Single Review: Joe Nichols, “Hard to Be Cool”

Joe Nichols Hard to Be Cool

“Hard to Be Cool”
Joe Nichols

Written by Rob Hatch and Jason Sellers

I’m always rooting for Joe Nichols. He’s got a smooth twang, two qualities that usually don’t go together.  He’s made some solid music over the years, too.

What gets him in trouble is his strange tendency toward songs that walk the line between clever and corny. He seems to be drawn to songs that come up with an interesting concept, but never get around to building a compelling song around it.

This time around, he’s digging a girl, and “she’s so hot, it’s hard to be cool.” See what the writers did there?

God bless him, he does his best to sell it. His overdone enthusiasm is paired with so many production bells and whistles that it sounds like those later Lonestar records, the ones made on their downward slide.

He’s a great talent in need of better material.

Grade: C



  1. Eh I find this song ridiculously catchy yeah it’s dumb as nails and the writings a little bad ( who am I kidding it’s awful) Joe gives a real happy energetic performance and he sounds real fun like it’s not a song to take seriously still regardless it’s stupid but a total ear worm.

    Grade C+.

    Chart Projection: This might get Top 20 but it isn’t gonna be pretty tomorrow for Billboard Jake and Jason plus Brett are going recurrent but the numbers for this song aren’t good and with Jason Aldean’s new release along with fast rising songs from Eric Church and even Frankie Ballard is closing in. If even Gloriana and Michael Ray keep it up they could pass Joe soon within the next couple of weeks Peak Range 18-22.
    So an inoffensive ditty that ultimately be lucky to get top 20. Either way I’ll sleep at night just fine

  2. I mean, it’s fine…

    And I say this as someone who really, really liked “Yeah” (it and “Get Me Some of That” were my volume-up, windows-down guilty pleasures of the summer).

  3. Thomas, great choices for your guilty pleasures!

    Why is it that all of these guys with really great, distinctive country voices (Josh Turner, Chris Young, Joe Nichols) have such a hard time finding material that’s as personality-rich as their voices?

  4. Raymond,
    SRM didn’t say anything specifically about having a beef about “Lay Low”, but I do agree that Turner has a wonderful voice that is far superior to the songs that he typically chooses to sing. Ditto to Chris Young and Joe Nichols.

  5. Thanks, SRM!

    I do really like Time is Love and Voices, but I’m still waiting on them to release something I love (Nichols has managed it with Brokenheartsville)

  6. Really LeeAnn I’ve looked and I can’t find a bad or even ok song in Josh Turners catalog. Can you come up with a general mediocre song. Josh Turner is among in my opinion one of the few bright spots in mainstream country music let’s see him Jake Owen Maddie & Tae Carrie Underwood Kacey Musgraves Ashley Monroe Zac Brown Band maybe Gary Allan but the rest don’t stand out right now in mainstream. Can any of you guys come up with artists that you’d still deem really great in country music?

  7. Raymond,
    Because it’s Turner, I actually have all of his albums and some of my opinion is based off a lot of mediocre unreleased tracks rather than just his singles, but I don’t think he’s had a great single since “Another Try.”

  8. Really not even Why Don’t We Just Dance Time Is Love or the song right now Lay Low all really good if not exceptional.

  9. Turner has recorded quite a few songs that I like. I love “Would You Go With Me”, “Long Black Train”, and especially “Loretta Lynn’s Lincoln” (one of my favorite songs of all time) just to name a few. But the thing is that all of his albums have a majority of songs that are just so hokey or dull that I can’t buy into them. I understand that every artist records filler material now and then, but Turner (much like Tim McGraw) records it way more often than he has any right to, especially when there are so many great songs out there that he could be recording.

    I consider Turner a good artist, but a frustrating one nonetheless.

  10. As for this song, it is a fun song that makes you sing along.


    I love “Loretta’s Lynn Lincoln”, too!

    As the Josh Turner’s defender/shield on this site, I argue that his material is perfectly suited. He fills the niche of sweet, (sometimes sappy) love songs that country music has mostly moved away from. I mean, “Find Me A Baby” and “Lay Low” sing (and sound) utterly foreign to tailgate romance dominating country music.

    Maybe it is just me, since I prefer happy/fun songs to sad/tragic/”deep” songs, but I always felt that Josh has put solid material. A

  11. As for this song, it is a fun song that makes you sing along.


    I love “Loretta’s Lynn Lincoln”, too!

    As the Josh Turner’s defender/shield on this site, I argue that his material is perfectly suited for himself. He fills the niche of sweet, (sometimes sappy) love songs that country music has mostly moved away from. I mean, “Find Me A Baby” and “Lay Low” sing (and sound) utterly foreign to tailgate romance dominating country music. And after reading his book, his song selection becomes clearer.

    Maybe it is just me, since I prefer happy/fun songs to sad/tragic/”deep” songs, but I always felt that Josh has put solid material. Plus, he has delved into “deeper” territory with “Long Black Train”, “Another Try”, “Pallbearer”, “Cold Shoulder”, ‘The Longer The Waiting”, “The Way He Was Raised”, and “What It Ain’t.”

    Turner is never going to be one of those brooding types of singers, (which most reviewers prefer. They like “deeper” songs). I, as a fan, will perfectly fine if he never releases a “Whiskey Lullaby” or “Blown Away.” I have other singers for those kinds of songs.

  12. I’m more aligned with SRM’s opinion regarding Josh Turner. There are some songs of his that I like a lot, especially “Loretta Lynn’s Lincoln”, along with “Long Black Train, “Another Try”, “Me And God”, his cover of Waylon Jenning’s “America”, “Angels Fall Sometimes” and even some others. But like SRM, I ultimately find way too many of his songs to be dull and not worthy of his voice. I don’t care if he sings positive songs; I like positive songs as much as the next person, but positive, happy songs can still be dull. Btw, Raymond, I like “Lay Low” and “Why Don’t We Just Dance”, but I do not like “Time Is Love” though. It’s too hokey for me, I guess.

    As for this Nichols song, I just cannot see how it could be an A+.

  13. If we are looking for not-so-good singles from Josh Turner I would throw out “Find Me a Baby,” “All Over Me” and “Lay Low.” None are terrible but they just seem like bland filler to me. One notch above those songs I’d put “I Wouldn’t Be a Man,” “Me and God” and “Time is Love.”

    All of those songs are helped tremendously by his voice and country-leaning production, but none of them are really worth repeat listens. I won’t change the station is they come on but I’m not going to put them on when I control the music.

    Plus, even some of his stronger singles, like “Firecracker” and “Everything Is Fine,” to me are just good. Not great and probably won’t be remembered in future generations.

  14. Well I didn’t find Time Is Love hokey it wasn’t bad wasn’t great but it was still better than a lot of other songs on radio. Like I said Josh has yet with me release a bad song if I’d grade Time Is Love it would’ve been a B. As for this song it’s no A+. But it’s not bad it’s just kinda there Joe has done better ( The Shape I’m In If Nobody Believed In You) but he’s done terrible and by terrible I mean F tier songs like (Yeah and Sunny and 75) but that’s my opinion.
    LeeAnn you love replying to my comments don’t you for some reason.

  15. I prefer the melody of “Time is Love” to “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” personally. I just dig the hook.

    CK, I’ll also be fine if he never releases a “Blown Away”!

    But that’s just because I don’t think Blown Away is an interesting or well-written song, and I hate the production.

    The cover of “America” is great though.

  16. Not an A+ certainly, but in the B- to B range. It is a stupid song that Nichols’ performance elevates considerably

    I would like to hear better material from Nichols and I’d like to banish the rock guitars in favor of something more acoustic. I bet he would be a dynamic bluegrass singer

  17. I wasn’t basing it just on that song. I also considered stuff like “She Only Smokes When She Drinks,” “The Shape I’m In” and “I’ll Wait For You.” Plus, he has a lot of good album tracks.

    I prefer Joe’s “ditties” to Josh’s, such as “What’s a Guy Gotta Do,” “It Ain’t No Crime” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” to “Firecracker” and “All Over Me.”

    But I will say, Joe’s worst singles are worse than Josh’s. “Yeah,” “Take it Off” and “Hard To Be Cool” are weaker than Josh’s worst singles.

    “She Only Smokes When She Drinks” is my favorite Joe Nichols song.

  18. Oh, I know. I’m just saying that the existence of Brokenheartsville alone puts Nichols over the top for me. The others are just gravy.

  19. Thomas,
    Off the top of my head, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d agree that Nichols output is better than Turner’s, but I do have 46 Nichols recordings to 29 Turner recordings in my iTunes. I also agree, however, that Nichols’ worst songs are worse than Turner’s worst songs.

    I think one of my favorite Nichols’ tracks is “Life Don’t Have to Mean Nothing at All.” He’s good at doing fun songs, as long as he keeps the blaring guitars out of it.

    I agree that Nichols would sound great doing bluegrass.

    I try to respond to those who comment here, particularly if they have something that I specifically agree with or disagree with. I’m certainly not trying to single you out. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, I can avoid specifically responding to you in the future. Even if I don’t agree with you, we appreciate your participation.

  20. Yeah, I think a big part of that is how much more spread out Nichols’ great songs have been.

    You’ve got Brokenheartsville, She Only Smokes When She Drinks and Life Don’t Have to Mean Nothing at All in 2002, then Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall off in 2005, It Ain’t No Crime in 2007 and The Shape I’m In in 2010. His last couple albums haven’t had any of those iconic singles.

    He’s even talked about how his plan for Crickets was to save all of the interesting, ballsy stuff for the album cuts, and use the singles to make money, and hopefully trick people into buying the good stuff.

  21. I graded this song as an A+ because I believe it completes what it set out to do: Be a fun ditty.

    It is catchy, rhyme-y, and I want to blast up the radio every time I hear it on the radio. It has some cleverness too. I cannot ask for more.

  22. Nichols has released much better fun ditties, though!

    An A+ ditty from Joe Nichols has to be on the level of “Ain’t No Crime” or “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.”

    By Nichols’ own standards of songs that are only meant to be fun, catchy, rhyme-y ditties, I can’t give this anything more than a B, and I’d probably put it in the B-/C+ range.

  23. The last line of this review perfectly sums up Nichols’ career as well as Turner’s and Chris Young’s:
    “He’s a great talent in need of better material.”

    One of my favorite songs from Nichols was not a single. It’s the title track from his debut album, “Man with a Memory” written by Charlie Black and Rory Michael Bourke.

  24. It’s a song about a guy bragging about how hot a “girl” is.

    Nothing more, nothing less. But quite lame.

    Needless to say, an utter embarrassment for someone his age.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.