Song Review: Justin Moore, “Kinda Don’t Care”

It took him almost a decade to do it, but Justin Moore has finally released a single with some legitimate “outlaw” cred.

Moore’s last single “Somebody Else Will” was the first song I reviewed here on the blog, and that’s about all it will be remembered for, as it took an obscene forty-four weeks for it to finally top the Billboard airplay chart. “Kinda Don’t Care,” the title track of Moore’s latest album, has now been announced as the LP’s third single, and it probably should have been the second one (or even the first one!), as it’s easily the best song I’ve heard from him since “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” back in 2011. Not only does the song mesh well with the current trend towards traditional sounds in the genre, but it plays to Moore’s strengths as an artist while feeling far more real and authentic than “Backwoods,” “Small Town USA,” and the rest of the pandering garbage he’s released in the past.

Sonically, the production here feels like it was ripped straight from the 1970s, as it eschews both modern trappings and neo-traditional nostalgia in favor of no-nonsense, rough-edged guitars and a hard-hitting drum set. The mix starts off restrained on the first verse with an acoustic guitar carrying the melody, but the drums and steel guitar jump in on the first verse to kick the energy level up a notch, and an old-school electric guitar adds some sizzle and punch the the second verse and the bridge solo. (Actually, the extended outro featuring the steel and electric guitar might be my favorite part of the song.) The tempo is a bit slower than expected, but the excellent instrumentation ensures that it never feels plodding or lacking in energy, and the serious atmosphere the track sets does a nice job of capturing the singer’s feelings of repression.

Moore’s vocal performance is solid on a technical level, as the song tests his range without straining it and keeps his flow at a nice, methodical pace. What sets this song apart, however, is that here Moore finally shows instead of tells, and lets his natural charisma and earnestness shine through instead of feeling the need to reference his “country” credentials. Moore has always had a knack for singing songs like this, but in the past he would be forever dropping brand names and rural clichés that made him sound insecure and a bit inauthentic. Here, he just lets his delivery do the talking, and he captures the spirit of the narrator perfectly by sounding worn out and ticked off, like he really “kinda don’t care.” While he’s proclaimed himself an “outlaw” many times in the past, this is the first time he’s actually felt like one.

Lyrically, the song is about a narrator who is cracking under the pressure and responsibility of leading a good, healthy lifestyle (while also suffering from some sort of heartbreak), and is just begging for a outlet where he can indulge in his preferred vices. It’s an interesting take on a subject that usually goes the opposite way in country music (i.e., the narrator is caught in a death spiral of vices and needs family/religion/a significant other to save them), and an approach I haven’t heard someone take in quite a while. (The most recent I can remember is “Time Off For Bad Behavior,” an album cut from a band in desperate need of a new name). It’s a tension everyone deals with to some degree (as Randy Travis once put it, “what feels good and what feels right”), and while I can’t help but feel like Waylon, Willie, and the other outlaws of the 70s would have found a more clever way to talk about this subject, there are still some fairly novel images here (watching weight and getting more sleep aren’t often talked about in country songs), and nothing here comes off as sleazy or offensive (even the desired hookup with “a pretty little thing” at least acknowledges that the woman feels the same as he does and “don’t want no strings”). Overall, the topic is relatable enough to make a strong connection with listeners, and the writing is just decent enough to let Moore and the production do their thing.

In short, “Kinda Don’t Care” is a great song, with a perfect blend of retro production, solid writing, and a perfect delivery on the part of Justin Moore. I’ve been rough on some of Moore’s songs in the past, but I’ve got to give credit where is due: He absolutely nailed this one.

Rating: 8/10. It’s definitely worth your time.