Song Review: Morgan Wallen ft. Florida Georgia Line, “Up Down”

“Up Down” is a fitting title for this song, because that what’s my eyelids do as I fight to stay awake while listening to it.

Back when I reviewed Morgan Wallen’s debut single “The Way I Talk,” I labeled him an “FGL knockoff” that needed to a) differentiate himself from other artists, and b) find more interesting material to sing about. Instead, Wallen went in basically the worst direction he could have: He brought Florida Georgia Line in as a featured artist (hammering home just how unoriginal Wallen’s sound is), and he chose “Up Down,” a generic Bro-Country track devoid of any reasons for a listener to pay attention, as his next single. The result is as boring and forgettable is you’d expect.

The production checks most of the usual Bro boxes: A methodical tempo, a swampy acoustic guitar on the verses, a hard-rocking electric guitar on the choruses, a Skynyrd-esque electric axe for flavor on the breaks, a token banjo plodding along in the background, and a prominent, hard-driving drum set keeping time. (The only surprise is that there don’t seem to be any drum machines or any other synthetic elements floating around here.) Basically, this thing sounds like every other Bro-Country song you’ve ever heard, from the party-hardy vibe to the rehashed instrumentation, and it does nothing to stand out from the crowd. Bro-Country went out of style a while ago, and all this song does is remind me why it happened.

In a world without Florida Georgia Line, Wallen might be able to pass himself off as a credible vocalist, as my description of him as “a decent singer with some decent range and decent flow” from my last review still stands. FGL does exist, however, and while it’s one thing for Wallen to sound similar to Tyler Hubbard, it’s another thing entirely for him to share the mic with Hubbard and demonstrate this fact. Seriously, the best way to tell whether Wallen or Hubbard is singing is to listen for Brian Kelley’s harmony on Hubbard’s lines. (Speaking of harmony, FGL’s low harmony on the choruses is completely overpowered by Wallen’s melody, to the point where it’s barely noticeable.) Worse still, the minute differences between Wallen and Hubbard all break in Hubbard’s favor, as Wallen sounds rougher and more washed-out in comparison (especially in his upper range). If you’re getting shown up by another artist on your own darn song, maybe they weren’t a great choice to include in the first place.

The writing, much like the production, is a collection of basic Bro tropes tossed into a blender: Drinking, driving, partying in unusual locations, leering at women, name-dropping other songs, etc. (That “Free Bird five minutes deep” really confused me for a while. I heard “Free Bird, Five Minutes…” and thought there was a Lorrie Morgan reference there.) The only good thing I can say about the lyrics is that the writers found some kinda-sorta interesting ways to tie in the “up down” phrase (fishing bobbers, sunburns, etc.)—otherwise, there’s nothing here you haven’t heard a hundred times before (aside from that “BFE” acronym drop, which I could have lived without.) It’s a lazy, uninspired piece that plows the same barren ground as everyone else.

Overall, “Up Down” is a forgettable track that missed its window of opportunity by at least five years. In a world where Bro-Country has come and gone and even Florida Georgia Line is struggling to stay relevant (after 13 consecutive Top 3 hits, “Smooth” hit a roadblock at #14), being an off-brand FGL soundalike like Morgan Wallen and leaning on boilerplate production and writing is not a recipe for success. There’s a reason the Bro-Country trend faded, and Wallen gives us no good reason to revisit it.

Rating: 4/10. You’ve already heard this song. Why listen to it again?