Having Tim McGraw and Faith Hill sing a song written by Ed Sheeran? Not a bad idea. Having Tim McGraw try to do an Ed Sheeran impression on said song? Very bad idea.
Despite being two of country music’s most-reliable hitmakers in the 1990s and 2000s, these days McGraw and Hill are fighting an uphill battle against age and gender bias to remain relevant on country radio. “Speak To A Girl,” the pair’s first song from their upcoming duets album The Rest Of Our Life, hit country radio like a lightning bolt earlier this year, making an impressive Top 20 debut…and then crashed back to earth nearly as fast, winding up with a mediocre #19 airplay peak (although it did reach the Top Ten on the Hot Country Charts). Now, the duo are preparing another chart charge with the album’s title track “The Rest Of Our Lives,” a bland, generic wedding song that pushes both singers (especially McGraw) into uncomfortable territory and falls completely flat as a result.
The production here is primarily piano-driven, with a restrained drum set keeping time and a few other instruments (an acoustic guitar, a steel guitar, an organ, and even a quiet string section) providing some background atmosphere. It’s a brightly-toned, spacious-sounding mix, and although it uses a ton of minor chords, they actually fit the song well by adding some gravitas to the lyrics and hammering home the point that the couples’ feelings are real and their motives are serious. It’s the sort of sound tailor-made for a newlywed couple’s first dance, whereas something like Blake Shelton’s “I’ll Name The Dogs” would be a better fit for the post-ceremony reception. Honestly, I’d call the production the best part of the track.
The vocals, on the other hand, have to be the worst part of the track. The track has a nasty habit of pushing McGraw right to the limit of his upper range (and occasionally into a falsetto), and he sounds really uncomfortable up there, as his voice loses all its tone and power and becomes painfully thin. (I felt like McGraw was trying—and failing—to mimic Sheeran’s delivery style, and that was even before I discovered that Sheeran was a co-writer!) While this only happens on the choruses and bridge, it completely kills his usual vocal chemistry with Hill, and the producers randomly decided to top it all off with some annoying vocal effects. In Hill’s case, while she sounds better than her husband in general, her flow on the verses is a little choppy, and the quiet nature of the song robs her of her usual vocal power. Basically, this song is a terrible fit for the pair, and despite their best efforts, it’s that lack of comfort that comes across to the listener rather than any romantic sentiments.
Speaking of romantic sentiments…the writing is just about what you’d expect from a lovey-dovey wedding song. Outside of suggesting a few baby names, there’s nothing here that you haven’t heard before: We’ll love each other forever, our feelings will remain strong regardless of how old and ugly we get, etc.) These kinds of songs get by on the emotion they inspire rather than the wittiness of the lyrics, and unfortunately the painful awkwardness of the vocals overwhelms the subdued production and keeps the song from setting the proper tone. “I’ll Name The Dogs” may lack the polish and the serious sentiment of “The Rest Of Our Life,” but it’s an easier listen and does a better job connecting with its listeners.
Overall, “The Rest Of Our Life” is probably a good song, but not for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Whatever emotions are created by the lyrics and production and completely squashed by the couple’s mediocre vocal performance. McGraw & Hill would have been better off giving this track back to Ed Sheeran and finding a love song that truly suits their style.
Rating: 5/10. If you’re not getting married in the next few months, it’s not worth your time. If you are, there are better songs to put on your playlist (I recommend Clint & Lisa Hartman Black’s “When I Said I Do”).