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Song Review: Darius Rucker – “Come Back Song”



fter selling 16 million records as the lead singer of 90s rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, Darius Rucker suffered a 10 year drought during which his biggest claim to fame was being the pitchman for a western-themed fast food sandwich.

But lightning struck twice for Rucker, a gifted and soulful vocalist who found a way to channel his highly commercial, lite-rock creative tendencies into consumable Nashville country music for the masses. Rucker’s 2008 country debut Learn to Livespawned three consecutive chart toppers (and one that climbed up to #3), sold Platinum and quickly established the singer as one of the genre’s top-tier hitmakers. That, while becoming the most successful black country singer since Charley Pride.

Indeed, if anyone knows a thing or two about come back songs, it’s Darius Rucker. It’s just too bad that the lead single from his upcoming sophomore country project—titled “Come Back Song”—pays only lip service to his epic climb from music industry has-been to hotshot. How refreshing would it have been, in this genre the parades as intrinsically genuine and deeply authentic, to hear an artist address his own rise, fall and resurrection?

No such luck here, however, as “Come Back Song” predictably settles for typical mainstream country fodder. Take a heartbroken (but functional) ex-lover who sees the error of his ways, toss in some non-descript acoustic rhythm guitar and top it all off with a dash of na-na-nas, and you’ve got all the substance you need for a hit. Couple all of that with a relevant, engaging artist, and the project’s as damn-near “can’t miss” as you’ll find.

But it’s still disappointing to hear such a talented artist settling for so little. Lyrically, “Come Back Song” is dumber than dirt, offering up compelling gems like, “I didn’t know I needed you so/And letting you go was wrong.”

Elsewhere, the song contorts itself to buy a cheap rhyme, while attempting to score some cuteness points with one of those cheesy and awkward, “I’m implying a bad word without actually saying the bad word” moments. Of course, the line ends up making absolutely no sense. In fact, the first time I heard Rucker sing, “You’re on the feel good side of leaving/And I’m the back side of a mule,” I had to think back to my college Zoology class—was there something on the back side of a mule that I had forgotten about?

Nope. It’s an “ass” joke. Donkey, mule, ass. Get it?

Musically, “Come Back Song” is a groovy little track that Rucker delivers with such ease and fluidity that he practically embarrasses—and completely overwhelms—the song. So controlled and precise is his performance here that it just seems too easy–literally. Rucker somehow stays focused, invoking emotional juice in all the appropriate places, but he just doesn’t seem all that interested. And how could you blame him? He does his best to sell the soul of this song, but there’s just not much soul to sell.

Hearing such a devastatingly good singer sing such a depressingly bad song is one of music’s least rewarding experiences.

Jim Malec is a journalist whose work has appeared in American Songwriter, Country Weekly, Denver Westword and others. He is the founder of American Noise and former Managing Editor of The 9513.

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