Jason Aldean has been one of the more polarizing artists in country music the last few years, but “Any Ol’ Barstool” may be the song that finally earns him some respect from the traditional country crowd.
I’ve always considered Aldean to be more of a rock singer than anything else, but his output has been all over the map since his debut in 2005, which means everyone can find something to love (and something to hate) about him. His resume boasts heartfelt tributes to men and memories (“Laughed Until We Cried,” “Amarillo Sky”), attitude-laden middle fingers to authority (“Johnny Cash”), sensual power ballads (“Don’t You Wanna Stay,” “Tonight Looks Good On You”), by-the-numbers Bro-Country (“Hicktown,” “She’s Country,” “My Kind Of Party”), slick Metro-Bro tracks (“Burnin’ It Down”), rap collaborations (“Dirt Road Anthem”), and…well, whatever the heck “1994” is. You’re never quite sure what you’ll get with a new Aldean single, so where does his latest single “Any Ol’ Barstool” fall on the spectrum?
Production-wise, this song has a down-the-middle country-rock sound: It boasts the usual hard-hitting drums and electric guitars that are staples of Aldean’s work, and mostly forgoes both the traditional country instruments and the synthetic elements that usually drag Aldean in one direction or another. (There is a steel guitar present, but it’s usually drowned out by the guitars and rarely comes to the forefront of the mix.) The whole thing reminds me of Aldean’s 2009/2010 hit “The Truth,” as both songs set a dark, unsettled tone that suits the themes of the songs.
Speaking of the themes…the similarities between “The Truth” and “Any Ol’ Barstool” extend to this area as well, as both songs address the issue of hiding the narrator’s post-breakup feelings from others. (The difference is while the ex is in on the secret in “The Truth,” Aldean tries to keep her out of the loop in “Any Ol’ Barstool.”) It’s a trope we’ve heard a lot from country singers in the past, but never from Aldean, and the idea fits his singing style surprising well.
In the past, Aldean has been dinged to sounding too serious on songs that no need for that attitude, “My Kind Of Party” and “Taka A Little Ride.” On “Any Ol’ Barstool,” however, his serious style meshes perfectly with the song’s narrator as he tries desperately to convince his ex that everything is fine and he doesn’t miss her at all. It’s all a lie, of course, but Aldean’s no-nonsense delivery allows him to assume the character much more effectively than most other country singers.
Lyrically, the song features some nice lines and imagery (my favorite is when the singer celebrates his ability to “finally stretch out in our king size bed, if I make it that far”), and strikes a good balance between descriptive “life is great” lines with couching statements that highlight the truth behind the bravado. Combined with the production and Aldean’s vocals, the lines paint a vivid picture of a man losing his grip of life while insisting that he’s still got everything under control.
Overall, “Any Ol’ Barstool” is an enjoyable listen that brings out the best in Jason Aldean’s singing style. He may jump around the genre a lot, but this song confirms that hard-hitting country-rock is what he does best.
Rating: 7/10. Definitely check this song out.