Review – RaeLynn’s “Love Triangle”

raelynn-love-triangle

When it comes to RaeLynn and her music, I haven’t exactly been kind. It was for good reason though because the music was downright awful (and sexist in one case). I’ve probably been one of her harshest critics. But as I’ve said before I criticize because I care and I welcome any artist to turn it around and deliver something that will make me eat crow. I honestly never thought RaeLynn would do this though because I’ve been completely skeptical of her talent. Well she proves me wrong with “Love Triangle.” This was the song she should have always led off her career with because this song gives her credibility and shows an unseen side the world needed to see. It’s a reflective ballad based on RaeLynn’s own upbringing about being a child raised by divorced parents. She goes through the same old routine every week of splitting time between parents, going to the same old place and being caught up in all of the entanglements of her parents’ divorce. It’s a deeply personal song and RaeLynn does a great job of letting this shine through. In a world where divorce is common, I imagine many listeners will be able to connect with this song. The production is subdued and really lets the lyrics do the heavy lifting, which is the right call. Strong piano play and a little more steel guitar that shows up too briefly could have helped the song stand out even more though. RaeLynn is still a limited vocalist and a better vocalist would raise the final grade admittedly, but this is her best vocal performance yet. Overall RaeLynn shows and proves more with “Love Triangle” than she has proven and shown with every song she released before it. I gladly eat crow and praise RaeLynn for releasing such a mature single, which I hope is the sign of more better music to come from her.

Grade: 7/10

Recommend? – Yes

Written by RaeLynn, Nicolle Galyon and Jimmy Robbins

Review – Trent Harmon’s “There’s A Girl”

trent-harmon-theres-a-girl

So it turns out Trent Harmon was the final winner of American Idol. Who knew? I stopped paying attention to that show once Simon Cowell left (even those final few seasons I was drifting off). Since I assume most others did the same, here’s a primer for those who don’t know Harmon. Originally he tried out on The Voice and was rejected. So with one music show rejection down, he turned to American Idol, where originally he auditioned and came off as an R&B/pop artist. Oh boy. As the show went on he started to perform some country and by country I mean a couple of Chris Stapleton songs. The rest of the songs he performed were soul, R&B and pop. The winning song he performed was called “Falling.” It was written by Keith Urban, Brett James and Dallas Davidson (ugh). Naturally Big Machine Records President and Idol adviser that season Scott Borchetta signs him to be a country artist because of course Borchetta would do this. It’s said that Harmon’s debut album will be country with indie-soul influences. When Borchetta was asked about it, he said it would be like the country album Justin Timberlake plans to make. Now I don’t know about you, but I see some red flags here. Based on these facts, it sounds like Harmon is just another pop artist cashing-in on country music.

Nevertheless I did my best to keep an open mind as I dug into Harmon’s debut label single, “There’s A Girl.” And after listening to it multiple times, it’s actually not terrible as I expected it to be. I was expecting heavy R&B and little to no country. Instead there’s actually some pedal steel guitar in the song. An actual pleasant surprise! Don’t get too excited though because there’s definitely some pop influence within the song too. But it’s not overbearing though and works for the most part. The light, up beat acoustics work well blended with the steel guitar. The song itself is about how guys are driven by girls and how they drive guys to do things they normally wouldn’t do like drive hundreds of miles to see them, clean up their vehicles and spend money they don’t have. On the surface you could look at this cynically, saying the song paints guys as being controlled by their dicks. But I really don’t see the song this way and the song doesn’t really indicate these intentions. It’s more a light-hearted look at the age old phrase of “love makes you do crazy things” and this is quite true. As far as first impressions of Harmon’s voice, it’s solid, yet unspectacular.

Overall Trent Harmon’s “There’s A Girl” isn’t half bad. You could do much worse for debut singles that’s for sure. Hell I think this song actually has some chance to stand out and be remembered by listeners. I wouldn’t call the song good either, but then again most debut singles usually aren’t because most play it on the safe side. You just hope for something decent and taking this song for what it is, that’s what you get with “There’s A Girl.”

Grade: 6/10

 

Recommend? – Sure it’s worth one listen, especially if you like pop country


Written by Trent Harmon, Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz

Album Review – Maren Morris’ ‘HERO’

Maren Morris HERO

Remember my pop album review of Keith Urban’s Ripcord a few weeks back? If you haven’t read it, I would recommend you at least read the point at the end. To give you the short version of it, I’ve pretty much come to conclusion now that there’s no such thing as bad country, good pop. There’s only good music and bad music. It’s important to say this up front as I discuss Maren Morris’ new album HERO. This is probably one of the most anticipated albums in country music this year as Morris’ single “My Church” has been a big hit and really helped her rise in popularity. Morris has really caught a lot of eyes and with this album it would determine just how high she can go in the immediate future. After hearing her self-titled EP released late last year, I knew coming in that there would undeniably be a pop influence on this album. And I was right. By right I mean more than I would ever realize because HERO is not a country record and calling it as such would be an outright lie. This is a pop soul record with a couple of country songs and a country influence in spots. However I’m not going to spend an entire review shouting it’s not country because that would be a waste of time and foolish. No, I’m going to review HERO for what it is because this album is too enjoyable at times not to talk about.

Some heavy acoustic guitar plays in “Sugar.” This lingers throughout the song in combination with an upbeat pop production as the song revolves around a crush Morris has on a guy. This includes a few too many comparisons to how this crush makes her feel. In comparison to the rest of the album, this is one of the more forgettable songs due to the lyrics being a little clumsy and the production being a bit too overdone. It can get annoying after a while. “Rich” is where you get a good indication of where this album is willing to go. The song is about Morris saying if she had a dollar for every time she swore her ex off and every time he made her feel pain, she would be pretty rich. And she paints a pretty vivid picture of just how rich she would be in the chorus. These chorus lines work for the most part, although I find the line about diamonds and P Diddy to be cheesy and outdated. I imagine this is where the staunch country fan stopped listening.

The lead single and the song I imagine many thought would indicate the direction of this entire album, “My Church,” follows. This anthemic, gospel-inspired tune is about how Maren’s church is country music (although the rest of the album says otherwise). When she turns on her favorite country music (Hank and Johnny Cash, as mentioned in the song), it feels like a spiritual experience to her. She genuinely loves country music. Part country, part rock and part gospel, this song is catchy and fun as hell. I’ve listened to this song a lot and it just doesn’t get old. One of the most mature songs on HERO is “I Could Use a Love Song.” In a world dominated by the hook-up culture and dating apps, Morris speaks for many young adults who have a negative outlook on finding love and feeling disheartened about capturing that feeling. It’s really kind of melancholy, yet in a way kind of hopeful too. It’s definitely one of my favorites on the album.

This is followed by “80s Mercedes,” an upbeat song about a woman and her 80s Mercedes-Benz. When she’s driving it she feels confident and beautiful, clearly holding some strong sentimental value to her. This is a pop country song, with a heavy dosage on the former. Despite the heavy pop influence that would normally annoy me, there’s just something about this song that is infectious and likable that I can’t knock it. It’s something I can’t explain, I just know I enjoy hearing it and I have no problem admitting it. It’s been announced as the second single from the album and I think this could be a big summer hit. Morris shows off her humorous side on “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry.” The song is about a woman telling her friend to leave her boyfriend after cheating on her yet again. As the woman tells her friend, this is the third time he’s been caught, so it’s past time for another chance and time to kick him to the curb. She tells her though that he’s a really nice guy, but then her friend retorts back, “That’s like saying drunk girls don’t cry.” It’s a sassy, honest and funny take on the classic breakup song upon first listen. However after hearing it multiple times, it can become skippable and best left as an album cut.

“How It’s Done” is one of those songs you can either take or leave. The song is about a relationship going to the next level, which is sex. Now many popular country artists do a terrible job at describing sex in songs because the lyrics suck, are immature or are just clumsy. Morris does a better job than most of them, but it’s one of those songs that can wear thin after a while. The production kind of reminds of an album cut off The Weeknd’s latest album. Overall it’s a decent song I guess. Morris sings about regret on “Just Another Thing.” From late-night calls to an ex to drinking and smoking, she knows it’s just a list of things she shouldn’t do and yet she keeps indulging them. The song has a bluesy, soulful sound with pop sensibilities. Combined with the witty lyrics, it’s subtly one of the better tracks on the album.

“I Wish I Was” is a more traditional country song with some blues added in. It’s about a woman who is in a relationship and makes the realization that it isn’t going to work. The man thinks it’s true love and he’s found the one, but she breaks it to him that it isn’t true love. She wishes however it was true love and that she was the “hero” in the story who got all of the glory of being in love. Personally I find this to be one of the best tracks on the album because once again Morris takes a mature approach to relationships and describes it so well. It’s arguably the best vocal performance from Morris too. I think it would be a mistake to not release this as a single, although I have a feeling the more pop sounding songs would take precedence over it.

The inspirational-themed “Second Wind” is next. One of the songs I immediately thought of in comparison with it is Maddie & Tae’s “Fly.” Both really don’t have a concrete them and are just centered around the tropes of “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” and “never give up.” Although I would say “Fly” is better because of the production and instrumentation. This isn’t a bad song and has a nice sound, but it’s one of the more forgettable on HERO. The album closes with “Once,” a waltzing pop song on love. Specifically it’s after both sides of the relationship have called it quits, but thoughts of once was still lingering. Morris acknowledges from her point of view while she still can’t shake it completely and knows it’s over; she still wants him to remember that he loved her once and that’s something that will never disappear. The swell in the chorus really gives this song a punch and really ends the album on a good note.

HERO will probably be the most polarizing album of 2016. Undoubtedly the biggest sin this album commits is it being called a country album. It shouldn’t have any business charting on the country albums chart too. If you’re angry about this and this prevents you from enjoying it, I don’t blame you because it would get a zero as a country record. But once you get past this, you find yourself listening to a really enjoyable pop album. Morris does such a great job at times looking at relationships and feelings from a mature point of view. When her and the songwriters on this album (busbee, Natalie Hemby, Laura Veltz, Jimmy Robbins, Jessie Jo Dillon, Luke Laird amongst them) get it right, the songs really shine. Everything that comes out of Morris’ mouth comes off as genuine, honest and sincere. Her career though may not be in country music and more suited for pop. But as a music fan I can’t help but appreciate HERO as a pop album (key descriptor). I think this album will primarily appeal to younger listeners and fans of pop music/people open to pop over older listeners and staunch country fans. Not everyone is going to like this album. But for those who do, you’ll really find some enjoyable songs.

Grade: 7/10

*parts of this review are taken from my review of Morris’ self-titled EP last year

 

You can listen to the entire album on Morris’ YouTube page here.

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

Review/Rant – Jake Owen’s “Beachin'”

For the last few weeks, I’ve been pretty positive with my reviews. That’s because it’s been good music for the most part. The music that wasn’t good wasn’t that bad either. So to show I’m not going soft and to remind everyone what bad music sounds like, I’m going to review one of the worst songs that’s playing on the radio right now (and will probably play throughout the summer). Today I’m going to review  complain about Jake Owen’s single “Beachin’.”

Now before I tell you how much I loathe this song, keep in mind that I have nothing against Jake Owen. He’s a pretty nice guy and I’ve never heard anything bad said about him. He even came out last year and admitted that there are too many songs on country radio about drinking and trucks. When he came out and said that, I was expecting better material from him after his last annoying hit “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.” But he stuck to the bro country trend and released this nightmare upon listeners across the nation.

The biggest problem with “Beachin'” is Jake Owen rapping the song basically. Owen is the furthest thing from a damn rapper. He is incapable of rapping and he should never rap a song ever in his entire life. If he wanted rapping, why didn’t he just get a hip-hop artist to rap in the song? On second thought, let’s just keep rapping completely out of country music. There is no place for it and that is why I completely disregard hick hop. I’m pretty sure the Mud Digger albums contain the music they play in hell. Absolutely no substance, creativity or skill goes into hick hop. “Beachin'” is pretty much a polished and radio friendly hick hop song.

There are zero country elements in this song. It’s a pop song attempting to be Jimmy Buffett beach country. I guess Owen thinks he should take over for Kenny Chesney (who isn’t that bad at beach songs) in the department of artists who will never be as good at making beach songs as Buffett. For some reason country labels keep thinking they can make another Jimmy Buffett, but they never will. Buffett is unique and in a class of his own with beach songs. “Margaritaville” sounds like Sinatra compared to “Beachin’.” Lyrically, it’s nothing but a bunch of summer and beach clichés uttered over and over. There’s no attempt at creativity or something of interest with the lyrics. The worse lines of this song is obviously the ridiculous chorus. Read the following out loud and tell me you don’t feel stupid for reading it:

“Sunshine, blue eyes, tan lines, slow tide rolling/ white sand, cold can, coozy in my hand just a summer time strollin’/chillin’, breezin’, sippin’ singing ohhhhh Beachin'”

When I went to see who wrote this monstrosity, I was surprised I didn’t see Dallas Davidson didn’t have a hand in it. He’s usually one of the evil masterminds behind the bro country garbage you hear on the radio. Jake Owen didn’t write it either. The writers of this song are Jaren Johnston, Jon Nite and Jimmy Robbins. Mr. Robbins has his own dirty list of country songs he’s written. Among them are Blake Shelton’s “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” Thomas Rhett’s “It Goes Like This,” and three songs on Miranda Lambert’s new album Platinum. Not every song on it is bad, but it isn’t the prettiest list either. I’ll be keeping my eye on Robbins because he seems like he’s becoming more of a go to writer for mainstream country artists.

There are zero redeeming qualities about Jake Owen’s “Beachin’.” Owen is a likable guy, but that isn’t even enough to earn any goodwill for this song from me. I think Owen is capable of good music, but this is the furthest thing from it. I would hope Owen learns from this, but he won’t because this song is hot on the charts. It’s in the top ten of the Billboard Country single chart, the Billboard Country Airplay chart and the iTunes country chart. People are eating this song up like hotcakes. Nothing against you if you like this music, but I just can’t stand it (and don’t ever play it near me).

Say hello to the newest member of Country Perspective’s Zero Club: “Beachin'”

Grade: 0/10