Written by Sarah Buxton, Jesse Frasure, & Abe Stoklasa
Combining the absolute worst lyrical tropes of peak bro-country with the faux R&B production Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett have popularized, Chris Lane’s “Fix” is the harbinger of another dreadful year at country radio.
Lane drawls a leering, “Hey girl,” to open the song before he immediately starts speak-singing a series of unimaginative pick-up lines (“Know what you’ve been missing? Me”) and stultifying forced rhymes (“I got that love medicinal / I make you feel invincible”) that butcher both human logic and basic English syntax. The song’s central conceit— that Lane is the drug that whatever “girl” he’s addressing is addicted to— is yet another reiteration of the overdone metaphor of love as a vice. Indeed, if there’s anything contemporary hired-gun pop songwriters seem addicted to, it’s that one beaten-to-death idea.
Repeating simple words to fill-out its not-at-all complicated meter (“Listen, baby baby baby baby girl / Let me make you feel better / Please please please / I’m what you need”) “Fix” reduces to a single protracted whine stretched out over three minutes. Moreover, the song embraces the residual misogyny of the countless bro-country acts who ruled country radio in 2014, as the lyrics condescend to and deny any agency of the “girl” in question.
Basically, the song re-imagines this anti-smoking ad as told from the POV of the cigarette:
And that cigarette? Is really into Maroon 5.
That the production on “Fix,” courtesy of Joey Moi to the surprise of exactly no one, doesn’t scan as country music in any recognizable, let alone meaningful, way is a given in the contemporary landscape, and that is a ship that has long-since sailed. But “Fix” is no less dreadful as an example of pop music: The melody has little range (other than a high note that Lane sure does try hard to hit at the middle eight), the rhythm section is muddy and lifeless, and the EDM signifiers would have sound dated on Hot AC or CHR radio five years ago.
Lane lacks the charisma or the vocal skill to elevate the song with a compelling performance. He has a less adenoidal tone than Rhett and a less asthmatic timbre than Hunt, but those comparisons would damn anyone with the faintest of praise. He may be capable of more, but “Fix” demands nearly nothing of him or, for that matter, of the country audience.
I’d pass on Fix even if it was a free download. Among other things, I just can’t relate to that “I’m what you need” line.
But he’s got great hair. That counts for something, right?
My radio played this song as a “sink or swim” choice. I told the station to dump it in a dumpster. Just dreadful.
I give up guys. Your reviews of commercial mainstream songs have gotten to the point of being downright comical. A song like this isn’t going to change a thing at radio…in fact, it’s a reaction to what has been working at radio. It’s no “The House That Built Me,” but it’s clearly not trying to be. Here’s the deal…if you want to cover this type of music (as Country Universe infers), cover it in the spirit it’s intended to be. Just seems like you’ve taken to bashing mainstream music that doesn’t fit your mold of what country should be. The Urban Cowboy sound wasn’t considered country in its day and had STRONG detractors, but some of the music that came out of it is now considered beloved. I’m not saying this will ever be even close to that, but at least judge the music you’ve chosen to review in the context it’s provided. Leave the bashing to sites like Saving Country Music that are clearly meant to demean other forms of music. Y’all are better than that.
I really can’t think of a single reason for what justifies this song as “country”. I mean, I may not agree with it, but I can at least understand where people come from when they say something like “Break Up In A Small Town” is lyrically a country song. “Fix”? I got nothing. This song really blows
I always feel that when people write something like, “Y’all are better than that”, it’s meant to shame. In this situation, however, we don’t feel shame for giving bad music negative reviews. Furthermore, it’s legitimate that Country Universe continues to review mainstream country music, because it’s a part of the country universe. At many points, it was a good part of the country universe. And while it’s currently not a good part, we have faith that it will be again. So, I think that it’s legitimate that we appraise these songs on their actual merits both on principle and for posterity’s sake. The Country Universe writers still love country music, so we’re still very invested in the part of country music that the mainstream public knows about/associates with the genre and we want to be proud of it again. Therefore, we are not going to ignore it, even if it’s bad. With that said, we are pleased that so much of country music is still great so that we also have positive reviews to write.
Brilliant stuff, Jonathan. Like a Trigger rant, but with even more vicious musical takedowns instead of personal attacks.
John, if you think SCM exists for the purpose of denigrating other forms of music, you’ve never read any of his Isbell, Morgan or Simpson reviews. Dude *loves* music. He just hates Sam Hunt and Luke Bryan’s commodification of mediocrity.
Well put, Cool Lester Smooth.
Also, the Urban Cowboy movement is a very bad example. I honestly can’t think of any of that stuff that’s aged very well at all. The neotraditionalist movement with Strait, Travis, Yoakam, et al was what redeemed ’80s country.
Just eleven days in, and already country music is going to suffer through another dismal year, thanks in no small part to this terrible excuse of a “hit”.
I wouldn’t normally respond to this kind of comment at length, but you’re a regular reader and a reliably thoughtful commenter, so here we go.
I reviewed two “commercial mainstream songs” just last week: New releases by Maren Morris and Drake White, both of which are going for airplay at country radio. I reviewed both favorably. In our year-end countdowns, I wrote about Cam, Eric Church, Kip Moore, and even a divisive Jennifer Nettles single, and I voted for Maddie & Tae on both of our albums and singles lists. Not even counting the 500+ reviews I logged when I wrote for Slant, I’ve gone to bat for plenty of contemporary country music and will gladly continue to do so… when it’s worth going to bat for on its own merits. Which this song is not. At all.
I’ve never bought the common defense that “Not every song has to be deep / meaningful / whatever.” No rational person expects that. But I do set a bar that songs should show a certain basic understanding of things like composition and form, respect their audience enough not to pander in ways that are condescending or gross, and offer at least some element that makes listening to them worthwhile. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable or contrarian position to take.
I do want to cover contemporary country and will continue to do so here. Because I enjoy it when it’s done well. And I bristle when it’s done as poorly as “Fix.”
Moreover, I don’t feel that I failed to meet this song “in the context it’s provided.” Had I only posted the anti-smoking ad and simply written a glib, snarky rejoinder, I’d say that would be a fair complaint. But the last two paragraphs (and the first three, for that matter) assess this single on the merits of what it offers. Country music has my soul, but I’m a musical omnivore, and I’m comfortable considering a wide range of genres when I evaluate something. In this case, I just happened to assess “Fix” poorly in those regards as an example of country, pop, R&B, and EDM. I stand by that.
Most importantly, I’m not going to deny my own voice or opinions for the sake of writers on any other websites any more than I would expect those writers to do the same for me. Frankly, that’s insulting.
Not everyone likes negative criticism. I get that. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and have wrestled with this exact issue. When you write a negative review of any piece of our shared culture, you’re going to offend someone who reads it. I accept that there are things that I cherish that other people view as insignificant or insubstantial, and I always feel like I gain something from reading a well-articulated view of why they feel that way.
Ultimately, I have no interest in reading the work of someone who only writes favorable reviews– there are websites that offer precisely that– because that tells me nothing at all about why that person’s perspective is interesting or valuable, in the same way that I see nothing to be gained from reading the work of someone who is a willful contrarian. I believe negative criticism has a place and has value. I don’t think Country Universe dwells on the negative, but we do acknowledge that there are examples of contemporary country music that are exceptionally poor.
Jonathan, I wanted to make a quick comment on the websites (example: Country Weekly) that only give positive reviews. What’s the point of doing reviews if you can’t actually give a fair opinion. It’s almost as though they are working for the record labels. Even if we all disagree sometimes it’s much better to look at music and movie reviews, etc. that give real thoughts than to just pretend to love all. Great work!
I listened to the song — well, about a minute and a half of it, anyway.
Spot-on review. My own thought was, “Oh my gosh, it’s a one-man Old Dominion!” Seriously, tell me that song isn’t just a re-write of “Break Up With Him.” Terrible. At least Luke Bryan and his co-writers of “Strip it Down” waited a few years to rip off a decent Dierks Bentley song. Chris Lane is doing a rip-off of a crappy current song that wasn’t worth ripping off in the first place.
Just seems like you’ve taken to bashing mainstream music that doesn’t fit your mold of what country should be.
I disagree. Much like Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers, the writers here have standards. Pretty lofty ones. Considering the history of this genre that’s the way it ought to be. And what context IS “Fix” supposed to be taken as? Evolution of the genre? Mainstream country music circa 2015? And it shouldn’t be called out as crap solely because of that? Sorry, but I don’t agree. I remember hearing Alan Jackson’s rendition of “Pop A Top” the other day and a thought came to mind that put that whole evolution thing into stark relief for me:
16 years ago, mainstream country music was Alan Jackson covering Jim Ed Brown and Charley Pride and talking about how much he loved George Strait and Merle Haggard. Today, mainstream “country” “music” is Thomas Rhett ripping off Sam Cooke and War (on the same damn album, even!) and talking about how much he loves Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake.
Why does this bastardized sound have to be mainstream country? You might as well call it progressive metal, because it bears about as much resemblance to Dream Theater as it does actual country music. Why can’t mainstream country sound more like Jason Isbell, Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, or the Turnpike Troubadours? It’s not like all those acts and their non-mainstream contemporaries are all pushing a throwback sound. They honor the core sounds of the genre while putting their own modern spin on it, and you simply can’t say that of Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, or Chris Lane. You can call it comical, bashing, or whatever you want. I call it telling it like it is. And we need more of that.
Yeah, part of why I enjoy CU is that they genuinely appreciate a well-crafted pop country song, and try to take mainstream music on its own terms.
When I say “This song sucks,” I do so as someone who loves Isbell and Tt, but I also do so as someone who would rather listen to any given song on Speak Now than one from High Top Mountain.
Maybe a good question related to the points John made is, “Are there any ‘bro country’ songs the writers here like?”
Jonathan (and others), I appreciate the responses. In no way do I expect every review to be positive. When I said “y’all are better than that,” I genuinely meant that as a compliment, although I absolutely understand where Leeann is coming from. I would gladly take that statement back given the context it was received. Having said that, to go down the joke path of the cigarette commercial and Maroon 5 just comes across as bashing for the sake of bashing. Even the very faint praise to Lane’s voice turns into an insult rather than a possibly redeeming value.
One rebuttal on the other comments, though…SCM is VERY much about what they consider country music, and Sturgill, Jason and company, while getting closer to being as popular as they should be, are not mainstream. Yet. I can’t read that site anymore because of all the vitriol, and this review just sounded a little too close to that.
I actually thought about deleting the post after I typed it, and normally I would delete it in a moment like that, but for some reason I didn’t. I probably should have on hindsight. The year-end charts were great recaps, and some of the indie titles reviewed here deserve much more attention than they get. I guess the review just hit me the wrong way, and combined with a few others I’ve read over the past six months (mainly of the bro-country ilk), I was driven to comment. I’ll give it more thought next time.
Trig also gave Start Here and Mr. Misunderstood 1.5 guns up, and gave Red 1.75 guns up as a pop album. He gave Traveler 2 guns up.
I unabashedly enjoy “Get Me Some of That,” and vastly prefer “Sun Daze” to “Dirt” (God, I hate “Dirt”), but if I’m looking for good, new music, I’m going to SCM.
I also think this had a lot less vitriol than Trigger’s rants usually do. Jonathan didn’t attack Lane personally, he just eviscerated the shitty music he made on a fundamental level.
Please don’t feel bad about your comment. I’m glad you didn’t delete it, because it has generated good and even important discussion.
While we can get snarky for sure (and I don’t see that changing, especially since we’d never get through an awards show live blog without some strong snark!), I do believe that our approach/tone is vastly different than SCM’s, even with our negative reviews.
Thanks Leeann. I do not believe the tone here comes close to SCM, which is why I posted what I did. I know I took some potentially well deserved flack for my post, but I’d get eaten alive if I did the same thing over there.
Interesting comment by Jess: Maybe a good question related to the points John made is, “Are there any ‘bro country’ songs the writers here like?”
I almost always agree when the writers give D’s and F’s for bro songs. I don’t know if Ray Scott’s “Those Jeans” single from about 3 years ago is bro or not but I admit that it’s a guilty pleasure for me. To me it’s well done, funny and the tables get turned on the narrator at the end. If you search “Ray Scott, Those Jeans reviews” you get almost nothing. Looks like no one wanted to touch this one. What do the CU writers or readers here think?
Rhett usually gets Bs and Cs, except for Crash and Burn, which was an exception because of the blatant rip off of Cooke.
I think that the Ray Scott song is fun.
Oh dear, more garbage on the radio. Can’t get enthused about this song, BUT I think the “F” is a bit harsh – this is by no means the worst song I’ve heard recently, although it is far from the best – maybe a D/D+
To kind of go along the lines of what was being discussed, I hope this year you guys at CU review albums that might not be necessarily known mainstream. I mean last year I found out about Chris Stapleton and Turnpike Troubadors through this site and it was just an awesome year for new Country Music. My top 5 favorite albums had 3 that were recommended here before I heard them other places: Traveller, Angels and Alcohol, and The Blade. I still wish you would have given Traveller and Star Here proper reviews because they were great country albums in a year where Country Artists wanted to be Taylor Swift and go Pop and sell that as Country.
Like I said in my initial reply, you’re a regular around these parts, and you make a habit of posting thoughtful comments. We’re all glad you’re here!
Having said that, to go down the joke path of the cigarette commercial and Maroon 5 just comes across as bashing for the sake of bashing. Even the very faint praise to Lane’s voice turns into an insult rather than a possibly redeeming value.
I 100% own up to the fact that, early on in my writing, I published a handful of hatchet-jobs that I eventually came to regret and would never write the same way today. I don’t think this review falls into that category.
To your initial point, I engaged with this single on its own merits: The content of the song’s lyrics reminded me of the cigarette ad from the first time I listened to it. The production sounds, to my ears, like Maroon 5. Those are qualitative observations I stand by. Same thing with Lane’s voice– he actively invites comparisons to Rhett and Hunt with the style he’s chosen for this song, and I don’t think it’s in any way unfair to state that I don’t think he, Rhett, or Hunt show any kind of worthwhile skill or talent as singers / rappers / performers / what-have-you.
The review just hit you the wrong way? Totally fair and not a stone I would ever dare cast in your or anyone else’s direction! I think we ended up with an interesting discussion out of all of it, which is more than I honestly would have imagined coming from this particular single.
Wasn’t familiar with the Ray Scott single! I don’t know how often I’d revisit it after knowing the punchline / reversal, but it’s a good time. I do like Scott’s delivery and the production, and it has a self-awareness that most of the “bro” material lacked. The female back-up singers are an especially nice touch, too.
@Jonathan re Ray Scott – I feel less guilty after your feedback and Leeann’s. Good point about the female back-up singers.
RIP Glenn Frey – Eagles are still my favorite band.
Even if this song was free to download, I wouldn’t download it. That’s how much I am disgusted by this song.