The countdown continues, with appearances by popular new artists joined by a pair of nineties veterans.
The Best Singles of 2010, Part 2: #30-#21
Roll With It Easton Corbin
It’s easy to overlook Corbin’s second single as just another breezy summer tune, but it stands above the rest, thanks to its near-perfect execution. From the spirited delivery to the skillful handling of otherwise trite phrases –like the title phrase and “it won’t be no thang”— “Roll With It” makes a fresh, invigorating case for shedding everyday troubles and, well, rolling with it. – Tara Seetharam
I Put My Ring Back On Mary Chapin Carpenter
“I Put My Ring Back On” is a throwback to the sounds of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s glory days on the charts. It’s catchy with a message of relational perseverance. As a result, it’s one of the two most memorable songs on her latest album. – Leeann Ward
Who Are You When I’m Not Looking Blake Shelton
Blake Shelton has a strong voice, but it’s most expressive when he dials it back enough to allow the sensitivity to cut through. Exhibit A: “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking.” As one of the beautifully understated productions of the year, he loves everything that he knows about his woman, therefore, he can’t help but imagine and wonder about what he’s not seeing. – LW
Put You in a Song Keith Urban
Creating hooky pieces of ear candy is one of Urban’s defining talents, and the lead single from his November release is further proof. Blessedly, it’s devoid of the distracting electronic instrumentation that has lately plagued his recordings, which makes for one of Urban’s cleanest releases in recent years. – LW
American Honey Lady Antebellum
Look, I still don’t know what American honey is, and I’m guessing you don’t either. What I do know is this: Hillary Scott’s performance is layered, vulnerable and desperate – a perfect encapsulation of the wave of nostalgia that finds you in your early 20s. Coupled with the wistful melody, it’s enough to override the wacky metaphor and lift the song to one of the most poignant of the year. – TS
A Father’s Love (The Only Way He Knew How) Bucky Covington
This is probably Covington’s best performance to date. The song manages to be sweet without crossing the line to sickeningly cloying. It depicts a father who shows his love through action rather than verbal affirmation, which is something that the son ultimately accepts as just as good. – LW
Playing the Part Jamey Johnson
Something that Jamey Johnson isn’t afraid to do in this radio era of watered down, trite messages is expose himself as less than a perfect human being. Instead, he will sing about drug addiction (“High Cost of Living”) and depression, as we hear in this tale of disappointment that is a result of the crushing disappointment of unattained success. – LW
Fearless Taylor Swift
As a single release, it was little more than an afterthought, the album of the same name having already flexed most of its world-conquering muscles. As a sort of mission-statement album track, though, “Fearless” still rocks, adeptly capturing the jitters and giddiness of young romance and sort of arguing for embracing such sensations while you can. That Swift tells herself at a certain point to “capture it, remember it” suggests she knows there’s more loneliness and disappointment on the flip-side of this one elated moment. – Dan Milliken
She Won’t Be Lonely Long Clay Walker
Ringing with effortless charisma and playful sincerity, the lead single off Walker’s latest album was a welcomed reintroduction to his most beloved qualities. Interestingly, though the song serves as a tribute to his classic 90s sound, it fit snugly –and refreshingly– on country radio. – TS
Only Prettier Miranda Lambert
Lambert exposes the sneaky bitchery lurking behind so much Southern sweetness. Country radio is all like, “Whaaat?” – DM
As someone who enjoys a relationship with a warm father who’s always been quick with support and affirmation, it’s a testament to a good song that I can feel an emotional connection to Bucky Covington’s latest single, “A Father’s Love (the Only Way He Knew How)”, which depicts a father with less demonstrative sensibilities than mine.
The song’s narrator describes his father’s penchant for showing his love by doing rather than saying. Instead of having a “heart to heart talk” before his son leaves for college, he does some last minute maintenance on the car that will be taking him there. Likewise, rather than telling his son that he likes his first, new home, he immediately pulls out the tool box in order to fix what he can in the house.
While the son would have appreciated some affection or words of affirmation, he learned to understand that his father demonstrated his love by verbs rather than adjectives: “I didn’t hear it then, but I hear it now/He was sayin’, ‘I love you’ the only way he knew how.”
With a pleasant production that does not shy away from the steel guitar, Covington’s performance is both believable and emotive. Moreover, “A Father’s Love” proves that a song that neatly fits into the mainstream’s typical song structure is also capable of feeling authentic instead of calculated. Furthermore, it is sweet without being overtly cloying thanks to a moral payoff that is employed in such a way that the song does not jump the shark to reach for a manufactured happy ending.
It can be done.
Written by Liz Hengber, Thom Shepherd & Steve Williams
In theory, Bucky Covington covering a rock song isn’t a bad idea – when at his best, he has a natural, believable southern rock edge to his voice. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to his version of “Gotta Be Somebody,” which finds his voice oddly processed and uncharacteristically dull.
The main issue is that the bite and passion that surge through the repetitive chorus in the original Nickelback version are largely if not completely absent from Covington’s version, leaving it stripped of raw emotion. If you can’t sing a song about your willingness to wait forever for your soulmate with a fighting desperation, why sing it at all? The arrangement is also quite jarring as a result of the country “re-vamping” of the song, and this is no more apparent than in the instrumental breakdown – with a smothered fiddle – before the bridge.
Covington’s always been the kind of artist who shines with the right material, so here’s to hoping he wises up and makes smarter musical decisions in the future.
Time’s running short. If your personal least favorite wasn’t in Part 1, Part 2 , or Part 3, perhaps it will turn up now.
The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #20-#11
The Lost Trailers, “Holler Back”
If your response to hearing “Holler Back” is to brag that you’ve got a holler back in the woods, I suggest that you and your music stay there.
Trailer Choir, “Rockin’ the Beer Gut”
I appreciate the sincerity, but it can’t overcome the fact that he’s rockin’ the Autotune and singin’ the most ridiculous lyric of the year.
Bucky Covington, “A Different World”
Bucky and I are roughly the same age, and I know for a fact that we grew up with seat belts, video games, and remote controls. What’s next, Taylor Swift singing about growing up without the internet?
Toby Keith featuring Krystal, “Mockingbird”
As endearing as it is that Toby Keith wanted to help his daughter on to country radio, I have to ask the question: Why is one of country music’s greatest all-time vocalists aping James Taylor’s far less capable vocal stylings? Did we really need to hear Toby Keith sing, “Yes indeed-o?”
Billy Ray Cyrus featuring Miley Cyrus, “Ready, Set, Don’t Go”
Then again, trying to help your daughter is a heck of a lot more sympathetic than riding on her coattails. I’d give this a pass if it was the original recording, but slapping Miley on to the track when the solo version is struggling at radio is just sad.
Blake Shelton, “The Baby”
Or as he sings it, “The Bay-ay-bee.”
Neal McCoy, “Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On”
Of all of the nineties stars to make a one-off comeback, did it have to be the man who brought us “The Shake?”
Gretchen Wilson, “All Jacked Up”
In which Wilson sees both her front tooth and her pickup truck damaged, and pundits are left debating which one best symbolizes what she’s done to her career.
Brad Paisley, “Ticks”
A warning to all the ladies: If a stranger starts talking to you like this at a bar, please don’t follow him into the woods. It won’t end well.
Trace Adkins, “Swing”
The strikes are called after you swing, not before them. Stupid songwriters.
You’re always treading on thin ice when you use encounters with the homeless for creative inspiration. Songwriters love to do it, but it’s the rare one who is able to present a homeless person with the distinction and dignity necessary to make him or her feel like more than a stock character.
“I Want My Life Back” bombs pretty hard in that regard. The homeless man in this song exists solely to help the song make its point – he’s so committed to it, in fact, that he turns down food money in order to recite the words to the bombastic chorus. After that, the homeless man’s words serve to inspire the narrator to realize, as all regretful men in pop-country singles do, that his pride and temper are what killed his previous relationship, and that he now wants his girl back. So he calls her up to tell her that. The End.
What we learned: the homeless exist to give songwriters ideas and to inspire you to get back together with your girlfriend. And when they speak, it is in power-ballad form. Now you know!
On Tuesday, January 13, 2008, the eighth season of American Idol commenced. As the highest-rated show on television, American Idol‘s produced an immeasurable impact on the entertainment industry, with film stars (Jennifer Hudson), pop superstars (Kelly Clarkson) and publicity magnets (Clay Aiken) all sprouting from the competition.
A number of Idol participants adopted country music as their main mode of career transportation. In addition to Season Four champion Carrie Underwood, finalists Josh Gracin, Bucky Covington and Kellie Pickler have achieved varying levels of success on Music Row. Phil Stacey, Kristy Lee Cook and Bo Bice continue to polish their craft in the hopes that they’ll find favor with country listeners as well.
The best Idol contestant to date is Kelly Clarkson. Her blend of balls-to-the-wall rockers and fall-to-your-knees ballads were a magic potion to angry tween girls (and fans of pure pop bliss), and her ensuing success legitimized Idol as a cultural institution. Then, the floodgates opened. Kudos came from all corners of the musical universe with 2005′s “Since U Been Gone,” a sing-in-your-hairbrush salvo that Clarkson fires off with the strength of a gale force wind. Hip and happening, fueled by a melody that was half Strokes, half Swedish pop genius, “Since U Been Gone” gained a rare thing for mainstream radio songs: credibility. A change in her musical muse (Clarkson delved into deeper, darker tones on 2007′s My December) was met with turbulence; in June 2007, she shared her public “feuds” with famed record exec Clive Davis, she dumped her management team and she canceled a stadium tour.
Recent developments advance the notion that she’s ready to conquer the Top 40 parade again. Hailed as the return of pop’s prodigal daughter, Clarkson’s new album All I Ever Wanted (slated to ship on St. Patrick’s Day) is being positioned as a bounce back into the shinier rhythms of Clarkson’s earlier work. The bright, beaming colors of the album art (not to mention her goody-two-shoes, glammed-out pose) and the light, breezy feel of its first single, “My Life Would Suck Without You” signal a renewed energy. Lyrics like “Maybe I was stupid for telling you goodbye/Maybe I was wrong for tryin’ to pick a fight” hint coyly at the contretemps behind the black curtain. A masterstroke of marketing or an earnest ditty of devotion? No matter. The quasi-comeback kid kicks the tail out of a tale of resistant rapture.
There’s your Kelly Clarkson update. Now, who is your favorite Idol contestant, country or otherwise?
P.S. Who, in my view, is the best country Idol contestant so far? Well, Carrie Underwood, of course.
This song by Bucky Covington has the potential to be his biggest hit to date. It has everything that mainstream country music programmers clamor to spin—an inoffensive production and an inspirational story.
“I’ll Walk” is a typical three verse song that uses the title phrase in three different ways as an attempt to jerk some tears from its listeners. As Kevin mentions in his review of Covington’s album, the three act form is similar to Kathy Mattea’s “Where’ve You Been” and Joe Nichols’ “I’ll wait For You”, among countless other country songs. While it is far more superior to “I’ll Wait For You”, it lacks the sweetness of “Where’ve You Been.” Instead, it plays like an after-school special or a Chicken Soup For the Soul story.
Call me heartless and perhaps I’m simplifying, but the story goes like this: The boyfriend and girlfriend get in a fight on prom night. She makes him stop the car so that she can walk. Although he doesn’t want her to walk, he lets her out of the car anyway. Because it’s dark outside and she’s wearing a black dress, she is hit by a car. When the boyfriend arrives at the hospital, she assures him that she will, indeed, be able to walk again. After months of physical therapy and the boyfriend standing by her side through it all, he proposes. Then we come to the wedding scene. Instead of rolling down the aisle, she tells her dad that she’ll walk.
While I realize that many people will defend this song to the bitter end and Covington’s vocal performance is strong, the production is bland and the lyrics are too predictable for me to give this song a higher grade.
He’s much stronger when tackling upbeat material, and it’s hard not to find his enthusiasm on this song contagious, even if the lyrics themselves are as conventional as country music gets. It’ll sound good loud as you’re driving down a road in the summertime, which is probably what his label is betting on by sending this to radio. He’s not reinventing the wheel here, but it’s a solid performance nonetheless.
The latest American Idol castaway to wash up on the shores of country radio is 2006 eighth-placer Bucky Covington, who sees his debut album hit stores a little over a year since he was sent home. That’s a lot more time between leaving the show and hitting record stores than we usually see for an Idol debut; Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler both released albums before the end of the year, with only months to both finish the summer tour and record the project.
Listening to Covington’s debut, it’s easy to make the case for taking more time, as this is a very consistent album, despite a few stumbles here and there. He kicks off the album with a hard country-rocker “American Friday Night”, and he sounds fantastic. His voice has rough edges without sounding forced, and he is fully believable celebrating small-town living it up. But he sounds like a completely different singer on the second track “A Different World,” the lead single that irritates the hell out of me. The difference is jarring, with Covington singing in a high-pitched, overdone twang. If I heard these two songs on the radio, I would think it was two different artists.
young to legitimately have nostalgia for the days before video games, unleaded paint and remote controls, and as for his admission that his mother smoke and drank while pregnant, I have trouble agreeing with him that he “still turned out alright.”
Enough. Country radio, put a stop to this and don’t give this record your spins, no matter how many Idol fans buy it opening week. Did you see pop radio playing William Hung when he moved a few records? For the remaining shreds of dignity this genre has left – and after six years of Rascal Flatts, they’re almost gone – toss this piece of trash. Please.