If “You Should Be Here” and “Middle Of A Memory” signaled the rise of a new Cole Swindell, than “Flatliner” is a reminder that for better or worse, the old Swindell is still alive and well.
When I awarded Swindell my inaugural Album of the Year award, I casually mentioned that for all its surprising depth and maturity, a few traces of the party-boy persona that Swindell rode to fame still remained. One of those traces was the album opener “Flatliner,” which has just been selected as the album’s third single. Despite the presence of way better unreleased songs on the album (“Broke Down,” “Stay Downtown,” “No Can Left Behind”), Swindell and his team know that a large portion of his fanbase prefer songs like “Chillin’ It” and “Let Me See Ya Girl,” and they decided to throw those fans a bone with this track.
The production isn’t too bad here—in fact, I’d call it the best part of the song. The electric songs used to drive the melody sound surprisingly retro, as if they were pulled from an early-00s Montgomery Gentry song, and the song is backed by actual drums with no hint of synthetic beats. (Heck, I even think I heard a fiddle playing in between verses.) The tempo is cranked up beyond anything that’s currently on the radio, giving the song a boot-stomping vibe with a ton of energy that dwarfs even hard-hitting tracks like Jason Aldean’s “Lights Come On.” That energy is the song’s main selling point, and it’s more than enough to get your toes tapping along to the beat.
Both Swindell and Bentley deliver solid vocal performances here—in particular, Bentley seems to be much more in his element on “Flatliner” than on his own single “Black.” The singers have great vocal chemistry here, and the quick discussion between the singers about whose songs would be better to win a women’s heart was a nice touch. While this track deals in the time-honored Bro-Country tradition of objectifying women and reducing them to eye candy, Swindell and Bentley do their best to save the song from itself and keep things light-hearted and fun rather than sleazy and creepy.
As for the lyrics…well, it’s a good thing high-energy songs like this one are more about the music than the words, because “Flatliner” sounds like it was written by a horny seventh-grader. Consider the following passages:
Dang, girl, I’m done
I ain’t never seen no one
Poppin’ it like a cold one
Droppin’ down like uh huh
Sippin’ on this seven-seven
Never been this close to heaven
Got her pretty turned up to eleven
Droppin’ ’em dead on the dance floor
Somebody better call a doctor
She’s a little heart stopper
I’m talkin’ breaker breaker one niner
She’s a flatliner
Not exactly flowery prose, huh?
Overall, “Flatliner” is an enjoyable song that rises above generic radio filler, but there were soooo many better single choices on You Should Be Here. To those who celebrated the death of Bro-Country, let this song be a warning: The stars of that era haven’t forgotten how they rose to power, so expect tracks like this one to pop up occasionally for years to come.
Rating: 6/10. It’s an acquired taste, so try it before you buy it.