Single Review: Alan Jackson, “The Older I Get”

“The Older I Get”
Alan Jackson

Written by Adam Wright, Hailey Whitters, and Sarah Allison Turner

Country music has a bad habit of paying empty lip-service to its legends: Trotting them out to present a minor award at the ACMs, giving them a cursory round of applause when they’ve been enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame, making a grand show of public grief when they pass. But contemporary country music rarely shows any lingering influence of those legends, and it does an even poorer job of shining a light on those acts when, late in their careers, they continue to make exceptional music.

Radio decided it was done with Alan Jackson after 2009’s “Sissy’s Song” barely scraped the top 10, so there’s no reason to suspect that his new single, “The Older I Get,” will make any meaningful inroads after he takes the stage at the CMA Awards in a couple of weeks to perform the track and receive an inevitable standing ovation from an audience of artists who, by and large, try to sound as little like him as possible.

Ultimately, the fate of “The Older I Get” will only make its sentiment all the more poignant and pointed. A graceful, smartly-observed meditation on aging, “The Older I Get” is as well-written as any country song in recent memory, and it’s a letter-perfect bit of autocritique for Jackson, who continues to stride capably into his role as one of the genre’s legends.

His voice is a bit more weathered than it was during his commercial heyday, but that only lends gravitas to lines like, “The older I get, the fewer friends I have/but you don’t need a lot/When the ones that you’ve got/Have always got your back.” The production largely stays out of his way– there’s a flourish of a gospel-tinged piano and a prominent fiddle, because it’s an Alan Jackson track, so of course there are actual country instruments on it– and keeps the focus squarely on his performance. The natural warmth of Jackson’s voice ensures that a lyric about “knowing when to give and when to just not give a damn” doesn’t scan as bitter but, instead, simply sounds like hard-won wisdom.

When Jackson concludes, “I guess I’ve got more to say,” its a promise that he isn’t content to rest on his considerable laurels. If singles like “The Older I Get” are an indication of how Jackson intends to build upon his legacy, country music will be all the better for it.

Grade: A

6 Comments

  1. I’ll take whatever I can get from the amazing Mr. Jackson. But when it’s a great song, that’s icing on the cake. Hope to hear him back on the radio again and I hope that’s not wishful thinking.

  2. Alan Jackson is sliding into that same category for me as Dolly Parton, where the talent just stays so darn consistent for so long that the newer songs rank alongside the classics as my overall favorites.

    “Blue Ridge Mountain Song,” “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore,” “Monday Morning Church,” and now this, another great song for the ages.

  3. This might actually give me a reason to watch the CMA’s. Just a beautiful, reflective song..although with our luck, the CMA’s will try and mash it up with Florida Georgia LIne’s “Smooth”.

    I think what impresses me most about the guy is that he hasn’t rested on his laurels. Some of his best efforts have come in the last 10-15 years, on albums that he might have gotten pushback on earlier in his career had they been released (Like Red on a Rose, The Bluegrass Album, “Precious Memories”, the singles Kevin mentioned), simply because they were a slight departure from the albums of his highly successful commercial period. There’s something impressive about an artist who is willing to go outside of the box, yet still make a sincere commitment to the music, and not completely sell out on everything he stands for. I highly agree with the sentiment that the quality of his more recent material has augmented my opinion of the man, and his musical legacy.

  4. Really love this! To me, this is true country. In today’s world where mainstream “country” is flooded with immature songs, this song is truly a breath of fresh air. It’s just another reason why radio should’ve never stopped playing Alan and many of the other 90’s veterans. Although I’m certainly not holding my breath, I still hope this can do something on the charts. Speaking of “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore,” I’m still bitter that that one didn’t do better for him. Such a great song, and one of his best recent singles, imo. Oh well, it’s a classic in my mind!

  5. Great song. Kudos to AJ and the three songwriters. Besides the lyrics mentioned in the review, I like the end of the first verse:
    And the older I get
    The truer it is
    It’s the people you love, not the money and stuff
    That makes you rich

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