The Hodgepodge: Please Stop Making Albums Over 12 Songs Long

ZBB Jekyll + Hyde

There’s something that has been grinding my gears regarding albums for a while and lately it’s been bugging me more. And that’s the length of albums. More and more I’ve been seeing not just in country and Americana, but in all of music albums that are over 12 songs long. It’s now a common occurrence to see albums that are 14, 15 and even 17 songs long in the case of Randy Houser’s Fired Up. It drives me crazy because there’s simply no reason usually to have an album over 12 songs long.

Whenever I see an album over 12 songs long, I immediately roll my eyes if it’s an artist that isn’t at the very top of the genre because it’s probably got like five filler songs that are unnecessary. Sometimes even more. But I don’t blame the artist for this, but rather I imagine this is more on labels. Most don’t really care about the concept of an album nowadays, only singles. Hence why albums are 15 songs long because then they have a large list to choose from for singles and can also cover a variety of styles so that way the artist is prepared for any trends that may emerge over the course of that album’s era. Luke Bryan’s last album Kill the Lights is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. At 13 songs long you see a variety of songs on it. There’s bro country themed songs, upbeat pop leaning songs and even a couple of serious songs. It’s to set up him up for any trends that might emerge at country radio.

What really brings this attention to me is when I go back and listen to older albums from the 70s and 80s. This was back when artists and labels actually cared about albums and put more focus on them. No matter which genre I turn to, none of them have the problem I see today of overloading albums with pointless songs. Take for example George Strait, whose career began in the early 80s. His first ten albums were each ten songs long exactly. None of them came close to overloading. Almost every album released by legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye didn’t go over 12 songs. A modern example is Sturgill Simpson (who has cited Gaye as an inspiration), where each of his three albums hasn’t gone over 12 songs. Right now of my top ten country and Americana albums of 2016, none go over 12 songs. While there are plenty exceptions to the rule, it’s pretty well proven that if you care about putting out a quality album, you probably shouldn’t go over 12 songs.

There are many albums I can think of that have been released recently that could have benefitted from being culled down to a shorter length. One that immediately comes to mind is Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll + Hyde. It’s 16 songs long including the acoustic track, which is just ridiculous. There are undoubtedly some great songs on this album, but they get overshadowed by the bad and unnecessary tracks. If I had the power to cull it down, this is what the track listing for the album would look like:

  1. Homegrown
  2. Loving You Easy
  3. Remedy
  4. Heavy Is The Head
  5. Bittersweet
  6. One Day
  7. Dress Blues
  8. Junkyard
  9. I’ll Be Your Man (Song for a Daughter)
  10. Tomorrow Never Comes (Acoustic Version)

Try to tell me this isn’t a much better album after I cut out all of the EDM crap, the cheesy Mango song, the pointless island song and the fluffy songs that held down the backside of the album. This version of Jekyll + Hyde would have probably been one of my favorite albums of 2015. It’s really that simple. I’ll give you another example that’s more recent and that Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots. Here’s how I would trim that album down:

  1. Smooth
  2. Life is a Honeymoon
  3. H.O.L.Y.
  4. Island
  5. May We All
  6. Wish You Were On It
  7. God, Your Mamma and Me (I would cut out the Backstreet Boys)
  8. Music Is Healing
  9. While He’s Still Around
  10. Grow Old

It’s still not a great album of course. But after cutting out the five most annoying songs this album goes from really mediocre to around average. Really though the biggest way you could fix Florida Georgia Line into something more decent is getting rid of Joey Moi as producer, but that’s probably not likely to ever happen. One last example I will choose is Chris Stapleton’s Traveller. Now this is one of the most recent examples of an exception to my 12 songs rule. At 14 songs long, it’s still a great album and one of the best of 2015. However even this I would give a slight trim by taking out “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore” and “Might As Well Get Stoned” because the first song has been done so much before and the second gets weighed down by the wedged in reference to the troops that isn’t bad, but feels pander-y. Of course this is just me really nitpicking because Traveller has launched Stapleton into the stratosphere and has netted him numerous awards.

I think I’ve gotten my point across thoroughly. While there are exceptions to the rule, at the end of the day an artist shouldn’t go over 12 songs on their album if they intend on it to be good. It’s a pretty established baseline that you shouldn’t go over unless you’re absolutely sure you can make a great long album. After all the longer an album is, the more chances an artist has of putting a bad song on it. At 12 songs or less, they can present a tight and cohesive album that is enjoyable for the listener every step of the way. So if you’re an artist making a new album and you can’t decide on the length of it, just remember less is more.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow Amanda Shires will release her new album My Piece of Land.
  • Next week there will be a plethora of new album releases:
    • Dwight YoakamSwimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
    • Reckless KellySunset Motel 
    • Kevin RoyHeartworn Highway 
  • David Nail’s next single is “Good at Tonight.” Excellent choice by Nail and his label. It was also the most added song at country radio this week.
  • Later this month George Strait is sending “Goin’ Goin’ Gone” as a single to radio. It coincides around the same time he’s releasing Cold Beer Conversation in vinyl. As for the single, it won’t do much most likely.
  • 99% of the time I don’t care about new Christmas albums (I prefer the classics), but there is one I’m interested in this year and that’s Kacey Musgraves’ first Christmas album, A Very Kacey Christmas. It’s out on October 28 and on November 18 in vinyl. It features Willie Nelson, Leon Bridges and The Quebe Sisters.

Throwback Thursday Song

George Strait – “Living For The Night” – All of this Strait talk inevitably makes me want to go listen to his music, so of course it’s in this spot this week. Most of my favorite Strait songs were released in the 80s and 90s, but this is hands down my favorite of his 2000s music. This is heartbreak music at it’s best. Even later into his career, Strait produces gold.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Little Richard – “Good Golly Miss Molly” – People love to talk about how Elvis is the king of rock and roll, but he isn’t in my book (he built his career off covering other artists). The real king of rock and roll is Little Richard, who influenced some of the greatest artists of rock, R&B, soul, funk and hip hop. He’s an artist every music fan should familiarize themselves with if they haven’t already.

Tweet of the Week

https://twitter.com/planmymistake/status/774248484526559232

Why is Dustin Lynch solitaire a thing? Who would want this?

Accurate Review of 2016 Dierks Bentley

2016-dierks

I feel like one of the most under talked points of country music this year has been Dierks Bentley’s mediocre output. Black is hands down his worst album and is an obvious attempt at trying to become an A-lister. It’s disheartening and this Dierks fans sums it up pretty well.

Album Review – Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Dig Your Roots’

Florida Georgia Line Roots

Surprise! As you can see from the title, I decided to review something none of you were expecting: the new Florida Georgia Line album. For the past few months the site has moved away from negative reviews and started to focus solely on all of the great music that’s being produced. It wasn’t just because I felt we weren’t reviewing enough of great music. It was also because we were just sick of doing them and didn’t feel challenged and needed a break from it. But now I’m in the mood again to hand out a negative review now and then and what better to place to dive back in than Florida Georgia Line. Their last album Anything Goes won our inaugural Worst Album of the Year award in 2014. So I prepared myself for the worst with their new record Dig Your Roots, especially when I saw it was 15 songs long (my rule of thumb is no more than 12). While there is a fair share of bad music on this album, there’s actually a few positive things surprisingly.

The sound of crickets, frogs and a banjo play in “Smooth.” Something tells me this isn’t a sign of what’s to come on this album. Although I’m surprised the banjo continues throughout the song with some slightly heavy pop production. The song itself is about how smooth a girl is, from her body to her personality. For a song about a girl from Florida Georgia Line, there isn’t a lot of misogyny here. This is actually one of the better songs on the album, so I guess the start is smooth. That quickly changes though on the album’s title track, “Dig Your Roots.” We’re immediately hit with Brian Kelley rapping. Wonderful. The guy who never sings finally gets to say something and it’s terrible rapping. The song is about digging your roots, essentially appreciating family and where you’re from. An admirable theme, except the production is so damn annoying and overbearing it’s hard to hear the lyrics. This is the first of many moments on the album where Joey Moi completely ruins any chance of a song being good.

“Life Is A Honeymoon” takes a tacky Kenny Chesney direction, as Florida Georgia Line tackles beach music. For some reason this duo thinks they’re good at reggae, but they’re not. They did however have enough foresight actually bring someone onto the song who does. That would be Ziggy Marley, the son of reggae legend Bob Marley. If he did this song it might not have been half bad. But this is on a country album, not a reggae album. The album’s smash hit lead single “H.O.L.Y.” is next. As I explained in my original thoughts on this song in the Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music, this song just has no edge. It’s vanilla, banal and a straight adult contemporary track. And I feel like all this song gets done doing is repeating the word “holy” over and over. It’s just so obnoxious. Then there’s the line about touching heaven and I couldn’t roll my eyes any harder.

The one that never sings gets his chance to shine again on “Island.” In fact Kelley gets to sing for the entire song and it’s actually not the only time it happens on this album. This song is about a man feeling like he’s on an island with his woman because she’s the world to him. As much as it pains me to say it, I enjoy this a little bit as a harmless pop song because it has a good hook and there’s some sentiment there. It could have been better if the writers of this song actually took more time to add depth to it though. The current and second single of the album “May We All” follows. I just covered this in the Pulse too, but I would actually like to present a different take on it. After giving it further listens and hearing it in the context of the album, I actually like it more (I probably shouldn’t have re-read Sturgill’s rant before reviewing it). The themes of the simple life and the lessons you can learn throughout them still aren’t creatively amazing, but they pull it off and McGraw’s presence really helps give the song a sense of legitimacy about it.

“Summerland” is the kind of garbage I’ve come to expect and hate from Florida Georgia Line. This vapid, shallow summer song is why people hate the duo. It has absolutely nothing to say and shamelessly forces lots of clichés and namedrops to satisfy the gullible demo of people who enjoy this music. It’s like a Pitbull song, only there’s no charisma whatsoever and the lyrics aren’t catchy. This song belongs in the garbage bin next to everything Chris Lane has ever released. The barrage of annoyance continues on “Lifer.” I don’t know where to start with this Sharknado mess of a song. The lyrics sound like something the Internet wrote. It’s not country, even if they jammed an out-of-place steel guitar into the chorus. I bet that was the last thing added in the song. I think my biggest problem with this song is when the duo utters they’re “a product of George Strait.” They also reference the great Strait song “Check Yes or No.” Words can’t properly describe my reaction to this, so I need some help from actor/Mongoloid Nicholas Cage. Take it away Nick:

Nic Cage laughing

The problems of “Summerland” show up again on “Good Girl, Bad Boy.” The lyrics are so awkwardly terrible, as the duo sings some dull, meaningless tune about the ultimate cliché of a good girl and bad boy dating each other. Riveting stuff! Are Danny and Sandy going to pop out and break into song and dance too? “Wish You Were On It” wishes it were edgy with its sudden stop and starts throughout. This is supposed to be a heartbreak song, but like Cole Swindell on his new album earlier this year that’s full of these types of songs, the lyrics do nothing to create a sense of heartbreak. The same can be said of the instrumentation, which is more upbeat than anything resembling sad. This song was defeated before it even began.

The most insulting song on Dig Your Roots might be “God, Your Mamma, And Me.” This is the much hyped collaboration between one of the current terrors of country music and one of the biggest headaches of 90s radio. This is the song with the Backstreet Boys. I did not miss these guys and they still annoy me. But you know as angering as it is that the Backstreet Boys are featured on a “country” album, this is probably the most honest admittance from Florida Georgia Line. They’re full of shit when they proclaim to be a product of Strait, but they’re absolutely the product of boy bands of the 90s. So I’ll give them credit for honesty on “H.O.L.Y. II: Electric Boogaloo.” The sleepy “Music Is Healing” is next. I say sleepy because you’ll immediately forget this song after you hear it. Set to a dance pop beat, this duo sings about how songs are healing. A sentiment I agree with, but Florida Georgia Line has no clue what it means to make music that is a therapeutic experience when 90% of their output is about partying and tailgate sex.

At a whopping 15 songs long, I expected this album to have one “Dirt” moment and it finally happens on “While He’s Still Around.” With Kelley on lead vocals, it’s about a son wanting to make the most of the time he has left with his father before he passes away one day. He hopes to have many more moments and make him a proud grandfather before the inevitable phone call comes saying his father is dead. The instrumentation consists mostly of acoustic guitar and a hint of steel guitar (Joey Moi actually restrained himself from ruining it). This is an honestly pretty good country song and I would say even better than “Dirt,” making this Florida Georgia Line’s best song ever. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this is a single. Also a fact about this song that might stun you is Chase Rice helped write it.

“Grow Old” follows and is yet another pretty good song from the duo. This time with Hubbard on lead vocals, the song is about a husband hoping to spend the rest of his life with his love and grow old together. The song even goes into detail about how the relationship isn’t going to perfect all the time and they’ll suffer through hardships like counting pennies and eating out of a microwave to get by. There’s even noticeable steel guitar. Despite the mess at times on this album, Florida Georgia Line can claim two pretty good country songs on it. Dig Your Roots finally comes to an end with “Heatwave.” What I said about “Summerland” above you can essentially repeat for this song. You think they would want to end the album with their two best songs, but instead they wanted to remind us of the crap they settle on to churn out.

Dig Your Roots is a pretty mediocre album, but is also the best Florida Georgia Line has released so far in their career. Their first two albums were pretty close to bottom of the barrel, so they had nowhere to go but up. It’s only a small improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. The two songs that stand out by far are “While He’s Still Around” and “Grow Old,” two of the best songs they’ve ever released. There are a few average/above average tracks, while the rest you can easily skip. The majority of the album is filled with the kind of crap we’ve come to expect from Florida Georgia Line. For their sake they’ve successfully evolved into a safe, adult contemporary sound that will save them from the fate of irrelevancy that many bro country acts are now facing. Surprisingly Dig Your Roots is not one of the worst country albums of the year, but Florida Georgia Line is still nowhere close to calling themselves good, let alone a legitimate country act.

Grade: 4/10