Review – Jordan Rager’s “Southern Boy” is Confusing

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This post was written by a past guest contributor for Country Perspective. 

These days in mainstream country music, you have to keep a watchful eye on new artists bursting onto the scene. Some try to fight the good fight for country music (Jon Pardi, William Michael Morgan, Mo Pitney), while others just want to make music that’s “hip” and “connects with the young ‘uns” (Cole Swindell, Kane Brown). Jordan Rager is in the latter camp.

You know how people make jokes that Cole Swindell is Luke Bryan 2.0? Well, now we seem to have a Jason Aldean 2.0 with Jordan Rager. The difference between the two (Cole and Jordan that is) is that Cole looks to Luke as a lifelong friend, whereas Jordan looks to Jason as an idol and influence. Jordan originates from Loganville, Georgia (same state that Aldean is from), and is currently signed to Broken Bow Records (same label that Aldean is on, noticing something?). And really, I hate to judge based off only two songs, but I’m not sure who Jordan is. Yeah, he’s a big fan of Jason, I get it. But what about Jordan? After hearing what was originally going to be his debut single, “Feels Like One Of Them,” all I could gather was that the song was a carbon copy of an Aldean throwaway track. His new single, “Southern Boy” also does nothing to tell me about who Jordan is, which is one of the many things that puzzles me about this song.

When asked about the song “Southern Boy” by the Rowdy’s Jason Scott, Jordan proclaimed, “this song is inspired by losing somebody and you’re not sure how to get through it. You keep carrying on. You stay strong through it.” Based off this description, I was expecting something in the vein of “You Should Be Here” by Cole Swindell or “Drink A Beer” by Luke Bryan. Instead, this song isn’t about death at all, but rather a mid-tempo number where Jordan is joined by none other than Jason Aldean.

Written by Luke Laird, Barry Dean, Jeremy Stover and Jaron Boyer, “Southern Boy” is performed by Rager and Aldean speaking somewhat as mentors to an imaginary southern boy. The two offer advice to the boy such as never compromise your roots, enjoy Friday nights with friends and always be true to your family. Really with a title like “Southern Boy”, I was expecting something way worse than this, and to be honest there’s really no egregious lines here. The overall problem with the song is that the lyrics are cliché and never really have time to develop into something more. The song just lists off a bunch of checklist traits that are normally expected in a good ol’ southern boy. Really, this song is just a big wasted opportunity. After all, considering that this song has a teacher-student type of lyrical atmosphere to it, and considering that Jordan cites Jason as a major influence, why not just make Jordan the southern boy and have Jason being the one giving advice? You know, turn it into a song that tells advice about how to handle life on the road and all the craziness of the music industry? Pass on advice to someone who actually looks up to you? As this song is, having two males playing the exact same part in the song is completely unnecessary.

Vocally this song has another issue. I’m certainly not against bringing in some help for your debut single, but the problem with this song is that Jason helps a little too much, to the point where this feels more like Jason Aldean featuring Jordan Rager than the other way around. It doesn’t help matters either that the two sound extremely similar to each other, to the point where it can be hard to discern who’s singing at certain points in the song. Leaning on Aldean as a crutch may work for Jordan this time around, but I feel that it’s the wrong choice to make for a debut single. Granted, you don’t have to stand out much to get a hit in mainstream country music, but still I think the average fan is just going to think this is a Jason Aldean song and not even realize this is someone else’s song.

That’s not to say however that “Southern Boy” is without redeeming factors. The mid-tempo vibe actually works well with this song, as it gives both singers a chance to at least try to pour some emotion into this, even if it ultimately comes across as empty. The production also isn’t half bad, and sort of fits a nice rock-country vibe. Other than that however, there’s a lot of wasted potential with “Southern Boy” and I can’t say that it’s ultimately a good song by Jason Jordan.

Grade: 2/10

Review – Frankie Ballard’s “It All Started With A Beer”

Frankie Ballard It All Started With A Beer

I feel like we haven’t heard from Frankie Ballard in ages. It probably has to do with the fact that’s he has been pretty quiet throughout 2015. The only single he’s released this year has been “Young & Crazy.” As Derek said in his review of the song, it does more right than wrong and it was a pretty decent song. It’s certainly better than a lot of singles at country radio. It performed well on the airplay chart, as it reached #1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. So despite being under-the-radar, Ballard has done well. But he’s now back with a new single, “It All Started With A Beer.” Hints started dropping about it weeks back in Country Aircheck Weekly and now it’s starting to go for airplay at radio. And once again Ballard gives us something more than the rest in mainstream country music.

Right away an acoustic guitar sets the tone of the song. It’s mid-tempo and has a hazy feeling, but in a good feeling. This fits the theme well, as the song is about a man recalling how he met his wife in a bar. He remembers exactly what they were drinking and how he picked up the tab, as a girl like her made him want to do this despite not having much money. Their relationship all started with a beer and now they’ve been together for years, going through all kinds of highs and lows together. This song depends a lot on the nostalgia factor when it comes to the listener. For some they will immediately connect with it, while others may find the song a little bit lacking. I was kind of hoping the lyrics would go just a little deeper (song written by Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason and Jeremy Stover), but as is they’re good enough and grow on you a little bit as you listen to it more. The instrumentation is well done, as a combination of steel guitar and acoustic guitar make for a great and decidedly country sound.

While I thought “Young & Crazy” was decent, I think “It All Started With A Beer” is a little better even. Love ballads suit Frankie Ballard well and I think this single shows he should do more. Really it’s a glimpse that perhaps he can go deeper overall with his music. This is the first single off of his new, upcoming album and I have to say this is a pretty solid start. I’m assuming it’s going to come out sometime in 2016, but so far there has been no official word from him or Warner Music Nashville. I think “It All Started With A Beer” will do great at radio and many listeners will be able to connect with it, ensuring it will reach #1 most likely. I give it a light recommendation to check it out. Frankie Ballard continues to head in the right direction with this single.

Grade: 7/10