To paraphrase Morgan Evans, sometimes you gotta kiss somebody review boring, generic songs from boring, generic singers.
Evans, better known as Mr. Kelsea Ballerini, is an Australian singer who had been making noise down under for a while, but never made it onto the country music radar here in the States. In 2017, however, Evans officially made the leap across the Atlantic, signing with Warner Music Nashville in May and releasing his debut single “Kiss Somebody” in July. To say the song got a cool reception would be an understatement: After almost six months, it’s only now appearing on the Mediabase Top 50. After a few playthrough, the reception was easy to understand: The song is a lightweight pop-tinged snorefest that doesn’t give the listener any incentive to pay attention.
The song’s production couldn’t be more paint-by-numbers if it tried: It opens with a choppy acoustic guitar and an awkwardly-timed drum machine (with a quiet electric guitar providing some atmosphere in the background), and gradually adds more of each as the song on (in this case, louder electric guitars and real drums). The guitars are bright and the minor chords are minimal, but the mix seems to lack energy, and the atmosphere feels a bit too positive and cheerful for portions of the writing. Worst of all, there’s nothing here that really demands the listener’s attention (even the guitar solo is underwhelming), and the song just blends in with the rest of the radio drivel. For a debut single that needs to differentiate itself from it peers and announce Evans’s arrival, going with a standard, just-like-everyone-else sound was a terrible decision.
Evans’s presence does the song no favors, as his voice is basically indistinguishable from Granger Smith’s (and it’s not like Smith has a terribly distinct voice either). Both his range and flow fall in the ‘okay but not outstanding’ category, and while he seems believable in the narrator’s role, he isn’t able to elevate the song or dispel the odor of creepiness in the lyrics (more on this later). In short, you could plug any number of singers in Evans’s place, and the song would sound about the same, and that’s a really bad thing when you’re trying to establish yourself on Music Row.
The writing here features the narrator telling a woman about the various things a breakup can make a person do (drink, cry, and yes, “kiss somebody”), and hey, if they wanna do that last one, said narrator is happy to help! The message seems to waffle between “I understand how you feel” and “hey, let’s hook up!,” and the narrator comes off as a mansplaining, unsympathetic meathead who gets kind of demanding on the bridge (“Girl don’t make it harder than it has to be/Come and lay one on me”). The topics and images are painfully generic, to the point where they bring Dr. Seuss rhymes to mind (kiss on a train, kiss in the rain, kiss in a box, kiss with a fox…), and like the production and performer, they don’t leave any impression on the listener. In fact, the one thing this song has going for it is that by the time the lyrics really start to get pushy, the listener has already be put to sleep.
Overall, “Kiss Somebody” is basically the exact opposite of what a debut single should be: Bland production, sketchy-yet-generic writing, and an unremarkable vocal performance. Country music is already far beyond the saturation point with respect to young male singers, and Evans simply doesn’t do enough here to warrant making room for him in the genre.
Rating: 4/10. Don’t bother with this one.