“Livin’ the Dream”
Written by Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston, and Luke Laird
As a would-be anthem for the contemporary working class, “Livin’ the Dream” is perhaps a bit too unassuming for its own good.
The verses find Drake White using a rapid-fire delivery to take stock of the current economic climate and its impact on personal relationships: “Times are hard / And hearts break like the bank” in a “world of broken promises and empty tanks.” The images favor broad generalizations over specificity or anything that creates a believable first-person connection to the world the song aspires to describe. Jason Isbell’s “Something More Than Free,” this certainly isn’t.
The melody allows White to make use of his rumbling lower register, and it’s White’s committed performance and the gradually building arrangement that give the verses a sense of shape and momentum. The arrangement catches fire as the chorus kicks in, and it’s the contrast between the verses and the more upbeat chorus that makes “Livin’ the Dream” work. “Big blue sky / Green, green grass / Ain’t doin’ half-bad/ For a half-full glass,” White sings, drawling out the song’s hook, “Now ain’t we livin’ the dream?” with equal parts sincerity and wry humor.
It’s the casual wit that he brings to his performances as much as his powerhouse voice that makes White such an exciting new talent. “Livin’ the Dream” may not be as well-written or as ingratiating as “It Feels Good,” but White’s aw-shucks charm and some smart production choices elevate the single. Its narrative, if too thinly drawn, is accessible, and its arrangement is within spitting distance of the R&B-inflected sounds currently dominating country radio, so “Livin’ the Dream” sounds like it could be Drake White’s well-deserved breakthrough hit.