Centuries from now, when historians try to characterize the current era in country music, they will declare Easton Corbin’s “A Girl Like You” as the perfect representation of the genre in the late 2010s.
Corbin broke in as a George Strait soundalike in 2009, and managed to earn four top-ten singles (including two No. 1s) from ’09 to ’13. As the Bro-Country era arrived on the scene, however, Corbin was forced to shift into trend-chasing mode, and released About To Get Real, a textbook example of how to do Bro-Country well. Now, as the Metropolitan trade clash with a resurgence of the neo-traditionalist sound, Corbin returns to the radio with “A Girl Like You,”a song which demonstrates the current sonic and lyrical tensions in the genre while also setting a great example of how to bring all these elements together into one neat package.
The song starts off with a thumping synthetic beat reminiscent of Thomas Rhett’s “I Feel Good,” but Corbin’s band quickly jumps in with an upbeat electric guitar riff, and the song slowly adds more classic country elements (real drums, steel guitar) as the song progresses. The result is a crisp, clean sound that blends the acoustic and synthetic elements incredibly well. I usually hold up Brad Paisley’s Moonshine In The Trunk as a textbook example of how to blend old and new instruments (and do it well), but honestly, I think “A Girl Like You” does an even better job than anything on Paisley’s album. (Paisley has a chance to respond to this, however, when Love And War drops in another month or so.) My one complaint is about the delayed background vocals that are marinated in weird effects—they didn’t help on “Baby Be My Love Song,” and they don’t help here either. On the whole, however, I was very impressed with the production on this track.
Lyrically, I would describe this song as a better-written version of Josh Turner’s “Hometown Girl”: The woman Corbin sings about is just so darn awesome, and is versatile enough to be awesome in whatever setting or situation she is in. There’s nothing terribly groundbreaking here (this is following the much-needed trend of male singers being much more respectful of women in their songs), but my favorite part is how sneakily subversive it is. Consider the second verse:
They play lots of songs on the radio
‘Bout them good ol’ country girls that we all know
Long tan legs and cutoff jeans
Yeah, just shakin’ that sugar every country boy’s dream
I’ve heard them all at least a time or two
Ain’t none ‘bout a girl like you
In a single verse, Corbin tells the person he’s singing to that she’s better than the raging beauties in these other songs while also throwing shade at country radio and other artists for playing songs about hyper-sexualized images of women that have little bearing on reality. It’s a nice touch for an otherwise by-the-numbers song. (Of course, the writers of “A Girl Like You” also wrote their fair share of Bro-Country garbage back in the day, so they get paid either way.)
As for Corbin’s vocals…well, there’s a reason people always compare him to George Strait. Corbin has a smooth, charismatic delivery with nice flow and decent range (he even hits a high note or two here without too much trouble). There isn’t much else to say here—Corbin is one of the best vocalists in the business right now, and his best qualities are on full display here.
Overall, “A Girl Like You” is a master class in how to make a country song for everyone to enjoy in 2017. While the track is undeniably a trend-chaser that checks all the boxes needed in today’s market (synthetic Metropolitan-style beats, more-traditional sonic foundation, lyrics that lionize women instead of objectifying them, etc.), the whole package is so well-constructed that it’s hard to find fault with anyone involved. Corbin struggled to maintain his chart momentum after “Baby Be By My Love Song,” so here’s hoping “A Girl Like You” can gain some traction and finally establish Corbin as a top-tier country star.
Rating: 9/10. An early contender for my 2017 Song of the Year.