Song Review: Brandon Lay, “Speakers, Bleachers And Preachers”

Yawn. A better title for this song would be “Boring, Generic And Forgettable.”

Brandon Lay is a Tennessee native who signed with UMG Nashville back in 2016, and he’s currently releasing tracks as two-song EPs, with a full album currently slated for sometime in 2018. His debut single “Speakers, Bleachers And Preachers” was released it in August, and it’s exactly what you’d expect it to be: A word salad that supposedly captures the essence of small town America and is delivered to your ears in the most sleep-inducing way possible. I’ve heard this done a hundred times before, and done a lot better than this.

The production starts out pretty sparse, anchored by an acoustic guitar and a restrained drum machine (not to mention some fake vinyl scratches that feel out of place and unnecessary), and eventually expands to include real drums and a pair of electric guitars (a brighter-toned one that handled the bridge solo, and a dark, hard-rock one whose background stabs feel ripped from a Three Doors Down or Godsmack track). The dark side wins out here, as the song’s nostalgic atmosphere comes across as bittersweet rather than warm, as if looking back on “the good old days” is not a terribly pleasant experience. This depressing mix only fits the song at certain points, and doesn’t generate a lot of energy or momentum as it progresses. It’s a flat, uncompelling sound, and worst of all, it’s probably the best part of the song.

I would describe Lay’s voice as a mixture of Cole Swindell and Drew Baldridge, and although his performance on this song is tolerable, there’s nothing really unique about his voice or delivery, and he comes across as just another unremarkable male country singer. Neither his range nor flow are tested much here, and he doesn’t bring a lot of energy or charisma to the narrator’s role—he comes across as believable, but doesn’t move the listener to actually care about the story. A debut single needs to grab its audience and force them to pay attention, and Lay’s performance falls far short of that threshold.

The writing here is…well, I’m not really what it’s trying to say. The song starts by discussing a former love from the narrator’s past, then starts into a laundry list of random nouns (free throws, church marquees, Bob Kingsley’s Top 40 countdown), tosses in a few vaguely philosophical lines on the chorus (“The faster the car, more money to burn” being the best of the bunch), and eventually throws in a bit on the bridge about a cousin who presumably died too young. It’s all supposed to paint a picture of life in rustic small town America, but it’s so disjointed and lazily-constructed (the laundry lists emerge whenever the song needs to fill space) that it doesn’t paint much of a picture at all. There have been a million songs on this subject in the past, and most of them are more cohesive and interesting than this one.

Overall, “Speakers, Bleachers And Preachers” feels like a cheap imitation of a country song that gives the listener no reason to pay attention. It mixes a classic (if overdone) theme with a halfhearted attempt to evoke emotion and a hearty dose of random nonsense to create a track that is both unimpressive and uninteresting. Brandon Lay and his producers need to up their game for the next single, or Nashville will send Lay home and turn his past back into his present.

Rating: 5/10. Don’t waste your time with this one.