Normally, I have a pretty high tolerance for Bro-Country and Metropolitan country music. I thought “1994” was a neat tribute to Joe Diffie. I enjoyed the irreverent extravagance of “High Class.” I even jammed along to “Snapback.” But even I have to draw a line somewhere, and you, Mr. Owen, have just crossed it.
Jake Owen, like a number of mid-tier country artists, has been caught in between making the substantive material they claim to want to perform and chasing the latest musical trends to maintain their mainstream relevance. Owen tends to bounce between party jams like “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Beachin'” and more-serious tracks like “Alone With You” and “What We Ain’t Got.” The former have tended to yield more success for Owen, and he went back to that well for his latest single “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You.”
Lyrically, the song attempts to tell the tale of a conscientious gentleman telling a girl that her boyfriend isn’t giving her enough love and attention, and that said gentleman can give her the attention she deserves…except that the song fails spectacularly at this, and the narrator comes off as a slimy douchebag who’s just trying to get in the pants of someone else’s girlfriend. “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” plows the same ground as Old Dominion’s tire-fire of a song “Break Up With Him,” with the same off-putting results.
Oh, and the song includes incredibly sexy banter like this:
If he ain’t gonna love you, I will
Like you never been loved before
Up against the wall when you walk in the door
Looking like you wanna leave, you want some more
Yuck. Can you say “locker-room talk”? Releasing a song with garbage lyrics like this in the current political climate is just inexcusable.
Owen is a talented vocalist, and he delivers a solid technical performance here, but in this case his charisma works against him—his portrayal of a creepy sleazeball is a bit too believable for his own good. It would be one thing if he had injected some levity or playfulness into the track, but he sings the song with too much conviction and seriousness to make the track enjoyable. (Chris Stapleton delivers a decent performance singing backup vocals, but this song is proof that not everything he touches turns to gold.)
The track’s production doesn’t do Owen any favors either. From the opening guitar riff to the synthetic backing beats to the backing vocals on the chorus, this is an unapologetically-Metropolitan track that would sound more at home in a 70s-era disco than anything else. The whole mess sounds like the backing track to a low-budget porno film, and only adds to the sleazy feel of the song.
Overall, Jake Owen’s “If He Ain’t Gonna Live You” is a Metro-Bro track that combines the worst elements of both subgenres. It isn’t fun, it isn’t sexy, and with any luck, it isn’t going anywhere on the charts.
Come on Jake, you’re better than this.
Rating: 2/10. If you want to hear country-disco done right, check out Brett Eldridge’s “You Can’t Stop Me” instead.
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