Single Review Roundup: Vol. 3, No. 14

Another strong roundup featuring strong efforts from veteran legends and rising stars. 

“A Bar Song (Tipsy)”


Written by Chibueze Collins, Sean Cook, Obinna Jerrel Jones, 

Joe Kent, Nevin Sastry, and Mark Williams

Jonathan Keefe: So much of the bro-country era was defined by men who were recording what sounded like the top 40-friendly hip-hop of the early aughts. Steve Earle had some very pointed– and correct– remarks about that trend, and there’s a whole generation of country music’s men who sound like their primary points of influence were Nelly, Chingy, and Sisqo.

J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” was a #2 hit on the Hot 100 back in 2004, and there’s no denying that contemporary country goes hard on its drinking anthems. Enter Shaboozey, who has been crafting some of the most interesting genre hybrids for quite a while now and who is capitalizing on his standout contributions to Beyoncé’s COWBOY CARTER project, with a single that interpolates J-Kwon’s jam into a modern country banger.

As a song, there isn’t much here that isn’t familiar: Shaboozey is championing the power of a good buzz to unite people. What elevates that message are the creativity of his production choices– the fiddle on this sounds so, so good– and his ingratiating presence. He sounds like he’s having fun on this record, and that makes it all the more inviting. A-

Kevin John Coyne: An emerging theme this week in the roundup, and these past couple of years in general, has been the way songs from different eras and genres can reach across those blurry lines of time and space.  

So while “9 to 5” is translated into a Latin banger later in this week’s post, we have J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” finding its way onto a country record twenty years after it lit up the pop and R&B/Hip-Hop charts.

I love the way that this record plays with form and function, and the country elements give some down home warmth to a classic slow jam. I love, love, love the fiddle track, which served the purpose in my mind of representing the heartbreak driving his desire to get tipsy.  

Am I being too generous with my grades this week? Well, the one and only test I have for that is this: Will I still be listening to this song on the regular by the end of 2024?

I most certainly will. A 


“White Lies, White Jesus, and You”

Katie Pruitt

Written by Katie Pruitt

KJC: Katie Pruitt’s Mantras is the strongest contender right now for Country Universe’s 2024 Album of the Year, and this might be the best song on that incredible album.

I consider it a very good year for music when at least one song’s lyrics take my breath away. This third verse, where Pruitt comes out to her conservative Catholic family and gets this response, made this a very good year:

I still hear the silence on the other line

The consequence of telling you the truth

The way I felt the knife turning into my side

When I heard you say the words, “I’ll pray for you”

A stunning feat of songwriting and proof positive that only the very best songwriters can tell a story this personal that can hit hard so universally.  A

JK: There are so many individual lines in this song that I could dig into, but the one that I find myself returning to most often comes in the third iteration of the chorus: “You talk about forgiveness like a favor / Like it’s something that you didn’t have to do.” While the song is drawn closely from Pruitt’s lived experience, that line stands as a perfect example of how the best songwriters translate personal details into messages that resonate more broadly.

When I think about my own personal and professional traumas, I’m always struck by how much of modern therapy-speak focuses on an obligation to forgive abusers, as though it’s the only viable path toward healing. It’s something that I’ve found gross and intellectually dishonest, as it so often allocated the entirety of the emotional labor to the victims, as though it’s somehow unreasonable even to hope that a perpetrator might reflect upon their own actions, let alone ever be held accountable for them.

That’s tied directly to Pruitt’s overall ex-evangelical message on Mantras. And it highlights many of the ongoing horrors of this exact cultural moment as outright abuse in the name of religion gets codified into laws governing believers and non-believers alike. Whether that takes the form of repeated attempts to trap spouses in abusive marriages or court rulings stating that priests have property rights not to be sued for raping children, we continue to be confronted by the ways that “forgiveness” gets weaponized. If Christ can forgive, then surely your suffering isn’t enough to stop you from doing the same, and how dare you think otherwise?

Pruitt’s song– indeed, her whole album– is a stark rebuke of that manipulative dogma. It’s one of the things she sings of putting behind her here. What makes this particular single so stirring is her recognition that it was the theology of coercive control that was holding her back from healing. A


“Live Close By, Visit Often”

The Mavericks featuring Nicole Atkins

Written by Raul Malo and K.T. Oslin

JK: My surprise at this choice of a cover by The Mavericks was tempered by having completely forgotten that Raul Malo actually co-wrote it with K.T. Oslin in the first place. Setting aside that oversight, it’s still a glorious way for The Mavericks to return: This arrangement is perhaps the funkiest they’ve ever sounded on record. As overplayed as horn sections have become in the years since Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music re-popularized them within the country space, the brass on this record is flat-out incendiary.

I’ve been a huge fan of Atkins’ for years, and she has the vocal chops to go toe-to-toe with Malo. I do wish she were given more to do here than provide the high harmony vocals, since this song would lend itself naturally to a proper duet structure, but the unique timbres of both of their voices compliment each other. Whereas Oslin’s original recording is a masterclass in understated sexiness– this is the woman who titled her first greatest hits comp, Songs from an Aging Sex Bomb– The Mavs and Atkins take a more fiery approach. And I wouldn’t say it works better, but it for sure does work. A

KJC:  Raul Malo’s collaborations with K.T. Oslin had also slipped my memory, and I’m so glad Malo reclaimed this song for his own.

It works strikingly well as a duet, and with Malo now in a similar age range as Oslin was when she recorded it, it speaks to a very real truth about boomers in America: they’re getting it on. A lot.

Maybe they’re divorced. Maybe they’re widowed. Maybe they’re cheating.  Or maybe they’re just late bloomers. Whatever the reason, they’re DTF but still want some personal space.

My parents swore up and down that the secret to a successful marriage was sleeping in separate bedrooms.  Maybe it works just as well if you’re sleeping two houses ‘round the cul-de-sac.  A


“Powerful Women”

Pitbull x Dolly Parton

Written by Paul Blair, BLKMKT, José Carlos García, Pedram Niazmand,

Dolly Parton, Edwin Paredes, and Armando C. Perez

KJC:  I enjoyed this way more than I was expecting to.

I’m digging this new era where genres are treated more like a starting point for musical conversations, instead of as dividing lines that are easily mistaken for unscalable walls.

This is Pitbull taking his childhood experience of listening to “9 to 5” and thinking of his working class mother when heard it, then growing up, becoming a pop and Latin star in his own right, and having a musical conversation with Dolly Parton about it.

It’s a Parton record and a Pitbull record that celebrates the working women of today using the language and lens of yesterday.  Yes, Dolly raps, and it’s hardly her first spoken word appearance on record. That she’s as comfortable doing that as Pitbull is singing her classic melody is just too damn cool.  

There’s such a spirit of inclusivity here that it’s hard to believe there are so many fools still committed to the old country folk vs. city folk nonsense.  The human experience can bind us together as easily as it tears us apart, and on “Powerful Women,” we can all agree on two things:

Moms are awesome and work sucks.  A  


JK: I don’t hate it, but I was also one of those people who said that Pitbull and Kesha’s “Timber” should’ve been pushed to country radio, so I’m already well established as the audience for this exact kind of thing.


Dolly’s half-rapping is the perfect bridge between Pitbull’s bars and the interpolations of “9 to 5,” and the tribute to modern women plays as a sincere and natural update to Dolly’s classic single that is now more than four decades old.

It’s still a bit too gimmicky– and the beat is too pedestrian– for me to say it’s great, but I respect that this is also short enough not to overstay its welcome. And it ought to be blowing up country radio playlists alongside Beyoncé’s “Jolene” reboot. B

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