Song Review: Chris Lane ft. Tori Kelly, “Take Back Home Girl”

Hello, is this Youtube? Yes, I’d like to “Take Back” this song for a refund of my time.

While I actually liked Chris Lane’s last single “For Her,” radio never really warmed to the track, and it only notched a #10 airplay peak over a year after its release. With all the momentum from his debut #1 “Fix” squandered, Lane and his team closed the book on his debut album Girl Problems after just two singles, and brought American Idol alum Tori Kelly out of the witness protection program to join forces with Lane on his new single “Take Back Home Girl.” The result is a slick, synthetic single that’s more forgettable than anything else.

The production has a manufactured feel to it, with a choppy, affected electric guitar carrying the melody and a mixture of real and fake drums (primarily the latter) providing the foundation. The verses are actually pretty sparse save for an occasional organ, which later combines with some other spacious-sounding instruments (possibly a steel guitar? It’s really hard to tell) to add some atmosphere to the choruses. The tempo is relatively relaxed, but (like seemingly every song I’ve reviewed recently) it’s plagued by minor chords that make its vibe much more serious than it should be. Overall, the sound is neither offensive nor memorable, and doesn’t leave much of an impression on the listener.

Lane is a decent vocalist in his own right, but this song is about as bad a fit for him as you could fine. Lane’s secret weapon that sets him apart from his contemporaries is his impressive falsetto, which he used to great effect on “For Her.” This song, however, keeps Lane trapped in his lower range, and he sounds rougher and less comfortable as a result. Kelly comes as the stronger vocalist of the two, as the song suits her voice better and she sounds much better in a harmony role than Lane does. The pair’s vocal chemistry is hard to discern, as Lane has to go way outside of his comfort zone to match Kelly’s tone. Throw in all the vocal effects the producers buried the pair in and the slight volume imbalance between the vocals and production (the voices are a shade too loud), and I’m left feeling ambivalent about the pair’s performance.

The writing here feels a lot lazier and sleazier than it should be, as the whole thing boils down to laundry-list verses with a chorus full of “You’re an XYZ!” declarations. Consider the first verse:

Duffle bag, backseat
My dash, your feet
Those other side of the highway headlights making you shine
My hand, your leg
Playlist playing
Even though I haven’t made it yet
I’m dragging it, dropping it in my mind

Not exactly Robert Frost, is it?

Unlike Brett Eldredge’s “The Long Way,” which takes a classier “show-me-what-made-you-who-you-are” approach, “Take Back Home Girl” flips the dynamic and depicts the guy showing his girl off to all the people in his hometown. The song gives off a uncomfortable, slightly voyeuristic vibe similar to Dustin Lynch’s “I’d Be Jealous Too,” and lines like “My little crowd pleaser/Parading with you feeling homecoming cool” feel downright creepy, like the guy is just basking in the adoration of his friends and neighbors over how hot a girl he scored. While the song does feature some unique imagery (making breakfast with the narrator’s mama, for example), it also features a few classic Bro tropes (nighttime drives, Friday night lights) that counteract whatever cleverness the song tries to show off. In the end, it’s just not that pleasant to hear.

Overall, “Take Back Home Girl” is an annoying song that is overproduced, poorly written, and squanders the vocal talents of Chris Lane and Tori Kelly in favor of a failed attempt to make a respectable Bro-Country song. (It’s not quite Dustin Lynch bad, but it’s close.) Lane better find some highly-quality material soon, or the next time he takes someone back home, Nashville will tell him not to come back.

Rating: 4/10. Don’t bother with this one.