Look no further than “All On Me” if you want proof of Brett Young’s success, because it shows that “Caliville” imitators are already coming out of the woodwork.
Devin Dawson, a California native whose breakthrough came courtesy of a viral Taylor Swift mashup, signed with the Warner Music Group back in 2015, but did not release a debut single until “All On Me” dropped back in May. While the track borrows heavily from Young’s playbook—respectful lyrics, restrained-and-balanced production, etc.—and certainly won’t offend anyone’s sensibilities, it seems to lack that extra something that makes Young’s songs so compelling, and thus it doesn’t have the impact o f a “Sleep Without You” or “In Case You Didn’t Know.”
The production is anchored by a split-the-difference drum set (effected, but not synthetic), and cycles through a series of restrained guitars to handle the melody: It features an acoustic guitar on the intro, drops the guitars completely at the the start of the lyrics, and then slowly mixes in an electric guitar starting halfway through the first verse (perhaps too slowly, as it never becomes loud of prominent enough to generate any energy, not even on the bridge solo). Outside of an organ floating around in the background, that’s really all you get here. Compared to “Sleep Without You,” the tempo of “All On Me” is slower and the guitar tones aren’t as bright, making the mood feel a shade too serious for the subject matter. It’s not bad (aside from an incorrect note at the very end of the song that was inexplicably left in the mix), but nothing really stands out or demands your attention either, and that’s a major problem for a debut single.
The lyrics here show the narrator offering himself as a shoulder for the woman in his life to lean on, declaring that when life’s troubles become too overwhelming, she can always “put it all on me.” There’s nothing particularly novel here, and while the writing features some clever turns of phrase (“When it don’t add up, you can count on me” is my personal favorite), the constant “you can ___ on me” chorus line endings get a bit repetitive after a while. The lyrics also send some mixed messages about the narrator’s true intentions, as the singer invites the girl to “come get high on me” and “come and lay one me,” while also insisting his feelings are deeper and more permanent by declaring “you can bet your life on me.” This sort of ambiguity leaves the song heavily dependent on its delivery to keep it from veering into the gutter.
Thankfully, while Dawson’s voice comes across as nondescript and slightly nasal, his delivery is sincere and believable enough to keep the song from feeling creepy. He show flashes of potential with his range and flow during the song, but not always at the right time: His tone is suitably serious for most of the song, but his over-exuberant “come on!” and subsequent falsetto piece on the bridge feel awkward and out of place. While the Brett Young comparison is an easy one, Dawson exhibits nowhere near the amount of charisma and earnestness that Young does, and he fails to make this song particularly memorable.
Overall, “All On Me” is an okay song, but that’s all it is, and that’s not the first impression Devin Dawson or any new artist wants to make. It fits the current radio climate well, and doesn’t make any egregious missteps, but it’s a bit too safe/forgettable a play for my tastes. Being Brett Young may be a good place to start, but Dawson needs to do more to forge his own identity if he wants to stick around.
Rating: 5/10. Don’t go out of your way to hear this one.