Song Review: Florida Georgia Line, “I Love My Country”

If Florida Georgia Line really loved their country, they wouldn’t have foisted this abomination on a locked-down public.

Florida Georgia Line may have been one of the founding members of the Bro country movement, but as the loud-and-proud trend gave way to the slick, softer sounds of the Metropolitan and Boyfriend movements (to say nothing of the push back towards traditional instrumentation), Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard have struggled to find their footing in this shifting landscape. After reaching #3 or higher with fourteen of their first fifteen singles, “Talk You Out of It” only made it to #11, and “Blessings” ran out of steam at #23 before the plug was pulled. Something had to be done, and the decision was made: If the duo was going to get beat, they were going to beat throwing their best pitch, i.e. their classic Bro sound. Thus, we are left with “I Love My Country,” the presumed leadoff single for FGL’s upcoming fifth album, and it’s exactly as shallow and formulaic as you’d expect it to be. Sure, they’ve made some tweaks around the edges to their formula, but this is yet another Bro-Country revival track, and I’m no more interested in this trend than I was when it died the first time.

The production may take a different route than FGL’s previous Bro-Country singles, but they all end up at the same place in the end. The electric guitars are a bit more rollicking than rough and the primary drums are real this time, but the drum machines and token slow-rolling banjo are still here, and the general cadence of the mix is pretty much the same as “Cruise” and “This is How We Roll.” In the end, this is a wall of noise with the a party-hardy vibe just like the rest of the duo’s major hits, and despite the shallow, celebratory nature of the lyrics, it still manages to clash with them. (How can you claim to love “six strings and fiddles” and talk about “that pedal steel…straight sliding” when exactly none of those instruments are present or audible? The only reason I know there’s an acoustic guitar in here somewhere is because YouTube credits some guy with playing one in the video description.) In the end, this is the same garbage that FGL gave us back in the early 2010s, and to say I’m not feeling nostalgic for it would be an understatement.

For better or worse, Hubbard is firmly in his wheelhouse on this track, and he’s no more interesting or likeable than he was back in the day. He handles the rapid-fire lyrics well and his range and power aren’t really tested, but it’s the misplaced charisma that gets him into serious trouble here: He comes across as the same simple, fun-loving dudebro that he did on “Cruise,” and that’s not a good look for anyone right now (seriously, he comes across as the type of person who’d defy a shelter-in-place order to party on the beach in the middle of a pandemic). In addition, he’s not terribly believable as a narrator: He comes “rolling into town
Hanging out the window, like a blue tick hound” with guitars blazing behind him, and then tries to drop George Strait’s name and gush about fiddles? Toss in a little bit of low-key objectification with that “Alabama shake” line, and it’s clear that this douche has learned nothing from the past decade. This is so awful that Brian Kelley looks smart for pulling his usual disappearing act, and frankly, Hubbard would have been better off doing the same thing.

And then…honestly, do we really have to talk about the writing?

I love my country, I love my country
Six strings and fiddles, whiskey from Kentucky
We keep it funky, we like how it sounds
Monday to Sunday, yeah, I love my country
I’m loud and proud, rolling into town
Hanging out the window, like a blue tick hound
Ain’t sorry, ain’t nothing to be sorry about
I love my country and I love my country up loud

Actually guys, there’s a lot to be sorry about here: The laundry-list construction of the verses, the novel-but-bizarre details that are included  (what on earth made you think we were interested in hearing about your “styrofoam plate date night”?), the lazy “I’m so country!” hook, and above everything the incessant checking of every last box on the Bro-Country list: Drinking, driving, hunting, fishing, and loving every day, leering at the opposite sex, dropping superficial references to older singers and traditional instruments, and even a blue-tick hour reference for good measure. (If it took more than fifteen minutes to write this drivel, I’d be surprised.) The narrator feels like they’re trying to pick a fight by shouting into the void defiantly proclaiming their love of country music and their rural lifestyle, but it’s a fight that no one’s interested in having right now. We’ve all heard this song and dance a million times before, and we’ve got better things to do than listen to this pointless rambling.

“I Love My Country” is a bad song even during normal times, and an absolutely terrible song to drop in the middle of a global health crisis. No one’s interested in revisiting that “classic” Bro-Country sound, no one’s interested in writing this pointless and lackadaisical, and no one’s interested in listening to an act like Florida Georgia Line with this little credibility and believability on the subject. I get that FGL is trying to rekindle that old magic with their old formula for success, but the genre and the world have changed since 2012, and people have moved on from Bro-Country as both a sound and an idea. People want more from their music in 2020, and a loud guitar and a “country” checklist just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

If we weren’t all stuck in place right now, I’d tell Florida Georgia Line that if this is the best they can do, they need to get the heck out of Nashville and stay out.

Rating: 2/10. Absolute trash.

My Reaction To Nintendo’s 3/26 Mini Direct

Well, I guess we know why it took so long to put together a Direct, because Nintendo really didn’t have a lot to say.

Just when we were starting to wonder if Nintendo Directs were a thing of the past, Nintendo kinda-sorta surprise-dropped a Direct mini in our laps today (although this had been rumored for a while). Folks have been salivating over the prospect of Nintendo filling out its sparse 2020 lineup, which was basically empty after Animal Crossing: New Horizons released last week (don’t worry, that review’s coming). After sitting through the presentation, however, I found it to be severely lacking in hype and scope (I suppose that’s why they called it “mini”), and the Switch’s 2020 lineup doesn’t seem any more full than it did before. There was almost nothing here that I was interested, and it makes me wonder if Nintendo needs to double-dip on its A-list IPs sooner rather than later.

My specific thoughts on the Direct are as follows:

  • If there’s one super-positive takeaway from recent Nintendo presentations, it’s that third-party support has expanded to the point where the company can lean on it during its presentation. There was precious little first-party information to be found here (Xenoblade, Pokémon, and that was essentially it), but there were some sneaky-big announcements from some larger non-Nintendo franchises (the 2K trio, Bravely Default, Star Wars, etc.), and I’m getting a low-key Splatoon/Fortnite vibe from Ninjala as well (I wouldn’t be surprised to see this take off). I think this is a good sign for the Switch in the long-term, but it does mean a short-term dearth of hype.
  • Are RPGs finally going mainstream? The games that got the most screen time were Xenoblade Chronicles, Bravely Default, and Pokémon, which seems a little odd for a genre that generally lags behind FPS, platformers, and many other genres in the Western scene. The games themselves have expansive, eye-catching presentations and boast stories deep enough to match, but personally only Bravely Default really caught my interest (I’ve never liked real-time RPG combat systems, and I’d honestly rather revisit my older Pokémon games than continue on in Sword and Shield). BD2 is a Square Enix property, and the Octopath Traveler influence is apparent with the game’s use of Brave points, customizable job system, and feedback-requesting demo. If I had to pick one game that I’d be most interested in trying out, it would be BD2.
  • After all the crazy trailers we got for the Fighters Pass 1 characters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it was a real shock to see the trailer-less franchise drop for the opening member of Fighters Pass 2. However, I’m actually okay with bringing an ARMS character to SSBU: I’ve always thought that Nintendo shot themselves in the foot and gave ARMS a raw deal by shoehorning into a tight window during the Switch’s launch (imagine if they announced it as a new game right now!), and there’s nothing like a Smash Bros. sugar rush to put a franchise back in the spotlight (Example A: Shulk and today’s headliner Xenoblade Chronicles). Balancing the unquestionable range of the ARMS character will be a challenge, but Byleth’s got some range too and Sakurai’s team managed to work it in without breaking the game, so I’m curious to see what Nintendo’s got in store.
  • To be honest, even with the “mini” tagline and the shorter duration, it felt like there was a lot of chaff mixed in with the wheat. Games like Catherine: Full Body, Good Job!, and Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (…seriously?) are the kind of stuff that don’t feel like they belong in any Direct, even a content-starved mini one. Outside of some big releases on May 29th and a Pokémon promise for Isle Of Armor to show up by the end of June, Nintendo’s lineup feels just as empty after the presentation as it did before it. Nintendo better have something big up its sleeve for whatever replaces E3 this year (Breath of the Wild 2? Mario Kart 9? Metroid Prime 4 news?), because otherwise we’re looking at nothing but DLC announcements for the rest of the year.

To be honest, it’s hard to truly criticize Nintendo for a lackluster presentation when we’re all sheltering in place in the midst of a global pandemic. (Sure, this felt slapdash and substandard, but so has every comedy talk-show video I’ve watched in the last week. I mean, who wants to watch Stephen Colbert change a freaking bike tire?). If nothing else, Xenoblade Chronicles deserved something to kick off its hype cycle leading up to May 29th. Still, this felt like the sort of presentation that was given for its own sake, and the difference between releasing this Direct and just not releasing anything feels pretty small.

Personally, I think there’s an opportunity in 2020 for Nintendo to push some of its more-forgotten franchises (Star Fox? Pikmin? Paper Mario/Mario & Luigi? F-Zero?) and see if one of them can experience a Fire Emblem-like resurgence in between Mario and Zelda iterations. There’s still a chance this could happen given how open 2020 still looks from a first-party perspective, but until it happens, we’re stuck looking at a mostly-empty calendar wondering what the point of this whole exercise was.

Any water is nice to have in a drought, but there wasn’t a whole lot of anything in this glass, and it’s only left us wondering what happened to the rest of the drink.

The Current Coronavirus Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: March 23, 2020

Several years ago, Josh Schott started a weekly feature on the now-reborn Country Perspective blog that asked a simple question: Based on Billboard’s country airplay charts, just how good (or bad) is country radio at this very moment? In the spirit of the original feature, I decided to try my hand at evaluating the state of the radio myself.

The methodology is as follows: Each song that appears is assigned a score based on its review score. 0/10 songs get the minimum score (-5), 10/10 songs get the maximum (+5), and so on. The result (which can range from +250 to -250) gives you an idea of where things stand on the radio.

This week’s numbers are from the latest version of Country Aircheck, but I’m going to link to their archives since I never remember to update this from week to week. Without further ado, let’s crunch some numbers!

 

Song Score
1. Jake Owen, “Homemade” 0 (5/10)
2. Kane Brown, “Homesick” +1 (6/10)
3. Luke Bryan, “What She Wants Tonight” -2 (3/10)
4. Brett Young, “Catch” +1 (6/10)
5. Jordan Davis, “Slow Dance In A Parking Lot” +1 (6/10)
6. Jason Aldean, “We Back” -1 (4/10)
7. Ingrid Andress, “More Hearts Than Mine” +3 (8/10)
8. Gabby Barrett, “I Hope” +2 (7/10)
9. Maren Morris, “The Bones” 0 (5/10)
10. Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani, “Nobody But You” 0 (5/10)
11. Thomas Rhett ft. Jon Pardi, “Beer Can’t Fix” +1 (6/10)
12. Morgan Wallen, “Chasin’ You” 0 (5/10)
13. Riley Green, “I Wish Grandpas Never Died” 0 (5/10)
14. Carly Pearce & Lee Brice, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” 0 (5/10)
15. Luke Combs ft. Eric Church, “Does To Me” +1 (6/10)
16. Travis Denning, “After A Few” 0 (5/10)
17. Kelsea Ballerini, “Homecoming Queen?” +1 (6/10)
18. Kenny Chesney, “Here And Now” 0 (5/10)
19. Scotty McCreery, “In Between” +1 (6/10)
20. Eric Church, “Monsters” 0 (5/10)
21. Carrie Underwood, “Drinking Alone” 0 (5/10)
22. LoCash, “One Big Country Song” 0 (5/10)
23. Michael Ray, “Her World Or Mine” 0 (5/10)
24. Justin Moore, “Why We Drink” -1 (4/10)
25. Chase Rice, “Lonely If You Are” -2 (3/10)
26. Miranda Lambert, “Bluebird” -1 (4/10)
27. Keith Urban, “God Whispered Your Name” 0 (5/10)
28. Maddie & Tae, “Die From A Broken Heart” +2 (7/10)
29. Gone West, “What Could’ve Been” +1 (6/10)
30. Chris Janson, “Done” 0 (5/10)
31. Chris Young, “Drowning” 0 (5/10)
32. Sam Hunt, “Hard To Forget” 0 (5/10)
33. Ashley McBryde, “One Night Standards” +5 (10/10)
34. Kip Moore, “She’s Mine” +1 (6/10)
35. Billy Currington, “Details” -1 (4/10)
36. Jon Langston, “Now You Know” -2 (3/10)
37. Jameson Rodgers, “Some Girls” 0 (5/10)
38. Rayne Johnson, “Front Seat” -2 (3/10)
39. Matt Stell, “Everywhere But On” 0 (5/10)
40. Lauren Alaina, “Getting Good” +2 (7/10)
41. Midland, “Cheatin’ Songs” +4 (9/10)
42. Eli Young Band, “Break It In” 0 (5/10)
43. Runaway June, “Head Over Heels” +2 (7/10)
44. Lady Antebellum, “What I’m Leaving For” +2 (7/10)
45. Dillon Carmichael, “I Do For You” +2 (7/10)
46. HARDY ft. Lauren Alaina & Devin Dawson, “One Beer” -1 (4/10)
47. Little Big Town, “Over Drinking” +2 (7/10)
48. LANco, “What I See” -1 (4/10)
49. Chris Lane, “Big, Big Plans” +1 (6/10)
50. Old Dominion, “Some People Do” +3 (8/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +4
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +23
Overall Pulse +27
Change From Last Week +2 🙂

Best Song: “One Night Standards,” 10/10
Worst Song: “Now You Know,” 3/10
Mode Score: 0 (16 songs)

Gone:

  • Jimmie Allen, “Make Me Want To” (recurrent
  • Florida Georgia Line, “Blessings” (down to #53)

Leaving:

  • Kane Brown, “Homesick” (down from #1 to #2)
  • Jason Aldean, “We Back” (holds at #6, but has looked weak and a new single has already been announced)
  • Maren Morris, “The Bones” (holds at #9, but lost its bullet and is trending downward)

In Real Trouble:

  • Kip Moore, “She’s Mine” (holds at #34, but loses its bullet)
  • Billy Currington, “Details” (up from #36 to #35, but gained only six points and lost points)
  • Rayne Johnson, “Front Seat” (holds at #38, but gained only six spins and lost points)
  • Dillon Carmichael, “I Do For You” (up from #46 to #45, but lost spins and gained only six points)
  • Little Big Town, “Over Drinking” (holds at #47, but loses its bullet)

In Some Trouble:

  • Honestly, if you’re below #30 and aren’t named Sam Hunt, you should be a little nervous.

In No Trouble At All:

  • Sam Hunt, “Hard To Forget” (up from #42 to #32)
  • Keith Urban, “God Whispered Your Name” (up from #33 to #27)
  • Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani, “Nobody But You” (up from #14 to #10)

Is Thanos:

  • Luke Combs ft. Eric Church, “Does To Me” (holds at #15 and looks unexpectedly mortal right now…)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

Overall Thoughts: I expected to see continued playlist shortening this week, but I did not expect to see a hard cap emerge like this.

A bright red line has been drawn across the chart this week, and if you’re on the wrong side of it, you’re in big trouble:

  • From #1 to #30, only six songs gained fewer than 100 spins (not including Brown and Morris, which are exiting naturally), and everybody but Brown and Morris gained at least 100 points.
  • From #31 to #50, if you throw out Hunt’s fast-rising track at #32, no one broke the 100 spin gain mark, and only seven gained over 100 points (and only Rodgers at #37 cracked 200).

I went through some theories as to why this was happening last week, and I’ll throw another possibility out today: With the nation going on lockdown one state at a time (our order went into effect this afternoon), label marketing teams are having to operate with little to no ground game, which is likely hurting artists on the B and C lists as labels concentrate their efforts on their profitable known quantities. I expected artists to struggle in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, but I didn’t expect this issues to crop up on the airwaves this strikingly. Then again, I don’t think I was really prepared for how fast these infection numbers would grow either.

Fasten your seatbelts and hold on to your hats, folks. This ride’s about to get even rougher.

So what do you think? Are the numbers better or worse than you expected? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Song Review: Avenue Beat, “Ruin That For Me”

Dear Avenue Beat: If you’re going to sing an attitude song, it helps to put a little, you know, attitude behind it?

Avenue Beat consists of a trio of young “genzennial” women (Sami Bearden, Savana Santos, and Sam Backoff) from Illinois than turned a spur-of-the-moment Nashville invite into an eventual record deal with Big Machine last summer, but have only just released their debut single “Ruin That For Me” to country radio. Female power anthems are starting to become something of a movement on country radio (and with good reason, as the ladies of the genre are running circles around the men at the moment), but as anthems go, this one is pretty weak, featuring neither the defiance of Runaway June’s “Buy My Own Drinks” nor the raw anger of Kelsea Ballerini’s “Miss Me More.” Instead, this track feels bland and sounds surprisingly manufactured, and simply doesn’t stand up against its competition.

The decision to put production decisions is the hands of Santos, David Garcia and Ashley Gorley was a major misstep, because this is the cheapest, most synthetic-sounding mix I’ve heard in a long time, so much so that I question whether any actual instruments were used in its creation. The arrangement open with a pair of acoustic guitars that sound like MIDI instruments, with Grady Smith’s favorite snap track providing cover. Some realistic-sounding instruments eventually make some cameos (an electric guitar, a few real drums), but for the most part they’re overshadowed by spacious synth tones and prominent drum machines. The general vibe of the sound is also incredibly inconsistent: The frequent minor chords and deeper guitar cast a pall over the verses and make them feel fairly melancholy, and while things brighten up for the chorus, the sound remains unusually hollow and vacuous, and needs another instrument or two to fill the empty space and give it some presence. The softer feel of the mix also takes the edge off the writing and drains all the power out of the track, leaving us with a song that feels far more lifeless than empowering.

Don’t be fooled by the music video: All three women lip-sync to the lead part, but it’s Santos that covers the lion’s share of the lead role on the recording. The song is not a technically demanding one and Santos runs through it without breaking a sweat, but she’s an awkward fit for the narrator’s role: Her softer delivery projects a lot of vulnerability that would fit perfectly on a standard love song, but it lacks the edge and attitude to pull of a stubborn, defiant track like this one, and as a result her performance comes across as halfhearted and disingenuous to the audience. (It’s surprising because Santos’s voice reminds me a lot of Maren Morris, but she doesn’t have the grit or sass in her delivery that Morris does.) Bearden and Backoff don’t add a ton to the vocals by themselves, but to their credit the trio showcases some strong harmony and great vocal chemistry. Still, I get the feeling that this trio would be more suited to non-attitude-laden songs, and that they got stuck with this track in the name of trend-hopping.

The lyrics here are surprisingly weak for a power anthem, as the song feels like an awkward combination of “Buy My Own Drinks” and Sam Hunt’s “Break Up In A Small Town”. The narrator proclaims that their ex won’t “ruin that for me,” but a fair bit of the song boils down to a laundry list of “that” (songs, restaurants, friends, shows, etc.), and much of the imagery included here is generic and boilerplate (oh wow, your ex walked in while you were out on the town? Never heard that before…). While their are definitely some statements of resistance here (most notably the hook itself), none of them are terribly powerful, and their power is so drained by the punchless vocals that the listener barely notices them. The writers may have left plenty of hooks for a more-experienced artist to grab onto and elevate, but when this trio declines to do so, the writing’s unoriginality is exposed, and it sinks like a rock.

“Ruin That For Me” may have been the trendy choice for a debut single, but it was also the wrong choice for Avenue Beat. The writing feels recycled, the production feels underfunded, and this trio is just not up to the challenge of telling their exes to take a long walk off a short pier. There are some flashes of potential here, but it needs the proper support from their material and producer to really bring it all together, and that support is nowhere to be found here. It’s kind of a “meh” song overall, which may be the worst possible outcome, as the audience won’t realize that Avenue Beat has arrived, and won’t notice if they leave.

Rating: 5/10. Don’t waste your “shelter in place” time on this.

Song Review: Jason Aldean, “Got What I Got”

Okay, now Jason Aldean is allowed to say “We Back.”

If there’s one thing we’ve established over the last fifteen years, it’s that Jason Aldean is a serious dude. He’s at his best when his material actually warrants him leaning into that side of his personality (think “Rearview Town”), and he gets himself into trouble when his seriousness and aggression do not fit the moment at all (think “We Back,” which now appears to be settling for a #6 airplay peak after stumbling on its final ascent to the Billboard summit). This question is whether being serious is satisfactory seems to ultimately determine whether Aldean’s singles are any good or not, and the answer for “Got What I Got,” the second release from Aldean’s 9 album, is…surprisingly, “yes.” Sure, it’s just a love song on some level, but it digs a bit deeper than the surface-level Boyfriend country stuff we’ve been hearing a lot lately, daring to dive into the insecurities of its characters in a way I haven’t heard in quite some time.

By now, you don’t really need me to tell you what the production sounds like: It’s a Jason Aldean track, and most every Jason Aldean track nowadays is dark, unsettling, and reliant on hard-rock guitars and synthetic percussion. However, the general intensity of the sound is dialed way back this time around, making room for softer elements like the acoustic guitar strums that cover the verses. The power is delivered instead in sharp bursts with electric-axe stabs and beefed-up bass drums, and the whole thing, including the vocals, are drowned in echoey effects to give it some arena-ready presence (in truth, they really could have dialed this back, as some notes linger way longer than they should). The repeated IV-V-vi chord structure gives us a sense that we’re dealing with some seriously sinister elements here, which sets the mood perfectly for a dive into the fragile psyche of the narrator’s significant other. It’s nice to hear a mix that can impress the serious of an issue on you without shoving it down your throat, and it complements the writing instead of overwhelming it like Aldean usually does.

Aldean brings his usual macho swagger to the table here, but he deploys it a bit differently than on songs like “We Back” or “Rearview Town.” The song is not a technically demanding one and he has no trouble covering its range and flow demands, but instead of the overt aggressive and frustrated persona he defaults to, the former is cast aside and the latter is a bit more understated. You get the sense that this isn’t the first, second, or even tenth time the narrator has heard these questions from their partner, judging from his emphasis on the sharp, short responses. Otherwise, however, Aldean’s demeanor is more measured and calm as he runs through his argument one more time, and he gives off an air of unwavering confidence that makes you believe everything he says (which contrasts sharply with the insecurity and fear of whoever he’s taking to). That last bit is what makes Aldean’s serious demeanor work: These are real and scary issues for the other person, and Aldean’s attitude indicates that he realizes this and doesn’t take them lightly. He may not be the most flexible performer in Nashville, but what he does do, he does quite well, and when the material warrants it, it’s a potent combination.

I really like the writing on this track, mostly because of the excellent characterization it contains. In one corner, you’ve got a concerned, self-doubting significant other who fears that they are inferior to the narrator or somehow holding them back, leading them to ask questions like “do you ever miss bein’ alone?” Do you really think I’m where you belong?” In the other corner, you’ve got the narrator, who has absolutely zero self-doubt and is certain that they are in the right place (“When I got what I got, I don’t miss what I had”). While outbursts of “Hell no!” and “I ain’t playin'” suggest that the narrator is a little tired of the subject, their responses are direct and unequivocal (“Ain’t no second thoughts, no regrets, no kinda maybe, no wishin’ I turned back”), which is exactly what they have to be when you’re dealing with the severe insecurities of the other person. As someone who deals with these sort of folks of a regular basis (and is admittedly one of those people myself), that clarity and repetitive reassurance is crucial⁠—if you’re not clear or consistent, the other person’s mind will immediately jump to the worst-case scenario (in this song’s case, the partner is worried the narrator will leave), and things spiral downhill from there. This sort of depth lets the audience that the writers put some real thought and care into the lyrics, and the effort is greatly appreciated.

“We Back” snapped what had been a surprisingly good run of singles from Jason Aldean, but “Got What I Got” gets him back on that upwards swing. The strong, thoughtful writing not only provides a great foundation for the track, it also plays to Aldean’s strengths much like “Rearview Town” did, allowing his serious demeanor and heavy, ominous production to be assets rather hinderances. Aldean will always be “too rock” or “too edgy” for the traditional country crowd to ever accept him, but when everything lines up like it does here, he can be as expressive and sincere as anyone in the genre. It’s an admittedly small wheelhouse, but it’s still a wheelhouse, and the results can still be enjoyable.

Rating: 7/10. This one is worth your time.

(You know, country music in 2020 has actually been pretty good thus far. It’s too bad everything else in the world sucks so badly right now…)

Song Review: Adam Hambrick, “Forever Ain’t Long Enough”

As far as Boyfriend country goes…you know, you could do worse than this.

I labeled Adam Hambrick “just another guy” when he dropped his debut single “Rockin’ All Night Long” at the tail end of 2018, and he remains that guy after said debut wound up peaking at a lousy #45 on Billboard’s airplay chart. He appears to have laid low for much of 2019, but he’s back this year to hop upon the Boyfriend country trend with his latest release “Forever Ain’t Long Enough.” I have to admit: He and his team seem to have put their hiatus to good use, because the track is a noticeable step up from “Rockin’ All Night Long,” and is honestly one of the better Boyfriend country tracks I’ve heard. It’s a bright, bouncy ode to the narrator’s partner, with enough energy and cheer to qualify as a decaffeinated version of Russell Dickerson’s “Every Little Thing.”

The biggest difference between Hambrick’s debut single and this one is how much better the production suits the track this time around. Both songs are love songs, but “Rockin’ All Night Long” set a tone that was “so somber and meloncholic that it makes you think you’re listening to a sad song, and its lack of energy made it “plod lifelessly” from start to finish. Both of these issues have been rectified here: The slick electric guitar that opens the track features some actual life and energy, and the crisp snare drum that backs it up feels much peppier as well. The piano that covers the verses, despite only getting up into its moderate range, has the same punchy feel as the guitars from “Every Little Thing” (albeit to much lesser degree), and the whole arrangement comes together on the chorus to create a surprisingly spacious and optimistic atmosphere. This is the rare modern country love song that dumps the forced pretense of seriousness and actually feels like a love song, with the producer doing their part to accentuate the narrator happiness and broadcast it to the audience. It’s just a fun song to listen to, and we could really use more songs like this in the bizarre times we’re living in now.

Hambrick struggles a bit with the song’s faster tempo (he’s not a great enunciator, and his words all run together during the rapid-fire portions of ht lyrics), but otherwise he seems a bit more comfortable with this song’s lighter touch. His voice remains fairly distinct among country singers and his range (especially his upper register, which is where he spends most of the song) is pretty solid, and most importantly, the “weak” and “hollow” delivery I docked him for previously is nowhere to be found. Hambrick shows a lot more presence and authority behind the mic this time around, and while he genuinely seems to be having a blast spending time with his partner, there’s less of a silly-fun vibe here than on “Every Little Thing,” and more of a feeling of permanence and commitment behind the sentiment. In short, I’d call this a much better debut performance than Hambrick’s actual debut performance.

Sadly, the lyrics are about as stock as you might think: The narrator has lots of plans with their partner, and “forever ain’t lone enough” to get to all of them. You can probably guess what all these plans are: “Tasting heaven on your lips,” staying up late and “staring into your baby blues,” watching sunsets, and of course getting “tangled up in my sheets.” The repetition of the hook and the occasional time references give the song a hint of long-term seriousness, but the other activities are too ephemeral to back up that claim, and some of the more *ahem* physical activities give off more of a hookup vibe than anything else. Luckily, the lyrics do the most important thing right: They project a sense of fun and excitement that Hambrick and the producer can run with in their own performances. I’m moderately satisfied that the writing left enough hooks for the other components to latch onto and elevate the track, but it’s a shame that the lyrics aren’t really strong enough to stand on their own.

I’d never call myself a fan of Boyfriend country, but much like Bro-Country and the Metropolitan sound, it can be done right if executed well enough, and “Forever Ain’t Long Enough” comes a lot closer to doing it right than most songs in this vein. Both the production and Adam Hambrick’s performance do a good job capturing and projecting the joy found within a loving relationship, and while the writing is run-of-the-mill at best, it’s lightweight enough that the rest of the song can carry it along. Given the crowded state of the genre and the heavyweights clogging up the Boyfriend country lane, I’m not sure this is enough to make Hambrick stand out and carve out a spot for him in Music City, but it’s a step in the right direction at the very least, and maybe it will set him up to not have to another year between releases.

Rating: 6/10. Give this a listen and see what you think.

 

What Kind Of Pokémon Trainer is Kyle?

I’ve always fancied myself an Electric-type trainer, but will the data come to the same conclusion? (Image from the Pokémon Fandom site)

Extreme isolation will drive a mind into some very strange places…

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that despite my Splatoon 2 obsession, the Pokémon franchise occupies a fair bit of my time as well (see: my annual Nuzlocke runs). My Pokédex knowledge may not be was it once was (my post-G4 knowledge is a lot worse than I care to admit, and Fairy-type monsters still catch me off guard a lot). While sitting around this evening wondering what the heck to write my next post about, a question popped into my head, once that I had pondered off-and-on for many years: If I were appointed a Pokémon gym leader and had to pick a single type to specialize in, what type would that be?

Usually, my answer was simple: Despite not being a Pikachu fan, I was an Electric-type trainer through and through. I made a point of putting an Electric Pokémon on nearly every team I formed, and my most memorable teams (Pokémon Red and Pokémon Pearl) featured multiple Electric types in my top six. Me and Lieutenant Surge were the true power players of Pokémon!

However, with Pokémon Sword becoming the 22nd game I had conquered in the series, this time I realized that actually had enough data to conduct a proper analysis and put some rigor behind my answer. How did my head and heart compare to the cold, hard facts of (Pokémon) life? It was time to crunch the numbers!

(Yes, I’m fully aware of the silliness and pointlessness of this experiment, but it was either that or review Adam Hambrick’s new single, and I’m kind of tired of reviewing songs this week anyway. Bring on the Pokémon!)

The ground rules for this experiment are as follows:

  • Examine every Pokémon that was part of my “A-line” that beat the Elite Four and Champion (minus HM lackeys and field fillers), and record their types. Total up the numbers across all 22 games and see which type comes out on top!
  • All types are recorded as they were at the time of the generation they were used in. For example, Wigglytuff only counts as a Normal type because I used it for Pokémon Gold, but Gardevoir from Pokémon Y counts as both a Psychic and Fairy type.
  • Dual-type Pokémon count towards the final tallies of both of their types.

My hypothesis is that Electric Pokémon will lead the pack, but if I had to pick a few more contenders, my original Pokémon Red team relied primarily on four types (Water, Electric, Ground, and Flying), and that formula remained a common theme for succeeding teams as well. Therefore, I expect those four types to dominate the competition.

Without further ado, let’s check out the data!

Type Total
Normal 23
Fire 14
Water 23
Electric 19
Grass 11
Ice 3
Fighting 4
Poison 9
Ground 10
Flying 30
Psychic 11
Bug 12
Rock 3
Ghost 4
Dragon 5
Dark 8
Steel 3
Fairy 3

…Well, that was not what I expected! There are a few major conclusions we can draw from this:

  • I’m apparently far more of a Flying-type trainer than anything else, with Water coming in at #2 and Electric getting denied a podium slot at #4. However, this makes sense given the mechanics of the early-generation games: HMs like Surf were required to traverse certain areas (there’s always a water section somewhere), and Fly was your only method of fast-travel across the world. Ergo, Water and Flying appearing prominently on this list shouldn’t be a surprise (this doesn’t completely explain Flying’s utter dominance here, but we’ll get to that). Electric types have no natural HMs and are thus more of a personal pick, which is why they seemed more prevalent in my mind than they actually were: I wanted Electric-types on the squad, but I needed Water and Flying types.
  • But where the heck did all these Normal types come from? Not only did they deny Electric types a spot on the podium, they forced Water to share its silver medal with them! This, I believe, can be explained by one of my major quirks when constructing a Pokémon team: I tend to fall in love with the first few monsters I capture, and stick with them against all logic and reason for the rest of the game. If you look at the individual monsters that make up the squads, this pattern pops up again an again: Linoone in Pokémon Sapphire, Bibarel in Pokémon Platinum, Stoutland in Pokémon Black, Watchog in Pokémon White, etc. However, there’s one particular type that always shows up early in Pokémon: The classic Normal/Flying type. These show up a lot of my teams: Fearow, Noctowl, Staraptor, Unfezant, and three separate Pidgeots. (Early Bug/Flying types like Butterfree and Vivillon also made their presence known as well.) I’m glad that The Pokémon Company has tried to branch out its early-bird typing with monsters like Talonflame and Corviknight, but there’s a lot of Normal/Flying history in this franchise, and it’s reflected in my team compositions.
  • Ground types didn’t make much of a showing at all, getting beat by Fire (which I’ve used more often recently), Bug (a small but steady presence across generations), and even Grass and Psychic (which tend to be more niche picks for me, though I’m starting to appreciate Grass’s healing powers as of late). Of the “core four” I highlighted earlier, Ground was definitely the Mark Herndon of the bunch, picked usually because Water/Flying/Electric teams had no reliable counter to Electric opponents. Still, I’m surprised they wound up this far back in Flying’s rear view mirror.
  • There’s little else to speak for the remainder of the types, but I want to give a shout out to one type in particular: I had three representatives of a single type in my top six on five separate occasions: Flying (four times) and…wait, Poison? This is what happens when you’ve played through Kanto a million times and are trying to use different monsters than you usually do: You end up running a Victreebel, Arbok, and Venemoth in Pokémon Let’s Go! Eevee. (All three of them acquitted themselves quite well, by the way.)
Image from Bulbapedia

So apparently I’m more Falkner than Lt. Surge, and my teams tend to soar and fall on the wings of birds and bugs (true to form, my Sword team backs Inteleon with a Corviknight/Xatu combo). As big a role as electricity has played in my life, when it comes to Pokémon, maybe I should avoid lightning more in the future.

Either that, or I should never leave home without a Zapdos. 🙂