“Tonight Looks Good on You”
Written by Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, and Ashley Gorley
Great artists start trends, and when everybody else is catching up to what they started, they’ve already moved on to something fresh.
Jason Aldean is not a great artist.
“Hell of a Night”
Written by Jaron Boyer, Zach Crowell, and Adam Sanders
I’m starting to believe that the “bro-country” movement doesn’t even exist, and it’s really just an attempt to ascribe meaning to a trend as old as Music City itself: lazy songwriting.
The narrative surrounding Aaron Watson’s The Underdog makes it an album that is easy to root for: Buoyed by more than a decade of goodwill and fan support and a deft pre-release promotional push, the album surprised many with its #1 bow atop Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, surreptitiously around the same time that erstwhile Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton made his controversial remark about how artists who don’t get played on country radio “don’t exist.” The Underdog, the twelfth album from a traditional-leaning Texas singer-songwriter known as much for his humility as for his music, provided a perfectly timed counterexample to Overton’s short-sighted arrogance.
“Love Me Like You Mean It”
Written by Kelsea Ballerini, Lance Carpenter, Josh Kerr, and Forest Glen Whitehead
This sounds like a demo recording for a Taylor Swift album that will never be recorded.
Credit to Kelsea Ballerini for co-writing her single and for not getting vocally lost in the shuffle of a fairly busy production. I suppose there’s some promise underneath all of the proceedings here, and there’s nothing inherently awful about any of it.
But it takes a special kind of narcissistic charm to pull off a laundry list of requests for a potential beau, and she has neither the outsize personality or outsize list of demands to pull this off. It would’ve worked better if she’d gone the vulnerable angle instead of the “I mean business” one, which she simply doesn’t have the assertiveness to convincingly convey.
It’s so milquetoast that it’s more like “Take it or Leave it” than “Love Me Like You Mean It.”
For all of their commercial successes and industry recognition, The Mavericks were never a band that bowed to popular trends in country music. On Mono, the second album of their full-fledged revival, they play even faster and looser with genre conventions than ever before. The result is an album that, if not necessarily their best—What a Crying Shame and 2013’s In Time set particularly high standards— may be the most purely fun album of The Mavericks’ career.
More so than her artfully-turned phrases and her novel, evocative imagery, perhaps Gretchen Peters’ greatest gift as a songwriter is her mastery of perspective. Peters’ ability to shift her narrative voice to create fully realized, authentic characters whose emotions and experiences drive her songs has very few peers, and that particular skill serves her well on Blackbirds. A meditation on mortality, Blackbirds highlights a variety of experiences and points-of-view on matters of death and loss, and it’s that multifaceted perspective that gives the album such remarkable depth.
Written by Gary Allan, Cary Barlowe, Jesse Frasure, and Chris Stapleton
With its play on the word “hangover” and its playful production, Allan’s latest single has a happy and silly vibe with an infectious swampy groove. “Hangover Tonight” is carefree and treads the old topic of partying, but it still stands above and apart from the loud raucous party anthems of his mainstream peers.
“Kiss You in the Morning”
Written by Larry Michael White and Justin Tyler Wilson
Launching a new artist with this generic a single does a tremendous disservice to their budding career.
“Kiss You in the Morning” sounds exactly like everything else on the radio. It covers the most well-trodden lyrical ground in today’s country music. Ray’s a decent enough singer and the production is controlled, so it’s not memorable for being bad. Trouble is, it’s not really memorable at all.
Shania Twain is returning to the road for the first time in more than a decade, and she’s calling it her farewell tour.
Well, technically, she’s calling it the Rock This Country tour, but it’s being marketed as both her return to and retirement from the road.
I should be all over this. She’s one of my favorite all-time artists, and I loved her tour in support of Up!, which I still consider her best album.
But even though I enjoyed her Vegas television special last month, and even though any set list would be stacked with songs that I love, I’m honestly not that interested in seeing the show.
This is for a simple reason: She’s not touring in support of new material.
I think I’m in the minority on this one, but I don’t like it when an artist only plays their hits from the past. There’s something sterile about it, as if artistic vitality has been left in the rear view mirror and the artist is just attempting to recreate a time that has already passed.
“Long Stretch of Love”
Written by David Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, and Hillary Scott
A woefully anemic rocker.
Lady Antebellum have never exactly been known for over-the-top emoting, but this might be the most listless I’ve ever heard the band.