrie draws from her current life. Underwood sings about how she never envisioned herself being married and having a kid, but now she realizes this is what she always wanted. This song has a couple of production missteps, but not enough to take away from this well-written song. I would have added a little more piano and some acoustic guitar to make it feel more heartfelt. Nevertheless, it’s a solid song and an appropriate way to end the album.

Carrie Underwood’s Storyteller is an album that lived up to expectations in some areas and disappointed in others. Her promise of more twang and rock influences definitely showed and for the most part was good. The songwriting was undoubtedly the biggest highlight of the album, as it was varied and interesting. I give a lot of credit for Underwood having a hand in writing many of the songs and reaching out to talented songwriters to contribute to the album who deserve more attention. And of course Underwood’s vocals shined, but that’s almost always the case. Where this album disappointed me the most was with the production and the amount of pop influences at times. It dragged down too many songs and some of them should have been left off the album entirely. Also Sam Hunt should never be involved with a Carrie Underwood song, even if it’s something that’s seemingly harmless like background vocals. Overall I think Storyteller will be loved and hated by many, as early on it’s proving to be divisive amongst fans and critics alike. At the end of the day I found this album to more good than bad and I mostly enjoyed it. What will determine if you like this album is how much emphasis you put on instrumentation and songwriting.

Grade: 7/10

 

Review – Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break”

Carrie Underwood Smoke Break

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, a much-hyped Carrie Underwood announcement has been building in anticipation for a week. Well that event finally came yesterday evening (8/20) and we got two big announcements from Underwood. The first announcement is that she will be releasing a brand new album on October 23 titled Storyteller. The second announcement was the immediate release of the new, lead single from the album, “Smoke Break.” For those who aren’t on Twitter or happened to miss it, I highlighted the most interesting answer from Carrie’s Q&A on Facebook yesterday (which is worth a read) and it was in regards to the influence on her new album. Here it is:

https://twitter.com/realcountryview/status/634481340361142273?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

I don’t know about you, but this sounds pretty promising. Storytelling, traditional and twangy are the three words I like to hear in regards to a country album. This will be her first new album of completely new songs since the 2012 release Blown Away. Last year of course she released a greatest hits album with two new songs, “Something In The Water” and “Little Toy Guns.” Both singles were good, especially the former as it won a Grammy for Best Country Solo performance this past year. So this new single “Smoke Break” certainly had lofty heights to live up to, as the previous singles set the bar high.

Does it meet the standard Underwood has set? Yes. There’s definitely a twanginess to the song, so Underwood lives up to this promise at least with this song. Leading up to this announcement there were a lot of murmurs of her adding more of a rock influence to her music and that can definitely be heard here too. I’ve always said if country artists want to borrow from another genre, it should be rock, as it’s the closest to country in sonic compatibility. A combination of guitars and drums make up the instrumentation for the most part, although there is also a much welcome organ, in addition to electric guitars, that makes an appearance in the bridge of the song. I think the instrumentation does a great job of balancing between having traditional roots and having a fun enough sound for country radio.

The song itself is an ode to the working class person. The protagonists of the song are a woman and a man who both work their asses off. The woman has to work three jobs and feed four kids. She finds it hard to be a good wife, good mother and good Christian (I like to think this last part has a little snarky sarcasm). The man is trying to work his way up the ladder in the world, as he’s the first from his family to go to college. Both are clearly tired. Neither drink or smoke, but wouldn’t mind a drink or smoke break. Now some might imply this as literal, but I think the songwriters here (Underwood, Chris DeStefano and Hillary Lindsey) are implying it’s just an expression. I’m sure many of you have heard someone utter the phrase after a long day at work, “I could use a stiff drink” or “I could use a smoke.” I don’t really do either, yet I’ve probably uttered both phrases many times. It’s just something you spit out after a frustrating day or week.

While this isn’t a serious song like the last two singles, I think it’s a nice change of pace for Underwood. She was due to release a more relaxed and fun song. I think it’s a song many people can connect with and relate to, especially the working class person. On top of that Underwood keeps the sound very much rooted in country rock, something right in her wheelhouse. When she went with a more pop sound for a while, I was disappointed as it not only sounded worse, but it didn’t sound like it fit her well either. I’m glad she’s going with something that suits her again and let’s her big voice shine. “Smoke Break” is just the type of song that I’ve been wanting to hear on country radio. I definitely recommend this song and I’m looking forward to what Underwood has to offer on her new album Storyteller.

Grade: 8/10

Review – Luke Bryan’s “Kick The Dust Up”

Luke Bryan Kick The Dust Up

Once upon a time in 2013 Luke Bryan released one of the worst country songs of all-time. It was called “That’s My Kind of Night.” It was this song, along with Florida Georgia Line’s cover of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” (of all songs) that made me reach my absolute breaking point with mainstream country music. It was at that moment I started my crusade against bro country (I had just came back to country music after taking a months long hiatus). That is why I throw most of my venom towards Bryan and Florida Georgia Line, as they have the most blood on their hands. Fast-forward to today where Florida Georgia Line is slowing losing relevancy and Luke Bryan just released a new single titled “Kick The Dust Up.” The writers of the song are the exact same troika that wrote “That’s My Kind of Night”: Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley and Dallas Davidson. I never got a chance to pick apart the 2013 hit, but this new single is practically a clone. So let me explain why “Kick The Dust Up” sucks.

Let’s look at the lyrics first, as we start from the top. Here are the opening lyrics of the song:

All week long it’s a farming town making that money grow
Tractors, trucks with flashing lights backing up a two lane road
They take one last lap around, That sun up high goes down and
That song come on girl kick it on back Z71 like a Cadillac

First is the obligatory mention of something related to farming, an earmark of Bryan songs. This is to show everyone how “country” he is because he’s talking about tractors and trucks. And then of course the namedropping of a brand of car, another cliché regularly used in bro country songs. Dallas Davidson’s trademark word “girls” is here too. Remember how much he loves to to use this word or a variation?

Next is the chorus:

We go way out where there ain’t nobody, We turn this cornfield into a party
Pedal to the floorboard end up in a four door burning up the backroad song.
Park it and we pile out, baby watch your step down, Better have your boots on.
Kick the dust up,
back it on up,
fill your cup up,
Let’s tear it up up
And kick the dust up.

And we’re back to the damn cornfields, as this is one of the bros favorite spots to party. It’s important to note it’s on the backroads too, as this shows you’re a “badass outlaw.” More clichés are thrown in: parking, boots and a cup getting filled up. But is it a Dixie cup? How could you not specify, Bryan? This is important stuff!

Bryan then subtly rips the city life in the middle of the song because once again you have to mock those “city boys” for not living life like the bros:

Downtown they got a line of people waiting out the door.
10 dollar drinks, it’s packed inside, I don’t know what their waiting for.
Got me a jar full of ‘Clear and I got that music for your ears
And it’s like knock knock knock goes the diesel,
If you really wanna see the beautiful people

But wait a minute! I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the bro country artists sing about hanging out in clubs. Do they only go there when the country boys aren’t looking? You asshat bro country artists can’t even keep your story straight. Then there’s the obligatory mention of moonshine because country boys don’t drink those fancy city drinks. This is followed by the most douche line I’ve ever heard in a bro country song: And it’s like knock knock knock goes the diesel. I bet Davidson was smiling ear-to-ear as he wrote this horrendous line. Ah, but there is one more line in the song I need to address:

Just follow me down ‘neath the 32 bridge you all gonna be glad you did.

And there it is. The entire premise of every bro country song: trying to have sex down by the (insert bro destination). This time it’s a bridge. This is the same old damn shit we’ve heard for the last three years. As for the instrumentation, it’s a pop, rock, adult contemporary arrangement for the most part. The exception is a Middle Eastern guitar riff that cuts in on the first chorus and plays intermittently for the rest of the song. This is the only part of this song that I don’t hate. But why is it in the song? It doesn’t make any sense at all nor does it match the theme. My guess is that it was thrown in because they thought it sounded cool. Remember we’re not dealing with musicians here, just hit makers looking for more cash.

This isn’t as bad as “That’s My Kind of Night,” but I don’t think even this trio of writers could pen such a terrible song that could top it. “Kick The Dust Up” is still a horrendous song that only contributes more to the gaping black-hole of creativity on country radio right now. Bryan is still churning out the same exact music he was putting out in 2013. In two years time he hasn’t changed a thing. Why? He hasn’t changed because he knows the mainstream country music fans will gobble this turd up just like the previous ones. We can blame these assholes making bro country all we want, but if fans out there keep accepting this kind of trash as music then they’re just as much to blame for country music’s problems too. So if you want to help country music: avoid this song at all cost and go listen to quality country music. Support the artists that deserve it. You can make a difference. “Kick The Dust Up” is just another black eye on the face of country music.

Grade: 0/10

Album Review & Rant – Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes

(Warning: The following review/rant contains strong language and is intended for mature audiences, which I guess eliminates fans of Florida Georgia Line. Anyway you’ve been warned the language is graphic in this post.)

You thought you could fool everybody? You sneaky bastards thought if you put one decent song out it would keep the critics quiet. That only worked for a couple of weeks. Once I heard your other new singles, Florida Georgia Line I knew you were back to the same old shit. After listening to Anything Goes my thoughts are confirmed. There’s been a lot of bad music released this year, especially here in recent weeks. But the music wasn’t bad enough to make me angry. It was just boring, repetitive and forgettable. This Florida Georgia Line album is all of these things too, but the lyrics in some of these songs are so damn bad that it made me question why I even listen to country music. But then I look at my music library and reminded myself that Florida Georgia Line isn’t country music. It’s just straight up garbage in any genre. Prepare yourself for this review. It gets bumpy.

The Best Song on the Album

Normally it says best songs above, but there’s only good song on this entire album and it’s “Dirt.” This song is true saving grace from this album being a complete waste of time. And really after hearing “Dirt” so many times on the radio it doesn’t sound as good as I originally thought. If you missed my review of that single back in July, click here. I’m not going to waste any more words on it because it’s truly the huge anomaly of this album and really Florida Georgia Line’s career. I wouldn’t be surprised if they never made a good song again.

The Worst Songs on the Album

The rest of the album is basically a pile of crap, so let’s just take it from the top. “Anything Goes” immediately kicks off with auto-tuned hick-hop. My first thought is what did I get myself into? Did you miss the immature and stupid lyrics from these assholes? Well you’re in luck. Everything about this trashy, pop country song is bad. Hubbard’s vocals are flat as usual and the auto-tune is layered on thick. The lyrics are even worse in “Sun Daze.” One of the opening lyrics to this song: “Rock a little bit of hip hop and Haggard and Jagger.” Are you kidding me? The duo goes full asshat douchebag in this song from the production to the lyrics. And then of course the infamous line that has been discussed among serious country music critics for weeks: “Sit you up on the kitchen sink and stick a pink umbrella in your drink.” I think you know what the sexual innuendo is here. I had to stop after hearing this line. This is a bonafide candidate for worst country song of the year.

The next song is called “Good Good.” I’m not joking. What a creative title! It’s just another damn party, feel good song. Shania Twain is name-dropped, which I’m sure will please traditional country fans. You will lose a few IQ points after listening to this ridiculous song. It’s as smart as the “creative” title. “Smile” is about….all who am I kidding. It’s the same old shit from Florida Georgia Line on this song. They’re drinking and trying to screw some girl. That is all they do. If actual songwriters got a hold of this song it could’ve been a sentimental song. Instead it’s just another overproduced pile of shit. The writers of this song are Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley and the king of shit mountain himself Dallas Davidson. Surprisingly this is the only appearance by Davidson in the album.

Other than “Dirt” every single song literally has the same theme up to this point. “Sippin’ On Fire” is about drinking Fireball, but that’s name-dropped in every Florida Georgia Line song. At this point it’s just getting boring. I guess this song is supposed to be a slower song, but to me it’s just another bad song. In the first minute of “Smoke” every single bro country trope is mentioned. I guess to let you know right off the bat that this song also sucks. I just don’t see how anyone can like these songs. They all sound the same, with just rearranged lyrics. If you can stomach the bro country tropes this song isn’t the worst. But then again the bar hasn’t exactly been set high with this duo. The song is about remembering a past girlfriend and actually could’ve been a great song if they just took away all of the horrible, cliché lyrics. “Bumpin’ The Night” is a hooking up, drinking song where I can say pretty much the same thing about it as I just did with “Smoke.”

I can’t prepare you for the next song “Angel.” Part of the chorus for this song is one of the cheesiest pickup lines of all-time. You know the one I’m talking about. This is actually verbatim: “Did it hurt when you fell from the sky?” Hahahahaha! Holy shit! Once you stop laughing from the amount of cheesiness in the chorus the duo actually attempts to be serious in this song. You can’t be taken serious though after uttering such a cliché line. The bro country tropes are light. But the instrumentation is way overproduced. Another song if re-written that could’ve been good. I’m thankful they at least provided this moment of comic relief.

“Confession” actually isn’t a party song. Color me shocked! It’s about reflecting on your past. It tries to be sentimental, but it just doesn’t feel genuine to me. Then again after hearing “Angel” I don’t think I can ever take this duo seriously ever again. It was hard enough before that song. “Like You Ain’t Even Gone” proves Tyler Hubbard should never do spoken word. He isn’t talented enough. And yet here he is doing it on this song. You should only do spoken word if you’re talented and I have an album review coming up where the artist does the art form justice. I don’t even know what this song is about and I don’t care. I just never want to hear it again.

The album mercifully comes to an end with “Every Night,” which reminds of Maroon 5. That should tell you all you need to know about this song. There is one line I would like to point out though. Hubbard sings at one point that “the neighbors probably hate me.” No Tyler that would be everyone who has any kind of respect for decency and not committing crimes against humanity with such horrendous music. It just isn’t traditional country fans, but anyone who hates horrible music.

Overall Thoughts

An Avicii ad played on Spotify as I listened to this album and it sounded just as country as Florida Georgia Line’s songs on Anything Goes. I had to point this out because of how true it is and sad the current situation is in mainstream country music. Maybe some artists are actually striving to make better music, but some clearly want to hold onto bro country with a death grip. And I can’t blame them because it has made a lot of people rich. I have to think at some point though that even the mainstream crowd will get tired of this shit. Everyday I wake up and hope that America has finally given up on Florida Georgia Line and they give them the Nickelback treatment because Florida Georgia Line is truly the Nickelback of country music. Ironically Joey Moi, who produces Nickelback’s albums, also produces Florida Georgia Line’s albums. I told myself “Dirt” was going to prevent this album from receiving a zero, but after listening to it I’ve changed my mind. When you have 11 other songs that are so horrible it tends to cover up the one bright spot on this album. Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes deserves to be the first ever album on Country Perspective to receive a rating of zero.

Grade: 0/10