All right, I’ve gotten to review two great singles in a row! Let’s see if we can make it three…
*sees Chase Bryant has released a new single*
That’s right folks, it’s time to take our annual dose of Chase Bryant mediocrity! I still have a bad taste left in my mouth from his 2016 single “Room To Breathe,” and while country radio had been mostly okay with Bryant’s work up to that point, they treated that song like it was radioactive (or maybe the better term is “radioinactive,” given that it peaked at an embarrassing #43). This year, Bryant is giving us “Hell If I Know,” and while it’s marginally better than his last single, it’s still not something I would waste my time listening to.
Apparently Bryant missed the memo about the genre’s trend back towards traditionalism, because the production here is ripped straight from the Bro-Country era. The drum machine is the most prominent instrument here, with a token-sounding banjo thrown in to carry the melody. The choruses add some real drums and atmospheric electric guitars, but they add some noise and not much else. (Despite Bryant being an accomplished guitar player, the electric guitar basically wastes away in the background until the bridge solo, and even that isn’t terribly interesting.) The faster tempo provides some energy and sets an optimistic tone that suits the song, but it just feels like I’ve heard this song a million times before, and it doesn’t leave much of an impression when it’s over.
Bryant’s vocal performance has a similar generic feel, and would likely sound the same in the hands of any random male country singer. His delivery is at least solid on a technical level (his range isn’t really tested, but at least his flow is decent), and his voice doesn’t sound as thin as it did on “Room To Breathe.” To his credit, he sells the song well and does a good job filling the role of a happy-but-confused narrator, although his tone feels a shade too serious for a song that celebrates love. Again, it’s not a bad performance, it’s just not particularly impressive or memorable either.
The writing completes the generic trifecta by relying on overused, clichéd imagery and a laundry-list structure to convey the narrator’s inability to explain why his significant other fell for him. The verses are basically just a series of random questions that really aren’t that hard to answer in the first place (“The red sunset turns blue sky black” because the sun goes down, Chase. There’s no more light. And don’t even get me started on the link between smell and memory.), and both the verses and chorus include a bunch of the usual Bro-Country tropes (Friday nights, ice cold beer, telling the woman “everything looks better hanging off of your hips,” etc.). Male country singers are forever amazed by the fact that women fall for them despite their flaws, and there are a bunch of songs on the charts right this very moment (“Small Town Boy,” “More Girls Like You,” etc.) this cover the exact same topic. You’ve got to find a new way to tell a story this old if you want to stand out, and this song falls flat on all counts.
Nothing presented by “Hell If I Know”—not the production, not the writing, not Chase Bryant himself—gives the listener any reason to care about this song. It’s an unimaginative, uninteresting track that just barely qualifies as radio filler. Next year’s dose of Bryant better have a bit more flavor, or Nashville needs to stop serving it entirely.
Rating: 5/10. It’s not worth your time.