Single Review: Eric Church, “The Outsiders”

Eric Church OutsidersA fun and catchy anthem for rebels who aren’t rebelling against anything in particular.

If Eric Church is anyone’s successor these days, it’s probably Hank Williams, Jr.   There’s no specific ideology or established enemy in Church’s latest single, but it’s such a barn raiser that it’s very easy to side with him anyway.   “The Outsiders” taps into that quintessentially American desire to champion for the underdog, and it does it quite well.

I don’t think Church has ever sounded more confident and alive on record, and the guitar work is fresh and creative, especially when the bass takes the lead in the middle.  And the breakdown during the end?   The most interesting thing I’ve heard on a country song since I can remember.

All in all, it’s remarkably well done.  If his upcoming album is half as interesting and out by Christmas, then we may need to save a slot on our  Best of 2013 lists.

Written by Casey Beathard and Eric Church

Grade: A

Listen: The Outsiders

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22 Comments

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22 Responses to Single Review: Eric Church, “The Outsiders”

  1. Noah EatonNo Gravatar

    I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this divided, this bi-polar, on any given release.

    As a “country” single, this is an abject failure all-around. In no way, shape or form should this be anywhere remotely close to “country” airwaves just as much as no genetically-modified wheat should be anywhere remotely close to organic-grown wheat. And the fact it IS being force-fed down the throats of millions of “country” listeners single-handedly makes me want to tear this a new one.

    In addition, the lyrics are utterly hackneyed and play shamelessly to the “outlaw” archetype he’s aspiring to emulate. And that in itself really isn’t wrong at all (though shameless marketing)…………but that there’s one particular lyric that really concerns me, and it is the opening couplet to the second verse:

    *

    “Our women get hot and our leather gets stained,
    when we saddle up and ride ‘em in the pouring rain.”

    *

    Does that lyric strike anyone else here as absolutely objectifying?

    The first immediate red flag is referring to them as “our women”, which could very well be construed as that women are their property. Secondly, the latter lyric of this couplet is an obvious sexual innuendo………….but still, the fact this is a contemporary heavy rock/metal-esque single aside, doesn’t it strike anyone else as out of place even from a lyrical standpoint on “country” airwaves, even in the era of “Eight Second Ride” and “Take A Little Ride”?

    Then, before the interlude, we hear Church utter: “Our backs to the wall! A band of brothers! Together, alone. The Outsiders!” Ohhhhhhhhhhhh……..I get it now! Only males (except for effeminate and petite men, of course! ;) ) are allowed among “the other ones”! Yeah………………..real inclusive, Chief! (eye roll) >=)

    *

    *

    Yet, as much as I lament the fact this is being marketed as a “country” single and the hackneyed lyrics……………at the same time I choose to approach this single on its own merit and ignore that it is being shipped to any particular genre…………….and when I do so, this is decent despite its lyrical missteps.

    Musically, I really dig this on its own accord. This is rather reminiscent of the Blue Oyster Cult while the closing minute had this “Icky Thump” by the White Stripes vibe.

    I will mention that I felt Church’s vocals don’t exactly compliment the production scheme here. He really strains to be heard over this wall of sound throughout, and I’d also argue the production veers a little too close to a live cut brand of quality. In other words, sketchy.

    However, I can’t help but feel with regards to the latter, that was exactly what Church was going for. I certainly don’t doubt airplay is a priority for him and EMI, but it is also clear that his live show is, bar none, what he’s most invested in. And beyond its artistic merit alone, I think Church has already set out exactly what he wanted to accomplish here: get people talking about him again and make an audible statement that will translate effectively live. Indeed you may recall, when Church dropped “Homeboy” as the lead single from his previous album, that Church acknowledged there were easily more radio-friendly offerings in the wings, but he intentionally wanted to challenge listeners with a more gutsy track that had something to say with his lead release, then follow it up with something radio would embrace.

    “The Outsiders” is clinically designed as his fight song. It doesn’t excuse its questionable lyrics, but I also don’t believe a song should receive demerits only because it doesn’t tell a story or lacks a narrative focus. Fight songs don’t go out of their way to achieve either. They are meant to invoke adrenaline and warm-up a crowd.

    For a fight song, this accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. And while one can acknowledge this, but then criticize Church and EMI along the lines of “Yeah, but……..why is this a radio single?”……….you also have to understand the context. With lead singles, Church is out to achieve none other than to get listeners talking. Moreover, when you consider the reality that Church has deliberately been reaching out at countless festivals to audiences who are never known for listening to country music (most notably the Orion Musical Festival, Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza)………..I think it’s most fitting and appropriate he released a lead offering that reflects his unique fanbase.

    *

    *

    So I’m at a loss of words as to how to grade this. I’ll have to break it down categorically:

    *

    Lyrics: C
    Production: B-
    Music: B
    Vocals: C+
    Live Appeal: A
    Staying Power: B+
    As a “country” single: F
    As a single on its own: B

    *

  2. Noah EatonNo Gravatar

    All things considered, I have more to contest with regards to your review than concur, Kevin! This sure as Hades isn’t even going to be eligible for any year-end “country” singles compendium of any sort in my book. I would automatically disqualify it from the “country” category on the simple ground that this is a modern heavy rock/metal single, but is only being marketed to “country” radio because Active Rock radio has been irrelevant since the mid-00’s.

    Where we can certainly agree is that the breakdown IS the most interesting thing we’ve heard on any release marketed to this format all year.

  3. bobNo Gravatar

    I liked Noah’s comparison of this song and country airwaves to “genetically-modified wheat and organic-grown wheat” since my wife’s on a wheat free diet that has enabled her to stop taking statins. The song? Don’t care for it but I’m admittedly not an EC fan.

  4. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    I didn’t catch that saddle lyric at all. That’s a little horrifying. I suppose we’re lucky it doesn’t have the added consent issues of “Blurred Lines.”

  5. JasonNo Gravatar

    I took that couplet from the 2nd verse to mean the women of outlaws, not that they own them (would be like a New Yorker saying “our women” in relation to northern women). And while there is sexual innuendo there, it reads more like the women get turned on seeing the men ride in the rain. In other words, I don’t see it nearly as offensive as “Blurred Lines” (which has already been brought up).

  6. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    Quote from review:

    If Eric Church is anyone’s successor these days, it’s probably Hank Williams, Jr.

    I don’t know if that’s saying much, to be totally honest; but it doesn’t sound all that good (IMHO).

  7. I’d say that he’s more like Hank III…this song at least.
    Like Noah, I have mixed feelings about this song.
    It does sound pretty cool, but it doesn’t belong on country radio. And, I agree that Eric’s voice is limited and distorted.

  8. Noah EatonNo Gravatar

    Jason: I can understand where you’re coming from in your interpretation, but either way this underscores just how sloppy the songwriting here is.

    Not to mention is clinically designed to reinforce Church’s “outlaw” image (He probably chose to title this “The Outsiders” rather than “The Outlaws” because he’s already aware exactly how polarizing the latter term has become! ;) )

    A fitting parallel from another recent release would be Keith Urban’s “Little Bit of Everything”. Such a debate ignited over the singular lyric: “I want a cool chick that’ll cook for me but’ll dance on the bar in her tan bare feet and do what I want when I want and she’ll do it with me.”

    Some interpreted that as being a harmless lyric about simply having someone by his side who shares his zest for life. Others interpreted it as selfish and even a bit misogynistic. Frankly, I can see reasonings behind both interpretations.

    Same story rings true with many of the songs Luke Bryan interprets (but usually doesn’t write). Take “Blood Brothers”, for instance, which includes the lyric: “Chasin’ every girl that wasn’t fast enough.”

    It’s easy to understand the sentiment and nostalgia that might inspire a lyric of that sort, but the way it is phrased and written on paper sounds quite creepy and unsettling. It makes the narrator sound like a predatory stalker.

    *

    I’m willing to give Eric Church and his co-writer the benefit of a doubt and assume they wrote that couplet not intending to be misogynous or disrespectful of women. But it doesn’t excuse the fact this is sloppy songwriting that can easily raise yellow flags reading on paper.

  9. CountryKnightNo Gravatar

    A new Eric Church song. Another Eric Church hit. I have been waiting for him to return.

    Great song still I keep thinking Eric hit his peak with his first album.

  10. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    I definitely hear the Hank, Jr. My first thought was that it sounds a lot like a metal “A Country Boy Can Survive.”

    My second thought was that it’s the most shameless attempt to create a rallying anthem for a particular fan base since Lady Gaga wrote “Born This Way” in ten minutes.

    “Our women” line notwithstanding, it does sound good. Like everyone else, I just wish it had a little more to do with country music.

  11. TomNo Gravatar

    I’m surprised.

    I actualy like Eric Church more than most of you guys do, but I -hate- this song. It’s poorly sung, has inane lyrics and isn’t even a good rock song, much less a country one. It sounds like what people who have never listened to rock music think rock sounds like.

    This is the first Church song I’ve heard where there isn’t a single line that made me perk my head up and nod or chuckle. A mediocre electric guitar solo at the end doesn’t salvage this song’s aggressive stupidity, for me anyway.

  12. I’m not even sure what to think of this. It will definitely go over well at his live shows, but the lyrics mostly just feel shoddy to me, and it is a little off-putting that it’s marketed as country in spite of its sounding so unabashedly un-country. We’ll see if it grows on me.

  13. I don’t know why people keep saying this crap is metal. I know metal. Listen to a fair amount of it, from Black Sabbath to Symphony X. And metal this is not. Not good metal anyway. If it was I could at least give Church credit for it, but apparently he can’t even do that right. (Considering how he talks up his metal fandom, one would think he could do better, but any self-respecting metalhead would laugh him right out of the room if they heard this marketed as such.)

    As it is, though, it’s yet more country music for people who don’t like country music, or — if you like — metal for people who really don’t like metal.

  14. TomNo Gravatar

    Exactly, pistolero. It’s neither good country nor good rock/metal. I don’t know who he -is- trying to appeal to.

  15. IMO he’s trying to be bold. Separate himself from the pack.

    It’s actually a good strategy. Get people talking about him.

  16. JasonNo Gravatar

    I think country writers’ view of “rock” is not the same as what rock musicians/writers would view as current rock. Country music has become what rock was in, say, the 90s. I think when people refer to current country as “rock,” some people get confused or even offended because current country is not like current rock music. It is like ‘older’ rock music, though.

  17. TomNo Gravatar

    @Jason

    Oh, I’m including older rock music when I say that this fails as a rock song. This is more like 70s rock than 90s rock, actually, because it combines terrible musicianship with the overproduction and inane lyrics. Unlike Brad Delp or Steve Perry, though, Church doesn’t have the pipes to make it even remotely listenable.

  18. Six String RichieNo Gravatar

    This song just didn’t work for me. The lyrics were the part that sank it for me. The song claims to be music for the “outside crowd” yet the people he describes seem like typical characters for country music in 2013. I’m also really tired of the term “how we roll” being used in country.

    Additionally, when I think of music for “the outsiders” I think more of The Replacements or similar bands.

  19. VickiNo Gravatar

    For some reason, I’m noticing that Country-Hard Rock, seems to be more approved than Country-Pop/Hip Hop. When I saw Eric perform this on the CMAS, I thought my gosh what a hard rock song. But everyone in the audience was digging it. It is a cool song..but..not quite country.

  20. BrianNo Gravatar

    Honestly. I can’t stand this song. Written horrible. As country song I agree with Noah it is horrible. Yes I hear Hank Jr in. I like some songs that eric done like sinners like me. don’t songs like Cheepin thought it was a real stupid song. This song like he is telling nashville if you don’t like me screw you.
    Overall grade F

  21. sam ncNo Gravatar

    Really????????? Its just a song!!!! Are the PC police that in force today that we have every lyric ran through the grist mill of political correctness? I mean HEAVEN FORBID a young guy talking about chasing girls. That’s the whole problem I have with the entire discussion. Most heterosexual males at sometime in their lives has chased a girl or two. The song is a bit contrived YES, its a whole lot bubble gum but misogynistic and objectifying??? Stop being hypocrites. Its nothing more than a song. Its not like it will be remembered in a few decades. Its not a great song but its not terrible. Its just a fun rowdy fight song when you want to pump up your testosterone a little bit. Nobody fusses when women want to listen to a sappy love song.