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