When Jason Aldean wraps his voice around compelling material, the results are magical.
But more often than not, Aldean is delivering mediocre material. “When She Says Baby” is a great example of how he can take a pedestrian, paint-by-numbers song and make it a little more interesting. He plays with the speed of the lyrics in the chorus, all while keeping in time with the music behind him. He adds a working man’s frustrated exhaustion as an undercurrent when the lyrics bemoan the daily grind, and effortlessly switches to the relief of a man who has a great woman to come home to, just as soon as the lyric switches to being about her.
But when a guy can do so much with so little, even a moderately pleasurable listening experience like this one leaves but one question lingering after the music fades: “Why did he record this?”
Written by Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip
“When She Says Baby” is just forgettable, no matter how you choose to slice it.
I suppose it’s selling well-enough, but then again why settle for something that is a safe bet for radio playlists but will be ultimately forgotten and deemed even indifferent by core fans………when you could release one of several other tracks instead that are also likely to be hits anyway while also having a little more heft to them?
“Talk” easily would have gotten Aldean another chart-topper, and the vulnerability of that song makes it a little more memorable than this. “Staring At The Sun” is a more intimate vocal effort from Aldean that also would have held up well commercially. I may not be crazy for this song personally, but “Black Tears” would have been an effective choice at trying to stretch his repertoire topically, as well as put a little piano on display.
There’s nothing worth hating about “When She Says Baby”, but absolutely nothing thrills or particularly impresses me about this all the same. At least the least attractive parts of Aldean’s core personality most reflected in his frat-boy “country” powder-keg rockers are kept in check here.
I will acknowledge one thing: the urgency in Aldean’s vocal throughout the bridge sounds convincing. While Aldean’s range has always been painfully limited in its monotone, he nonetheless has a knack at using his limitations to his advantage and often knows how to make it sound emotionally resonant. I feel he achieves it in the bridge, just as he has done with “Night Train”, “Fly Over States”, “Amarillo Sky” and “Tattoos On This Town”.
So………..yeah, a moderate C+ to strong C for this one. It has absolutely zero nutrition as forgettable ear candy, but for ear candy, it’s definitely significantly more satisfying than much else has been recently peddled to us: (“Lookin’ For That Girl”, “This Is How We Roll”, “That’s My Kind of Night”, “Boys ‘Round Here”, “Redneck Crazy”, “Tippin’ Point”, “Ready Set Roll”, etc.)
I thought ” Night Train” was his best song yet, although it could have been more detailed. I still find his voice boring and flat at best. And the new song is the same crap from Rhett Akins.
“Night Train” really worked for me because of Aldean’s vocal delivery and the semi-melancholy tone the song takes.
On paper, it read just like another run-of-the-mill “Hey girl, I know you’ve had a long, draining work week, what do you say we head out together in my truck for a laid-back time in the moonlight?” laundry-list song. But the way Aldean delivers the chorus with a real sense of urgency earned points from me, and elevated the song to something slightly more memorable.
He tries to go for the same sense of urgency in the bridge of this song. The problem is, the material he’s handed here leaves him hardly any room to achieve the resonance “Night Train” left enough room to achieve. “When We See Baby” is a fleeting, hurried listening experience under three minutes in length, while “Night Train” sounds more anthemic and soaring.
In spite of Aldean’s vocal limitations, I don’t feel he gets credit enough for his ability to often use his limitations to his advantage and competently read the emotional nuances of material handed to him. And that is what makes Aldean more listenable as an album artist compared to most of his peers who have built careers on the “frat-boy country” trend. When you listen to the deeper cuts on his records………..while not groundbreaking in any way, shape or form…………they at least sound sincere and reflect on accessible experiences and emotions. As I’ve said before, he also has proven to interpret some album tracks quite well: including “Church Pew or Barstool”, “On My Highway”, “Back In This Cigarette”, “I Believe In Ghosts”, “Not Every Man Lives” and “Grown Woman”.
The issue is, Aldean has chosen to allow his image and career to be defined by a minority of lunkheaded frat-boy country rockers that happen to constitute half of his singles. Which is bewildering when the fact remains that the vast majority of his catalog doesn’t reflect that chicken-fried metal/hard rock image, and is rather made up of a hybridized form of MOR 80’s pop-rock and chicken-fried Adult Contemporary/ sentimental reflections on love and failed relationships (“She’s Country” and “Crazy Town” were the only two all-out rockers on “Wide Open”, while all the rest of the songs were either MOR pop-rock or Adult Contemporary-leaning).
If only Aldean would stop feeling the need to cater or pander to a particular established image, I think he can come around to winning over some of his naysayers. Same can be said with Brantley Gilbert: who strikes me as such a douche in real life, but has proven he can write strong songs when he doesn’t fixate on emulating this hyper-macho “Affliction” T-shirt wearing douche archetype and would only be helped by focusing in that more sincere vein regularly.
Did anybody else notice that Aldean followed the exact same formula for singles on “Night Train” as on “My Kinda Party?”
Rockin’ song (“My Kinda Party,” “Take a Little Ride”), all star collaboration (“Don’t You Wanna Stay,” “The Only Way I Know”), slower rap/hick-hop (“Dirt Road Anthem”, “1994”), mid-tempo (“Tattoos on This Town”, “Night Train”) and another mid-tempo (“Fly Over States”, “When She Says Baby”).
I also think “Night Train” sounds a lot like “Fly Over States”. He’s always started albums out with a rocker single.
My main issue with each of his albums is that they each dwell too heavily on a one-track minded tempo.
For instance, with “Wide Open”, it was too heavy on Adult Contemporary-esque ballad-y fare, while “Night Train” is too heavy on mid-tempos.
And the funny thing about Aldean’s band is that while you’d think using his own live band as his studio band would result in rawer, more organic output…….it actually sounds as glossy as most anything fellow solo males are putting out. The only thing separating Aldean from the likes of Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell and Florida-Georgia Line is maintaining the use of authentic percussion as opposed to hip-hop beats from the studio next door.
This is my second favorite release from the Night Train era, next to the title track. While it’s lyrically formulaic and bland, this one still sounds great on the radio. Plus, I like the faint pedal steel sound in the chorus.