Written by Nicolle Gaylon, Ben Johnson and Niko Moon
You know, given that this just didn’t end up being the year for the Hot Country Knights to invade country music with their brand of “fun,” I’m not surprised to see Dierks Bentley move on from that project so quickly, even if just temporarily, and even if that debut album brought a surprising amount of levity at a needed point in time.
Granted, this isn’t quite a lead single for a new project just yet; more just an example of Bentley taking career advice from Keith Urban, which is questionable, given the sort of music he’s making these days. The real red alert came in Bentley’s switch of producers from Ross Copperman to David Garcia, responsible for some work with Kip Moore and Carrie Underwood … their most overproduced singles, that is. And that’s before mentioning his role in helping to craft “Meant to Be” by Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha.
Now, fundamentally, “Gone” doesn’t stretch much from the atmospheric template Bentley has cultivated over his past few studio projects. His knack for melody and a windswept sort of production has always helped to keep the flow and groove going. Sadly, “Gone” pulls mostly from the Black era, where the reliance on thicker, heavier percussion completely chops the groove and shreds most of the contemplative nuance this track was aiming for. It starts off promising enough with the deeper, minor piano chords and dobro accents … at least until they get shoved aside for a standard guitar-drum combination that drowns this track out by the time the chorus hits.
The thing is, if this were a live cut aiming for some sort of raucous energy, I could at least understand the intention behind the decision. “Gone,” however, is a breakup track, and a pretty bland one, at that. It’s stuck in a weird middle ground of trying so hard to make the most out of that basic hook, that it never dives into what caused the relationship to sour or offer the next logical steps for how this narrator is going to start picking up the pieces with his life. With a real lack of detail in the downward spiral, too, lines like “I’ve been sitting on the couch watching TV all day long” sound more like they were made for quarantining in 2020 than any real attempt at actual depth. And that’s a note on Bentley himself, who sounds more like he’s interested in fighting over the production on the chorus, rather than hammering down on his emotive presence to salvage this song. He’s capable of doing it, for the record; he just doesn’t here.
Dierks continues to be a frustrating artist for me, and his catalogue has always been a mixed bag. When he’s good, he’s really good, like most of the material on his first two albums or the Up On The Ridge album. I even enjoyed most of the Hot Country Knights project and thought it was a breath of fresh air. But when he tries to aim more towards radio, like on this song, he loses me. Unfortunately, you’re totally right that this sounds like something that could’ve gone on Black, his weakest and most pandering album, by far. Not a fan of the production, at all, and I’m just sick of this beat already. Definitely a step back in the wrong direction this time.
Agreed on all counts. Honestly, coming off the HCK project and ‘The Mountain,’ I’m surprised to see Bentley pivot toward this sound. I definitely didn’t expect a new single from him until 2021. Like I said, this is just a standalone release for now, but the production switch does make me worry. Not that going ‘more traditional’ always equates to something better or more interesting, but with Bentley’s rougher vocal timbre, he’s at least more suitable when everything is toned down just a bit less than it is here.