Song Review: Walker Hayes, “You Broke Up With Me”

Okay, I think Nashville is just trolling me with its releases now.

Walker Hayes in an Alabama native who has been kicking around Nashville for over a decade now, releasing songs every three years or so that were roundly ignored by the genre. He seems to have found some momentum in 2017, however, as he signed with Monument Records back in January and released “You Broke Up With Me” back in June. I’ve never heard any of Hayes’s earlier material, but if it’s as bad as this track, I didn’t miss much.

The production here is minimal, with an acoustic guitar driving the melody and a drum machine keeping time. (There’s also a whistle that mimics the acoustic guitar’s riff through most of the song, and while whoever did it is a terrible whistler, it blends into the background inoffensively.) An electric guitar floats around in the background, and a real drum set comes in to add some punch to the end of the chorus, but otherwise it’s a quiet mix that doesn’t generate a lot of energy. It uses bright tones to try to establish a happy, carefree atmosphere, but it fails because it gets overshadowed by the vocals, which is a big problem in this case.

Simply put, Hayes’s delivery on “You Broke Up With Me” is one of the worst I’ve heard this year. He can’t quite decide whether to sing or rap the song, so he tries to split the difference and winds up sounding flat, monotone, and completely lifeless. He sounds slightly better on the second half of the choruses when he gets into his upper range, suggesting that the song needed to be kicked up a key or two to get Hayes’s out of his awful lower register. His flow is passable, but he doesn’t have the charisma to be even remotely believable on this song—when he says “for real babe, ain’t tryin’ rub it your face,” it sounds instead like that’s exactly what he’s trying to do. He may be having a good time, but he fails to pass those good feelings on to his listeners.

The lyrics here tell the tale of a man who runs into his ex and declares that her pain and lamenting aren’t going to harsh his mellow and ruin his good time. Despite a few clever turns of phrase (“you made your bed and didn’t want me in it”), the story comes off as a smug, self-serving speech from an unsympathetic narrator. It eschews talking about how the woman’s leaving made the man feel, instead focusing on the sleazy party atmosphere the man now find himself in. In contrast to a song like Drew Baldridge’s “Rebound,” Hayes’s you-can’t-come-back proclamations come off as very mean-spirited and vindictive, giving the listener the impression he’s enjoying lording his freedom over his ex a bit too much. Combine this with Hayes’s shoddy vocals and the weak production, and you’ve got a supposed-to-be-fun party track that’s no fun to listen to at all.

Overall, “You Broke Up With Me” is a failure on nearly every level: The production is limp, the writing is questionable, and Hayes’s performance hits your ears like sandpaper. It’s not a pleasant song to listen to at all, and I don’t see it hanging around very long on country radio.

Rating: 3/10. Avoid this one.

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