Song Review: Dustin Lynch, “Small Town Boy”

Oh joy, the “Yep Yep” guy is back to do his Jason Aldean impression again. Aren’t we lucky…

Lynch rose to prominence during the height of the Bro-Country era, and despite being a one-trick pony (seriously, do all of his singles involve a night of partying with a woman?), he has managed to carve out a nice niche for himself in the genre, and is currently riding a streak of four No. 1 singles in a row. He’s looking to extend that streak with “Small Town Boy,” the second single from his yet-to-be-released third album, and while I’ll admit that this song is no worse than the junk he’s been releasing up to this point, that’s not a terribly high bar to clear.

The song itself talks about how a woman has fallen for the singer despite him being an unabashed countrified “small town boy.” It’s an overdone trope, but can be done well if the singer, songwriter, and producer all pull their weight. Unfortunately, this song fails on all three counts:

  • Production-wise, this song is ripped straight from the “Metro-Bro” playbook, with a foundation by hard-hitting guitars and drums (both real and synthetic). Much like Aldean’s songs, the darker guitar tones and prevalence of minor keys give this track a heavy and serious feel…and just like Aldean’s songs, the dark production does not fit the song’s premise at all. This song is screaming for bright, spacious production that captures the singer’s wonder and amazement at the idea that this woman chose him over all others…so why does it set a dark and foreboding tone instead?
  • The songwriting here is beyond lazy, and never rises above simple “checklist country.” Consider the start of the first verse:

I’m a dirt road in the headlights

I’m a mama’s boy, I’m a fistfight

Kinda county line, kinda cold beer

Little hat down, little John Deere…

Tractors, beer, nighttime rides on dirt roads…all that’s missing is a pickup and a dog. My advice for the writers of this drivel (Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip, and Kyle Fishman): Put some actual effort into your work next time.

  • Finally, we have Lynch’s vocal performance, and it falls into the same trap as the production: It’s way too dark and serious for the subject matter. Despite the fact that this woman loves him for his “country-ness,” Lynch doesn’t come across as terribly happy about this fact, and instead just fights his way through the lyrics with Aldean-esque staidness. Rather than making us empathize with him, Lynch leaves the listener questioning whether he’s as happy with this arrangement as the woman seems to be. As far as the vocals themselves, his voice sounds flat to the point of being nearly monotone, and the auto-tuning doesn’t help matters.

Overall, “Small Town Boy” is about as poorly-executed a song as I’ve heard in a long time. There’s nothing inherently infuriating here, and if all parties involved had hit their marks, Lynch might have had a halfway-decent track on its hands. Instead, a series of lazy, ill-advised, and just plain bad decisions have left us with an absolute train wreck of a tune.

Good luck extending that No. 1 streak to five, Dustin. You’re going to need it.

Rating: 3/10. Give this one a wide berth.