I have to give Aaron Watson credit for truth in advertising: He called his song “Outta Style,” and by the end of the summer, that’s exactly what it will be.
As an independent artist from Texas, Watson is a relative newcomer to the nationwide charts despite having released thirteen album since 1999. His national profile has been growing, however, and his 2015 album The Underdog not only marked his debut on the Billboard airplay charts (albeit with a measly #47 peak), but it also marked “the first time a solo male artist debuted in the top spot with a self-released and independently distributed and promoted album.” “Outta Style” is the leadoff single for Watson’s latest album Vaquero, and while it’s a decent track, it’s not a terribly memorable one, and it’s not even close to Watson’s best work.
Despite the song’s title, the production here sounds a lot trendier and modern-sounding than a lot of Watson’s other material. The melody is primarily driven by an electric guitar and a loud (but real) set of drums, the combination of which brings to mind a 70s rock song more than anything else. The producer gets bonus points for placing a fiddle prominently in between the verses (seriously, that instrument needs to make a comeback), and a steel guitar pops up occasionally in the background. The track is uptempo, energetic, and in-your-face (especially the percussion), but something about the mix feels a bit generic, as if I’ve heard it all somewhere before. It’s a pleasant enough sound for a summer single, but I don’t see it having a lot of staying power.
Vocally, Watson’s lower, rough-edged voice reminds me a lot of 00s-era country singer Trent Willmon (with maybe a shade of Dierks Bentley thrown in for good measure). While he sounds a bit hoarse at points in the song (especially the “show you a love, love, love” line), for the most part his delivery is solid, and his positive, energetic attitude is perfect for the track. He sounds like he’s having a blast, and he’s able to transfer that joy to his listeners.
The writing here is probably the weakest part of the song, as Watson declares to his longtime love that their love will never fade, waver, or otherwise go “outta style.” The problem is that half of the imagery he uses is generic and overdone (for example, driving around at night for an eventual “hot and heavy” makeout session, just like every other country singer from the Bro-Country era), and the other half is packed full of dated references that went out of style decades ago. I’ll give him the Marilyn Monroe and Chevy/levee references, but does anyone really remember who sang “Rebel Rebel” (it was David Bowie, in case you were curious), or what Steve McQueen movie scene he was referring to? In short, the lyrics are broad, shallow, and way past their expiration date, and they don’t give the listener anything to remember the song by. It’s a crying shame, because Watson has several deeper, weighter songs on Vaquero (“Texas Lullaby,” “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To”) that really deserved to see the light of day before this track.
Overall, I’d put “Outta Style” in the same category as Stephanie Quayle’s “Winnebago”: You’ll sing along with it for a couple of months, and then you’ll forget it ever existed by September. It’s a little disappointing given the quality of the material Watson’s keeping in his hip pocket right now, but I’ll take what I can get for now, and I hope that we see more singles off of Vaquero in the near future.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth listening to, but do yourself a favor and check out his other material as well.