Single Review: Jason Aldean, "1994"

jason_aldean_1994 Jason Aldean’s new single “1994” sounds like what you might get if you threw “Johnny Cash,” “She’s Country,” and “My Kinda Party”  into a blender with a dash of Colt Ford, and added fourteen Joe Diffie namedrops.  While the name of nineties country star Joe Diffie  is rarely cited as often as the usual Cash, Haggard, Nelson, Jennings, or Jones, Aldean ostensibly seeks to balance things out by chanting “Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie” at the end of each chorus, while throwing in references to assorted Diffie hits such as “Pickup Man” and “Third Rock from the Sun.”

But just as “Johnny Cash” had nothing to do with its namesake except for the statement that “the Man In Black is gonna rock your ass again,” the references to Joe Diffie and to the year 1994 serve as little more than window dressing,

and are essentially the song’s only characteristics that do not feel completely expected.  The lyrics comprise little more than a hodgepodge of radio-baiting backwoods clichés, with Aldean loudly declaring himself to be “just a country boy with a farmer’s tan” who’s “’bout to bust out my honky tonk attitude.”  The lyrics are so haphazardly thrown together that’s it’s hard to tell what the song is even meant to be about.  The aggressive rock overtones are nothing new for Aldean, while the cheesy “hick-hop”-style verses only affirm that Aldean’s rapping skills have not improved since “Dirt Road Anthem.”

It will be a huge hit because everything Aldean releases is a hit.  But “1994” doesn’t work as a tribute to Diffie, and doesn’t work as art appraised on its own merits, and ultimately takes up residence somewhere in the valley between “unlistenable” and “unintentionally hilarious.”  Either way I’d rather listen to Diffie.

Written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Thomas Rhett

Grade:  F

Listen:  1994


  1. Ugh. I count 8 Joe Diffie song references In this dreadful “song”, all of them leagues better than whatever this is. The song is terrible in general, but the Joe Diffie chant is absolutely maddening.

  2. This song is awful and pointless for existence. If I were Joe Diffie, I’d be very annoyed to be associated with such drivel. Here’s hoping he quickly distances himself from this and saves whatever shred of dignity he has left.

    Ben, I’m more sorry for you – this is the song you had to settle for when there was nothing to review positively. But at least you got a great piece of writing out of it. I’m too upset with all involved for letting this see the light of day that I could never even try to review it objectively.

    Worst single of the year nominee for sure.

  3. Looks like Joe Diffie may not be distancing himself from the song, as his facebook page acknowledged it the other day. Joe Diffie (sometimes referred to as Joe Ditty) is known for doing a fair number of novelty songs in his day, but I doubt this song was intended for that kind of irony.

  4. Very embarrassing songwriting from Luke Laird and Barry Dean here. I sort of expect this from Thomas Rhett. As bad as this is, it’s not close to being as bad as ” Boys Round Here” a cut on the upcoming Blake Shelton Albume. Stay tuned for that one.

  5. This song is the musical equivalent to vomit. Its the worst song I have heard sent to radio in years. Aldean should be embarrassed and ashamed. The writers of this song should feel even worse than that. This is a disrespect to every male legend to pave the way for Aldean in the first place.

  6. I honestly don’t know what to think of this.

    Part of me thinks it’s not supposed be taken seriously and it’s a decent party song.

    The rest of me thinks this is the most awful and stupid thing ever sent to radio.

  7. Lyrically, this is dangerously radioactive to the genre, and on that basis alone this deserves a failing grade because of the repercussions its success is going to have on the rapid gentrification of country radio.

    However, I have to admit that beyond the asinine lyrics and Aldean’s annoying pep rally chorus, I honestly don’t have a problem with the production and sound of this. I actually enjoy the swelling surf guitars that drive the intro, and I kind of like the latter minute in that it’s jam-session heavy and I can see it translating quite well in a live setting (it’s a shame the last minute is what will be cut out on the radio edit! =P )

    As unashamed as I am to give credit to the parts of this that work, it still fails because of the atrocious lyrics. Predictably, hordes of listeners will pull out the tired “It’s so catchy, it’s not meant to be taken seriously!” card of an excuse in defense of this, but my point is: “Why can’t a song that’s not meant to be taken seriously even have an iota of intelligence and/or wit to its writing? Why do songs not meant to be taken seriously ALWAYS have to be big, loud and dumb?”

    That’s not even the worst offense of “1994”, though. The worst part of this track is that it is an egregious experiment to target as many key listening demographics as possible more than anything even remotely resembling art. Obviously many will rush to argue whether this is “country-rap” or not, but it’s just as clear Aldean is blatantly pandering to the Electronic Dance Music listening demographic with lyrics including: “Let’s get out of this town, let’s get out of this club!” and “How about a night to remember and a fifth of Goose?” (was Rhett and his two co-writers even aware Grey Goose wasn’t even invented until later in the decade? -__- )

    “1994” underscores what more clear-eyed listeners like us have known for a while now: that the ascent of media behemoths like Clear Channel and Cumulus have transformed the radio landscape from one obsessed with demographics. “1994” is all about marketing, as is obvious from the heavy use of non-sequiturs. Keep milking the country-rap niche? Check! Throw a bone to the EDM crowd? Check! Inject some meaty guitar licks to keep your traditional Southern rock constituency in check! Check! Ooooooooops…….forgot about the “dubstep” crowd, Aldean! ;)

    As a listening experience in itself, “1994” isn’t the worst country radio song I’ve ever heard. However, when considering broader genre implications, “1994” can nonetheless potentially be one of the deadliest! =/

  8. I’ll agree with Noah here.

    It doesn’t sound all that bad.

    The one part I can’t stand is the “Joe, joe, joe diffie” chant.

    I can’t say I dislike this, but I don’t like it either.

  9. I have to respectfully disagree here. It’s probably the worse single that I’ve heard, particularly the “Joe Diffie” chant.

    For the record, for those who aren’t familiar with Joe Diffie’s music, the songs that are haphazardly referenced are (not in order):

    Third Rock from the Sun
    Pickup Man
    Honky Tonk Attitude
    Ships that Don’t Come In
    A Night to Remember
    So Help Me Girl
    John Deere Green

  10. In terms of its sound/production, I would argue it’s reinforcing the Michael Knox status quo.

    If one were to knock “1994” for how it sounds in addition to its lyrics and shameless pandering, then it’s hard to imagine one having not knocked most of Aldean’s preceding releases including the lead two singles off of “Night Train”.

    For the little “1994” is worth, the sound is the least of its offenses. Like I said, it’s the lyrics that make this ultimately fail regardless.

  11. My theory with why they chose to go with “1994” now goes as follows.

    Prior to deciding on the third single, Broken Bow executives pontificated long and hard on the relatively poor sales for “The Only Way I Know” (it isn’t looking like it will go Platinum). So they took an assessment on pushing buttons as opposed to playing it safe, and allowing their choice for the third single to be banked on what strategy was more likely to shift sales of “Night Town” in the months ahead.

    And it’s not hard to see why they decided to throw a frenetic Hail Mary pass here that could very well end disastrously. “Night Train” is dominated by mid-tempo fare. There are only two true ballads (“Talk”, “Black Tears”) and about as many up-tempo tracks. The remainder of this album’s fifteen tracks are either flat-out mid-tempo, or mid-tempos that more or less lean toward ballad territory or more or less toward up-tempo territory.

    Thus, releasing just another mid-tempo would have been overkill following two guitar-driven mid-tempo tracks that lean up-tempo. So, then, what we’re left with are the album’s two ballads, and a wild card that is “1994”. And I suppose they concluded that neither “Talk” nor “Black Tears” were all that likely to make Aldean a water cooler conversation magnate again.

    Thus, they banked on the track most likely to push buttons. This.


    Broken Bow may have also chosen to release “1994” reactively out of the fear that the “excitement factor” surrounding Aldean has fallen out of factor as chart rivals Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert have exploded in popularity. So, in reflecting on how best to differentiate Aldean from the booty-shaking Bryan, the outlaw-posing Church and the chicken-fried metalhead Gilbert……..they decided milking the hick-hop niche was their best bet at renewing interest in Aldean after the relatively poor sales performance of “The Only Way I Know”.


    I say the above not excusing them for releasing this, of course. But I can nonetheless see why they made this call, as much as I wish they hadn’t. If not this, all they would have remaining are a heapin’ load of familiar fare and a couple of ballads.

    I would have went with “Talk” for the third single, frankly. But there’s no doubt even if “1994” fails to continue Aldean’s chart-topping hot streak, it is going to be a breakout digital success most likely! =X

  12. Actually, I correct myself. There are actually three ballads on this album (“I Don’t Do Lonely Well” being the third).

    Some may argue the title track is a ballad. I don’t consider it a ballad. I consider “Night Train” a mid-tempo that leans toward ballad territory. But while it will obviously become a hit when it eyes release, it just doesn’t differentiate itself well enough from the album’s numerous other mid-tempos. Plus, it sounds reminiscent of “Fly Over States” except for a little more gloss.

  13. If Jason Aldean actually listened to Joe Diffe then he’d be releasing poignant songs like “Ships That Don’t Come In”, “Home”, “A Night to Remember” and “Coolest Fool In Town”, much less all of the campy songs Diffie had. This is almost insulting to the great music that Joe Diffie and many 90’s country artists made.

  14. I do like the production fine, aside from how awfully the voice is recorded and mixed. I feel like that’s a chunk of the problem right there.

    But yeah, the production notwithstanding, this is incredibad. I really want to be able to defend Aldean, in a weird way; I think he’s a stronger vocalist than he gets credit for, and when he puts his signature sound to work on decent songs, I really get why he’s a big deal. But it’s astonishing how no one on his team seems to notice – or care – that he’s releasing the same stupid song over and over again. It’s more bullshit country-boy swagger with zero wit or fun or sexiness to sell it.

  15. Hey everyone, guess what? I’m going to write a (kind of, but not really) tribute to Daryle Singletary that references a number of his hit singles and albums in non-sequitur fashion, and title it “1995” because………..y’know……….that year resembled the peak of his commercial career! ;)

    Pay no mind that “1995” bears a sound which has no resemblance whatsoever to his signature sound, let alone country music! The fact I name-drop “country” cultural descriptors should be reason enough to be forced to accept it as country, doggone it! ;)

    Check it out! I even came up with a snappy chorus:


    Rockin’ in the country in my four-wheel drive!
    You bet no matter what they’ve said I’ve done,
    I ain’t never had, and never will, have too much fun!
    I’m livin’ up to everyone’s low expectations,
    and my heart’s too broke to keep paying attention,
    with this harebrained nonsense that will let me lie,
    I’m talkin’ 1995!

    Sh-Sh-Shake it!
    Shake it like a Singletary!
    Sh-Sh-Shake it!
    Shake it like a Singletary!
    Sh-Sh-Shake It!
    Shake it like a Singletary!
    (Hey, baby,
    are you still Singletary?)


    The sad part is, my sarcasm has probably ACTUALLY have just handed Music Row another terrible idea they’ll ACTUALLY seriously turn into a future single! =X

  16. …an acoustic memorial of joe diffie? it’s about time someone came up with that. fair enough, the execution makes the 99 cts. download pricetag looking a little stiff, but memorials never come really cheap. any unknown proud deer at a wyoming town square makes 1994 almost lookin’ like the bargain memorial of a lifetime. on second thought, perhaps only just.

    whoever is responsible for the “aldean release formula” – dud, semi-dud, hit, dud, semi-… – must be a rather convincing person. getting away with such a concept sounds kinda difficult and quite unpleasant at times.

    then again, nothing seems to be impossible in music city, usa, where you could come across stars driving around stark naked in their cars at night, sometimes park their lawn-movers in front of bars, get married for the sixth time, or worst of all – voted for obama instead of ted nugent.

    btw., fine thinking, noah, in my book, a fraternal vocal spotlight on daryle singletary is long overdue already.

  17. Agree with the review…definitely deserves an F. However, Thomas Rhett performs this ( it works. His college/fratty/party persona pulls it off.

    I wish Jason Aldean would sing more believable songs…there is a plethora of material to take advantage of from his whole semi-cheating scandal, and I’d love to hear a song about that.

  18. Noah

    How on earth could you forget to namecheck my favorite Singletary single Amen Kind of Love? To this day, I get pissed whenever I hear Tim McGraw’s Just to See You Smile because I momentarily mistake its opening riff for Amen.

  19. I Can Only Name-Check So Much, Confessor! Trust Me, I Wanted To, But Broken Bow Forced Me To Condense My Record To Three Minutes! ; __ ;

    I Never Even Got A Guest Rap From Florida-Georgia Line In! ; __ ;

  20. These are all the #1 hits from Billboards singles chart for country music in 1994. Seeing this list makes me very, very sad given what country music has become, a lot of great music on this list. Two Joe Diffie songs in the mix there by the way.

    Wild One: Faith Hill
    Live Until I Die: Clay Walker
    I Swear: John Michael Montgomery
    I Just Wanted You to Know: Mark Chesnutt
    Tryin’ to Get Over You: Vince Gill
    No Doubt About It: Neal McCoy
    My Love: Little Texas
    If the Good Die Young: Tracy Lawrence
    Piece of My Heart: Faith Hill
    A Good Run of Bad Luck: Clint Black
    If Bubba Can Dance (I Can Too): Shenandoah
    Your Love Amazes Me: John Berry
    Don’t Take the Girl: Tim McGraw
    That Ain’t No Way to Go: Brooks & Dunn
    Wink: Neal McCoy
    Foolish Pride: Travis Tritt
    Summertime Blues: Alan Jackson
    Be My Baby Tonight: John Michael Montgomery
    Dreaming with My Eyes Open: Clay Walker
    Whisper My Name: Randy Travis
    XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl): Trisha Yearwood
    Third Rock from the Sun: Joe Diffie
    Who’s That Man: Toby Keith
    She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind: Brooks & Dunn
    Livin’ on Love: Alan Jackson
    Shut Up and Kiss Me: Mary Chapin Carpenter
    If I Could Make a Living: Clay Walker
    The Big One: George Strait
    If You’ve Got Love: John Michael Montgomery
    Pickup Man: Joe Diffie

  21. Is this song a masterpiece? No. Does it stir the soul or challenge the mind? No. Are there songs out there with real meaning and complex themes? Obviously. But that doesn’t prevent me from singing this song at the top of my lungs. This song aspires to be a party track, nothing more, nothing less. Don’t compare this song to the best of Bob Dylan’s work, just lighten up and have some fun.

  22. Ha! I don’t think anyone has compared it to the best of Bob Dylan’s work, not eve the worst of it.

    I got into country music at the end of 1993, the beginning of 1994, so those songs listed above put me in full on nestalgia mode.:)

  23. It kinda blows my mind when people come to this blog and get pissy when one of the bloggers gives a single a low score. Yeah, it’s a catchy song but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good song. I can like a dumb, earworm-of-a-song and recognize that is it a bad, god-awful song. It’s a country music critic blog, people. It’s their job (hobby?) to rate the good, bad, and the ugly. Don’t take it so seriously, darlings. :)

  24. I never argued for its artistic merit. I’m just saying that “1994” aspires to be nothing more than some goofy fun. I’m not taking your bad review too seriously, you have every right to your opinion. But CU shouldn’t take the song itself too seriously either. All the song wants is for you to laugh, not to ponder.

  25. Jason, I believe that only a few songs from every genre’s chart-topping list each year are truly great. The big difference IMO with the 1994 #1’s list and the one from, let’s say 2012, is the gap between the bottom and those “average” songs in the middle. The most obvious is that 90% of those songs on 2012’s #1 list aren’t even country songs. I think there are far more #1 hits from today that I would personally label as “bad” or “below average/well below average” than there were from 1994. For every sappy “I Swear” of yesteryear there are two “Take a Little Ride’s” and “Alone With You’s”, types of songs that a majority of today’s country artists are singing. To me 1994 has many more songs of lyrical and memorable emotional value than many of today’s #1’s.

  26. I think it seems like we’ve had a surfeit of these singles, from the guys largely, that do one of the following: drop the names of country music legends; talk about being “country” till it makes the listener blue in the face just hearing him say it; cop a “redneck” attitude; or, a lot of the times, all three in the same song. And it gets (to put it mildly) boring after a while.

  27. Not that I’d presume to speak for Motown Mike, but maybe the problem is that, for more than a few people, too much of what is considered country music nowadays is just regurgitated Southern arena rock. If there’s any fiddle, steel, mandolin, or banjo, it’s just barely audible over a wall of loud electric guitars and “hick hop” accents. Given that we’ve more or less had this in mainstream country music for at least a decade now, one can make a case that the genre is now neither traditional nor even progressive, whereas it had been both during the 1960s and 1970s.

  28. Great Honest Review. I am glad others still can appreciate good music and not just buy what record companies can market to the masses.

  29. This is a fun song meant to be cheezy and funny. Lighten up and just have a good time. Have you no sense of humor? I like the song BECAUSE of all the reasons you hate it. Get a life….

  30. Some of you take yourselves WAY to seriously. The fact is Jason has accomplished exactly what he meant to here. Having fun. Integrity does sell out football stadiums, Jason does.

    When I hear this sond I think ‘Red Solo Cup’. I think both Toby and Jason know how to have fun and their fans appreciate that.

    I also appreciate a country music artist who will cut jams on their records. Fun song Jason with some more good heavy guitar playing.

  31. ElGao, Everyone has their own tasts so thats great that you enjoy these types of songs, but for people who really like country music with much substance will never appreciate this manufactured material.

  32. Tom, I understand and personally agree with you. However my point is I think Jason accomplished exactly what he set out to here. I think Jason is about to get the last laugh on this one.

    Personally I hate where country music is but guys like Joe Diffie got us here!!!

  33. Indeed I highly doubt that Jason Aldean recorded this song with the goal of getting a rave review from Country Universe, but the reason we write these reviews is to help people find great music, not to reward commercialism in country music.

    I can appreciate a song that’s just meant to be good fun (a fact to which perusal of my past reviews will attest) but for me this song didn’t even succeed on that level. I don’t find this fun at all.

  34. I do not get all the negative thing’s being said about this song at all!!!! I love it!!!! It is a funny song, about Joe Diffe!!! I am a long time fan of Joe’s, I get the song , the one’s that don’t understand it must be too young to remember Joe!!! It is a light hearted song about Joe….. It is so funny, I think people just need to relax and enjoy it, Joe Diffe love’s it!!

    • the one’s that don’t understand it must be too young to remember Joe!!!

      For one thing, I don’t really see what there is to understand or misunderstand, since Aldean doesn’t do much beyond shouting out Diffie’s name. Also I believe there are quite a few people on this comment thread who do remember when Diffie was popular in the nineties, but still dislike this song, so I don’t think that’s necessarily the issue. To each his own.

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