Good grief, is “Metro-navirus” going to be a thing now too?
Luke Bryan makes some occasional forays into more-traditional country, but for the most part he’s made his name as the trendiest of trend-hoppers, especially the various flavors of Bro-Country (the raw, misogynistic edge of “Country Girl (Shake It For Me),” the failed attempt to be less creepy on “What She Wants Tonight,” the nihilistic booze-fueled Cobronavirus offering “One Margarita,” and so on). Sadly, the hits keep coming (of his 25 singles in the 2010s and 2020s, only three have not topped the Billboard airplay chart), so Bryan keeps firing, which means we’re stuck with “Down To One,” the fourth single from Born Here Live Here Die Here and yet another unimaginative iteration on the generic Metro-Bro formula. I wasn’t interested in hearing it then, and I’m not interested in hearing it now.
The production here runs closer to the slicker Metropolitan sound than the brash, in-your-face sound featured on the Bro-Country originals, but that doesn’t make it any more palatable. The track opens with a echoing keyboard that’s a bit too loud in the mix and backs it with a slightly-restrained drum machine for the verses, which actually does a passable job of creating a spacious, even slightly-romantic atmosphere for the writing. Unfortunately, the chorus introduces the usual electric guitars and real drums, hitting the listener with an amorphous wall of noise that completely kills the mood and gives the song an utterly replaceable feel. The additional noise fails to translate into additional momentum, and it provides nothing distinct or ear-catching to entice the listener to pay any attention. In the end, the mix is standing idly by while the audience waits for something more interesting to hear.
Bryan is…here, I guess? He’s always been a solid vocalist, and while the song is not a technically demanding one, he delivers an easy, effortless performance with enough feeling to be convincing in the narrator’s role (given his experience with the Bro-Country movement, this isn’t a surprise). The problem is that beyond that, he offers nothing: He gives the listener no particular reason to care about his reminiscing, and his doesn’t do anything to put his stamp of the performance (stick anyone else behind the mic, and the song would sound pretty much the same). While the lyrics don’t give him a ton to work with (more on that later), it’s on the artist to take the story and turn it into something great, and Bryan only manages to blend in with the crowd rather than standing out from it. There’s just no reason to pay attention to this story, so the listener simply doesn’t.
The lyrics are where this thing really falls apart, as it comes across like it was generated by a machine-learning algorithm that was given the entire Bro-Country discography as input, with a few recent reminiscing tracks thrown in for a laugh. All the usual suspects are here: The trucks, the beer, the midnight moonlit makeout session with a “good girl” (which comes across as super demeaning), and so on. The “down to one [insert item here]” hook is weak and predictable, and the framing of the song as just a look back on a great moment of sex makes the whole thing feel kind of pointless, especially when we’re given zero context or any sort of conclusion. (What happened next? Are you still together, did she leave you for a more exciting lifestyle, or did you leave her because you had a crush on your hometown?) It’s overly reliant on the audience to fill in the gap with their own memories, and it makes Bryan’s claims about love feel a bit empty, as there’s little evidence beyond his charm that this was actually the case.
“Down To One,” like every other song I’ve heard this month, is a song I can’t be bothered to love or hate—it simply exists without justification. The production is uninspired, Luke Bryan is uninteresting, and the writing just mashes two trends together and hopes they stick (and they don’t). I have so little to say they I feel like I had to pad out this review just to hit 700 words, and I have so little interest in listening to it that I was forever stopping this review to watch political rap battles and grade homeworks. If this is the direction country music is going this winter, I really need to rethink my overly-verbose review style, because this track isn’t worth wasting the paper that this post isn’t printed on.
Rating: 5/10. The streak continues…