An ode to being a chains-free, red wine-drinking hot mess could be tacky and unnecessarily snarky. In Armiger’s hands, it’s tasteful, swampy and empowering. Grade: B+
Brett Eldredge, “Don’t Ya”
It’s been awhile since we’ve heard a voice as soulful as Eldredge’s massage a melody as enticing as this one. “Just Got Started Loving You” this song is not, but with its sly lyrics and irresistible chorus, it comes close. Grade: B+
Justin Moore, “Til My Last Day”
Written by Brian Dean Maher, Justin Moore & Jeremy Stover
Written by Lindsay Chapman, Natalie Hemby & Blu Sanders
You can’t blend two of the greatest voices of our generation without a decent result. Unfortunately, that’s all this is – a pleasant, sweetly sung sleeper that doesn’t do much to elevate either of these enormous talents. Grade: B-
Miss Willie Brown, “You’re All That Matters to Me”
Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange
A manic, over-the-top love letter that’s simply not wacky enough to be the self-parody that its music video suggests. Grade: C
Jason Aldean ft. Luke Bryan and Eric Church, “The Only Way I Know”
Written by Ben Hayslip and David Lee Murphy
Three of the fastest-rising male artists in country music are also three of the most distinct male artists in country music, each having built his fanbase on a unique persona and brand of swagger. Oddly, this collaboration seems to meld their personalities together into one that’s less interesting than all three.
But that’s not the bigger issue at hand. The song sinks because of its empty lyrics, its jarring theme of “humble pride” against a needlessly aggressive arrangement, and its subtle implication that a work ethic cut from a different cloth than the narrators’ is a lesser one.
Thankfully, this should be the last single this year from Carrie Underwood.
I say thankfully because a good “Best Singles of the Year” list needs some variety. Underwood’s been stacking the deck this year, putting out one outstanding single after another, and it’s really bad form to leave no room at the top for the rest of the competition.
“Two Black Cadillacs” revives the Southern Gothic murder ballad subgenre that was once far more prominent in country music. This is not to be confused with the wrongfully abused variety of murder ballad, which has only surfaced in the past twenty years.
A pure revenge fantasy mind you, as unbelievable and fantastical as anything Porter Wagoner ever dreamed up. Underwood’s the perfect narrator for the tale, her pithy descriptions punctuated by melancholy strings that would sound just as comfortable on American Horror Story as they do accompanying our favorite American Idol.
She lets her bias slip with a giddy “bye bye,” revealing she’s fully on board with the just desserts being served. It works because the scenario is simply implausible, which allows the listener to indulge in the darkness that would horrify us if it was actually reality.
It’s a testament to Underwood’s versatility as a singer and her credibility as a public persona that she can pull off something so wicked and not get an ounce of dirt on her squeaky clean image. But most of all, it’s a credit to her ambition as an artist. For someone so frequently accused of getting to the top without having to
There’s certainly nothing wrong with a good sexy country song, as such have a storied history in the genre. But there is something to be said for subtlety. The best attempts are often lightly clever, emotionally raw, or perhaps delivered with the tongue planted firmly in the cheek.
Everything about “She Cranks My Tractor” practically beats the listener over the head, from the pounding bass to the T.M.I. lyrics. It’s like three minutes of Lynch bellowing “Yee haw! Farm sex!!!” The titular metaphor feels corny and tacky (Can you imagine playing this in front of your non-country-fan peers?), and the lyrics lay on the details so thick as to make the listener feel voyeuristic. It’s
represents the “adolescent pop” side of country music… and yet somehow still manages to sound more country than half of what’s on country radio today.
I can’t get over how cool this record sounds. The dobro, the mandolin, the hand claps… I find it nearly irresistible. ”Telescope” tackles the tried-and-true country music theme of cheating with a clever concept and a great hook, while Panettiere rides the catchy beat with an assured performance – subtle when necessary, forceful when appropriate.
My inner critic will step in just long enough to say that the production and background vocals are laid on a bit too thick in some places, particularly toward the end the song, but not to the point of sapping my listening enjoyment. I can totally get into this.
slightly eerie sound that makes it oddly addictive – a feeling that is nicely enhanced by low banjo plucking, leading up to a searing fiddle solo in the song’s bridge.
Though the lyrics convey the narrator’s undying love for her spouse, the overall tone of the song is one not of romance, but of desperation. The narrator recognizes that she has formed such a close attachment to her love that to lose him, be it by death or divorce, would destroy her. The lyrics are spiced up with a few clever turns of phrase, but they could potentially have benefited from added specificity, as it’s unclear why she sounds so fearful of the union coming to a heartbreaking end. (Granted, this is the same woman who not too long ago was singing about what her burial plans would be if overtaken by young death)
Unfortunately, the record suffers from a view ill-advised attempts to polish it up. The synthetic hand claps come across as somewhat gaudy and out of character with the song. The bass line feels intrusive. Also, what’s with the exaggerated twang in Kimberly’s voice during the chorus? Perhaps such additions were motivated by commercial concerns, yet the trio’s past few singles were able to succeed at radio largely without resorting to gimmicks.
But those little hiccups don’t stop “Better Dig Two” from being one of the most interesting and organic-sounding new tunes with a shot at radio airplay. It’s great to hear the Perry siblings tweaking their formula, and it definitely raises anticipation for what surprises they might have in store for their second album outing.
Written by Trevor Rosen, Shane McAnally, and Brandy Clark
How many female country artists these days kick off a radio run with two back-to-back songs of heartache, both with audible fiddle and steel to boot?
At any rate, Jana Kramer is shaping up to be the breakout surprise of 2012. Her debut single “Why Ya Wanna” was well-written, competently sung, tastefully produced, and almost inexplicably became a Top 5 hit.
Kramer offers a most worthy follow-up with her new single “Whiskey.” With its themes of emotional angst and regret, it will likely imbue a most welcome shot of melancholy into the mix of interchangeable love songs and party anthems that populate country radio. “Whiskey” is built around an easily accessible, yet surprisingly effective metaphor, as seen in its winning chorus:
“Should have just called it like I saw it
Should have just called for help, and ran like hell that day
The burning, the stinging, the high and the heat
And the left-me-wanting-more feeling when he kissed me
I should have just called him Whiskey.” Though things are glossed-up just enough to keep from offending P.C. country radio standards, both the production and vocal stay out of the way of the lyrics, and the moaning fiddle
intro feels like the return of an old friend. Though the sound of the record is not squarely “traditional,” it demonstrates that it is possible to incorporate pop sounds and melodies without entirely abandoning country genre signifiers.
As for whether Kramer can keep the ball rolling commercially after scoring one bona-fide country hit, we’ll have to see. But based on the quality of her first two radio outings, one would definitely hope that Jana Kramer is here to stay.
Great hooks have become a dying breed in mainstream country music. It seems every other single review I write includes criticism for a hook that falls flat. Exhibit A: Tim McGraw’s new single.
“One of Those Nights” could be seen as a step up from “Truck Yeah” – though that’s probably the epitome of a hollow compliment. The production is heavy, and hardly country at all, but it generally avoids becoming a distraction until the overwrought finish. (A gospel choir? Really?) The lyrics aren’t particularly original – a backwoods love story the likes of which we’ve heard a few times before - but they’re laced with a few details that lend a degree of interest to the story.
Yet the one thing about the song that I just can’t get over is the way it keeps repeating the phrase “This is gonna be one of those nights” as if it’s somehow significant. It doesn’t summarize the content of the song in any meaningful way. It doesn’t convey anything deeper than what it says on the surface, and it’s not especially interesting or
clever. A better hook could have compensated to some extent for the generally uninspiring lyrical content, but the way it is, there’s precious little for the listener to grab onto.
No matter how charitable I try to be in discussing Tim McGraw’s new song, ”One of Those Nights” simply offers nothing to get excited about. I miss the days when I could get excited about Tim McGraw’s music, and I highly doubt that Scott Borchetta is going to be the one to bring those days back.
One of the things that frustrates me the most about today’s mainstream country music is the way so many of the songs just seem to be screaming ‘Like me! Like me! Like me!’
Sarah Darling has a beautiful voice, and has made some absolutely delightful records in the past, although radio hasn’t bitten on any thus far. But everything about her current single just sounds a little too calculated, too spit-and-shine polished, too obviously crafted with the goal of appealing to a mass audience.
The hook “You feel like home to me” simply falls flat. The figurative language doesn’t make sense (“Look like Georgia”? “Talk like Kansas”? Huh?) The production sounds recycled from just about any recent country radio hit, and the melody has no real pull to it.
Even at its very best, “Home to Me” feels like little more than the musical equivalent of nice wallpaper – pretty enough, but hardly
-Spent-150×150.jpg” alt=”" width=”150″ height=”150″ />Thirty years ago, Madonna released her first single. In the years that followed, she dominated radio formats across the dial, but never released a single targeting the country market. Until now.
“Love Spent” opens with a banjo riff that recalls the Dixie Chicks at their twangiest. That countriest of country sounds plays alongside the synthesizers and strings that are more typical of a Madonna record. But much like everyone’s favorite country crossover artist, what’s most revealing are the lyrics that target a past beau. In this case, it’s an ex-husband, not an ex-boyfriend, who made off with her money and
“You played with my heart, ’till death do we part, that’s what you said,” she pleads, after wryly noting that “if my name was Benjamin, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.” It fits so neatly into the well-worn themes of love gone wrong that have always defined the genre, making it an instant country classic.
It may seem a stretch to imagine Madonna finding favor at country radio. Not because of her pop sound, of course, but because of her age. At 54, she’s a quarter-century older than the handful of female artists that get country radio airplay, despite being able to run rings around them in terms of talent. Her facing off against those whippersnappers should produce enough drama to make network television scribes green with envy.
I know, I know. It’s a stretch to pretend that Madonna could realistically compete on the country charts. Despite any surface similarities between the throbbing dance beats of “Love Spent” and, say, the current #1 country single, there’s one key difference that’s certain to sink Madonna’s chances in today’s country market.
Her record has a banjo on it.
Written by Madonna, William Orbit, Jean-Baptiste, Priscilla Hamilton, Alain Whyte, Ryan Buenida, and Michael McHenry