Single Review: Chris Young, “Tomorrow”

How to put it? I would listen to this man sing about IBS. I would listen to him sing a long-form denunciation of my value as a human being – possibly my mother’s and little sister’s, too. Young’s baritone is like the aural incarnation of warm fuzzies, and most everything it touches/fuzzes goes down easy – even those lame, creaky-hinged Music Row assembly songs scattered across his first two albums.

So, granted: This single was probably going to sound all sexy-cool no matter what. But we can all enjoy with a little less cognitive dissonance this time, because “Tomorrow” makes a serious play at substance. Young is finally a radio star, and he’s using his powers to inject some actual psychological complication back into the format.

Synopsis: Tomorrow, he’s leaving his lover for good. Tomorrow, he’s going to sew himself up and let the healing begin. The two want each other so bad, but their relationship is never as strong as their attraction to it. So tomorrow, he’s out. But tonight, he’s going to indulge like there’s no – heyyy, I see what you did there!

It’s probably as fresh of a twist as you could wring out of such a stale idiom, and the song’s premise is standby country. I love that there’s room for doubt as to whether this will really be the last time, too. Unlike “Voices” or even “The Man I Want to Be,” this song feels fully attuned to the complexities and ambiguities of the human experience. You trust it not to judge you for yours.

Where “Tomorrow” comes up short, as those predecessors also did, is in its chorus melody – which barely exists. The whole section is basically a boring two-note progression repeated over and over while lyrics are spewed out at double-time. It’s listenable because the production wills it to be (and, of course, because of Young’s fuzz factor), but imagine it performed acoustically and the song collapses. It’s the kind of tossed-off stuff you might expect from an especially dull Trace Adkins or Craig Morgan release, but here, it’s a dead weight pulling a potentially great single down from the heights of its theme and performance.

My fear is that we’re going to be hearing more and more of these tune-challenged songs as writers collectively sort out what mainstream country will sound like moving forward. Unhummable afflictions like “This” and “Crazy Town” and “Love Like Crazy” – heck, even the clumsy moments in otherwise-pleasant singles like “Mary Was the Marrying Kind” and “Amen” – give me the impression that we’ve lost touch with what made the classic songs work structurally, that maybe our basic sense of aesthetics needs sharpening.

But that’s a bit of a tangent. Here’s the point: Yes, Chris Young, I’m going to buy your new album, Neon, and yes, I will try to sing along to “Tomorrow” when it comes on in my car. And if you musically ask me to, I will delete this whole review and replace it with a cute YouTube video of your choosing. But until then, please go listen to some more Gretchen Peters and Alan Jackson (or, heck, Neil Sedaka and Carole King). And study up.

Grade: B+

Listen: Tomorrow

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18 Comments

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18 Responses to Single Review: Chris Young, “Tomorrow”

  1. Completely agree…I knew there was something that stood out about Chris when I saw him on Nashville Star, and I’m glad he’s gotten the chance to deliver.

  2. KyleNo Gravatar

    Agreed on all points, and great point about the chorus melody. Kind of power ballad-y. I have the same problem with Craig Campbell’s ‘Family Man’ – both have great sounding verses leading into very bland sounding choruses.

  3. Jon G.No Gravatar

    I hate when I don’t have much to contribute, but…ditto on pretty much everything everyone’s said thus far.

    I especially like Dan’s description of Young’s voice. One of the best I’ve read.

  4. Dan’s reviews are always some of the most articulate and well-written I’ve ever read. This is no exception.

    When I first heard “Tomorrow” I didn’t want to like it because the hook has been done before so many times. But Chris puts so much into his performance that he more then makes up for it.

    The song grabbed me from the first time I heard it, which is hard to do for me these days. It’s memorable, and Chris is actually trying to raise above being generic.

    My only issue is the hook (“love like there’s no tomorrow”), which keeps it from being fantastic for me. But this is a great song and one of the best at country radio right now.

  5. I enjoy it, what makes it interesting is that he goes for the power, then just as he gets to “tomorrow” he whispers the words… Keeps me hooked.

  6. CMWNo Gravatar

    That Dan Milliken is a writing fool. In a good way, I mean.

    I knew there was something bugging me about the song, and I think you nailed it: we keep hearing the same old chorus non-melody all over the place. Some of these songwriters need to bone up on their Don Gibson.

  7. Yes, Dan, you nailed it! Perfect.

  8. BobNo Gravatar

    Dan said “The whole section is basically a boring two-note progression repeated over and over while lyrics are spewed out at double-time.” I had to listen to the song a few more times before the light went on. Good point but I have a feeling that most fans are going to be so impressed with Young’s vocals they aren’t going to notice the weak chorus.

    Besides the writing, I’m impressed that you mentioned Carole King and Neil Sedaka as some of the artists Young should listen to. I don’t think Sedaka is as well known to young listeners as King but he excelled as an entertainer as well as a singer/songwriter. My wife and I saw him open for the Carpenters in ’75 and he stole the show.

    Back to Young, I’m hoping for better material in his new album. So far, I’ve only purchased a few of his songs on i-tunes. I won’t be buying his new cd unless I get the chance to hear and like a good portion of it. I take the same approach with Josh Turner, another great singer suffering from too much weak material.

  9. grannaNo Gravatar

    I love Neil Sedaka and the Carpenters. Bob, wish I could have been at that concert.

  10. BobNo Gravatar

    @ Granna: The concert was at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. The Carpenters were technically excellent but had no personality. I didn’t know at the time about Karen’s problems. You might find it interesting to read “Little Girl Blue, The Life of Karen Carpenter” by Randy L. Schmidt. I read it about 2 months ago. The concerts with Sedaka are discussed.

  11. grannaNo Gravatar

    Thanks Bob! I can believe the Carpenters were not great live entertainers, but I still think Karen Carpenter had a magnificent voice. Man, the 70’s were great! Loved, loved the music back then. lol!

  12. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    I worked at Merriweather one summer! Great venue.

    Love Sedaka, too. You could sub in tons of great melodic singer/songwriters there; I just went with the first male and female that came to mind from the country world, and the first two from the pop world (it’d be great if Young stayed traditionalist-ish, but given that the climate is already poppy, I wouldn’t complain if we got more mainstream country songs with a Beatles-level assurance of melody).

  13. Music ManNo Gravatar

    Not to take this further off topic, but Neil could sing country, the B side of “Calendar Girl” was this country tune…

    http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/neil-sedaka-the-same-old-fool/03963eec95e5d5a16b9703963eec95e5d5a16b97-710694863009?q=neil%20sedaka%20same%20old%20me

    Love Chris and I do understand what’s been said and agree.

  14. How about rascal flat?

  15. I agree with all the points you have pointed in this post.

  16. You have presented the review in artistic way.Nice commentary.

  17. i love the song, and have it in my mac..