“Doin’ Country Right”
Written by Heather Morgan, Josh Osborne, and Jimmy Robbins
Seems safe to bet that the irony of this single’s title is lost on everyone involved in inflicting it upon a genre that keeps finding ever-more horrifying ways to embarrass itself.
“Hard to Be Cool”
Written by Rob Hatch and Jason Sellers
I’m always rooting for Joe Nichols. He’s got a smooth twang, two qualities that usually don’t go together. He’s made some solid music over the years, too.
What gets him in trouble is his strange tendency toward songs that walk the line between clever and corny. He seems to be drawn to songs that come up with an interesting concept, but never get around to building a compelling song around it.
“I Cheated on You”
Written by Brent Anderson, Brandy Clark, and Forrest Whitehead
“I Cheated on You” is likely to be the best country single of 2015 that barely gets heard south of the Canadian border.
Terri Clark’s latest single is perfectly structured, has an edge that can come only with maturity, and tells such an obvious country cheating tale that it’s amazing that it’s never been told this way before.
Written by J.T. Harding, Josh Osborne, and Trevor Rosen
This is Shelton’s best single an a good long while.
It’s smooth and seductive, without sounding overly coy or even the least bit tacky. The Sangria angle is used well both literally and figuratively, and the lyrics are creative enough that they don’t run the concept into the ground.
“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.
“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.”
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.
“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.