Along with fellow twangy upstarts Chris Young and Easton Corbin, Luke Bryan has defied recent country trends toward pop slickness with his decidedly neo-traditional songs. His Georgia drawl leaves him little choice in that regard, but Bryan seems to revel in genuine backwoods simplicity and his unique voice and swagger lend him an authenticity that a dozen “I’m so country” listing songs could never equal. Even his “bad” songs glow with a certain charm. Luke’s also been on quite a tear lately with hits and awards rolling in seemingly monthly. Hell, I even kinda like him.
With all this momentum built up, it’d take quite a misstep for Bryan not to move from opener to headliner in 2011.
How can I put this professionally?
“Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” is a big, steaming, rotting, worm and fly-infested pile of cow crap. There, that was pretty journalistic.
The calendar says Spring is here, and it takes a couple of months for established artists to get a song up the charts, so right about this time every year they put out the “summer fun” songs. This one shoots for that, but it’s not fun… it’s barely functional. The most apt adjective to describe this song is “cringeworthy.”
You already know what it’s about without hearing it or me telling you, but here goes, anyway. He wants his girlfriend to shake her thang. He delivers this message in a way that he’s obviously talking to all country girls – that they should also shake their thangs for the “young bucks, rednecks, DJ’s, birds and bees.” I’m serious. It goes no deeper than that.
While not quite as lecherous as Trace Adkins’ recent misfire “Brown Chicken Brown Cow,” the intent is pretty much the same. Bryan’s charm only serves to make this song more palatable to radio programmers, who will undoubtably add, add, add—leading me to puke, puke, puke.
The chorus is insipid, merely repeating the title over and over with awkward female backing vocals. I felt my face turning three shades of red while this played aloud, worried someone might think I actually listened to this for enjoyment.
Interestingly (?) enough, “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” also reintroduces something that has—for better or worse—been missing in country music for a while: the dance song. This one’s ready-made for the hardwood floor, and I bet they’ve already got an even cheesier dance remix in the can.
I fall a little beyond this song’s intended audience, age-wise, but I still enjoy fun songs. I just don’t like to be beaten over the head with fun, because then it just feels like work. Simplicity is fine too, but this is only a step or two above singing “dance then have intercourse” over a country dance beat.
I just don’t get it. Luke could have put out a seasonally appropriate good-times tune without pandering to the lowest common denominator. You’re better than this LB.
When it was time for Luke Bryan to shoot for the stars, he instead dropped a load in his pants.
This is wretched.
John Rich – “Another You”
For a guy who is supposed to be a genius songwriter, John Rich sure does seem to be running out of ideas. World/Girl, Do/You, Out/Down–these are the best rhymes a three-time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year can come up with? Maybe he spent all his good lines on “Raising McCain.”
Rich’s songwriting has never been accused of being especially sophisticated (actually, neither has Rich), but he has nonetheless demonstrated a high aptitude for clever turns of phrase and unique, original word choice. The first single from his upcoming solo project showcases none of that. “Another You” is a song that sounds like it was written when Rich was really, really bored. Because it’s really, really boring.
And really, really bad.
A million lyrical miles away from the interesting, edgy material that made up Horse of a Different Color (the album that resurrected Rich’s flagging career and launched him into Super Galactic stardom as one half of Big & Rich–we miss you Big Kenny), “Another You” is neither interesting nor edgy.
Rather, it is completely effortless–and I obviously don’t mean that as a compliment, but that Rich literally seems to have put zero effort into its composition, almost as if he pulled lines out of a paper bag, or spent a few minutes aimlessly rearranging those little magnets that stick on your refrigerator door. You know, the ones with words on them that can be made to say things like “Pick up milk” or “Take the trash out” or “Reviewing this song makes me want to punch myself in the face.”
Aside from the fact that this song gets its lyrical ass kicked by David Kersh’s 1997 hit “Another You” (written by Brad Paisley), Rich’s take on post-breakup regret plays as incomprehensibly unbelievable. Decidedly timid and conservative in both concept and execution, it’s just hard to take Rich, country’s drama king, seriously when he goes into sensitive crooner mode.
Part of that is because Rich is a poor singer, comparatively speaking–one with a tragically limited range (a fact underscored without Big Kenny’s vocal support to add color to an otherwise drab voice).
More than this, however, is that the whole package just seems entirely fake and designed purely for commercial effect. Cue the strings. Here comes the crescendoing chorus, followed by the emotional vocal run on the final line. The song has no heart and the recording has no teeth. John Rich doesn’t care about this song. He didn’t care about it enough to invest himself in its composition, and that comes through in his singing.
So why should we care about it, either?
The Band Perry – “Hip To My Heart”
New Republic Nashville sibling trio The Band Perry sprightly treks through country’s bubbly side on “Hip To My Heart,” a rollicking up-tempo that pulses with energy. Lead singer Kimberly Perry’s voice is a pleasant surprise, invigorating, full of youthful vitality and accented by just a hint of raspy grit.
Likewise, “Hip To My Heart” is happy, playful and charming. Unfortunately, it also makes very little sense. Written by the trio and Brett Beavers, the song opens with the lines “I like your lips like I like my Coca-Cola yeah/Oh how it pops and fizzes/You like my shirt like I like it when you hold my hand/The way it fits, it’s got me feeling, feeling lucky.”
Things don’t improve much from there, as we’re run through a maze of distracting and unnecessary wordplay.
Any fashion pundit will tell you that trying too hard to appear hip is the surest way to come off looking like a poser. With “Hip To My Heart,” The Band Perry demonstrates a cool sense of musical style, crafting a song full of fresh hooks and interesting turns. But lyrically, this runs way too far outside the lines, so adorned with quirks that it comes off as gaudy and unmatched.
“Hip To My Heart” may also be mainstream country’s first big-time single to draw directly from the influence of label-mate Taylor Swift: By and for an very young audience, The Band Perry is more at home in a suburban mall than a seedy honky tonk. Without Swift’s same narrative deftness, however, “Hip To My Heart” amounts to pure fizz.
Katy Perry ft. Kanye West – “E.T.” (“Futuristic Lover”)
No pop artist approaches matters of sexuality with more playful spunk than Katy Perry, but there’s no taste of cherry Chapstick present on her latest single.
There’s no “shocking” girl-on-girl action, no cotton candy-laced teenage dreams and no flashing of peacocks in the California sunshine. “E.T.” is raw sexual energy set to a dark, thumping, rave-inspired beat. And although Perry’s voice has never sounded bigger or richer, that energy alone is not enough to save what is otherwise a thoroughly second-rate song that’s plagued by an ill-conceived concept.
In “E.T.,” Perry sings that she’s ready for abduction, as well as the relatively innocuous lines, “Infect me with your lovin’/Fill me with your poison.” But as the song pounds along to a beat ripped from Russian duo t.A.T.u.’s 2002 hit “All The Things She Said,” the constant string of outer space metaphors quickly grows tiresome.
The song never rises to more than that multitude of metaphors, seemingly searching for as many different ways as possible to say the same thing (though never actually saying anything). The cut’s just over three minutes long, but by the time the easily-predicted ambient breakdown rolls around at the 2:07 mark, you’re likely to feel as though you’ve been thoroughly bludgeoned by the song’s weird commitment to its equally weird theme.
Perry’s trio of super producers (Dr. Luke, Max Martin and Ammo) have rendered this entirely danceable, but some of the lyrics (which they co-wrote with Perry) are unintentionally hilarious. In addition to calling the object of her affection “an alien,” Perry refers to him as “supersonic” (he’s very fast?) and says she wants to be “filled by his poison” (I don’t even want to know).
The line “Fill me with your poison” isn’t delivered with the same knowing smirk as “I wanna see your peacock.” Perry sings it with a straight face, apparently oblivious not to the sexual meaning of it but to the pure awkwardness of its construction.
All of this results in a slice of audio genre fiction that never transcends its plot, and which seems almost too ridiculous to actually come from the hands of four people as talented as these.
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