Sometimes the whole is lesser than the sum of its parts.
Jason Aldean remains one of country music’s most reliable hitmakers, but his last single “They Don’t Know” didn’t quite live up to his lofty standards: While it peaked at a respectable #3 and #8 on Billboard’s airplay and hot country songs respectively, both numbers are actually the worst he’s earned since 2013’s “1994.” (It was also his worst showing on the Hot 100 since 2007.) Now, Aldean has returned to the airwaves with “You Make It Easy,” the leadoff single from his upcoming Rearview Town project, and although I wouldn’t call it a bad showing, I would call it an awkward fusion of Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color” and the Zac Brown Band “Loving You Easy” that pales in comparison to both tracks.
The production here is Urban’s contribution, as “You Make It Easy” features the exact same 3/4 time, guitar-driven slow jam that “Blue Ain’t Your Color” used to great effect (even the chord progressions are eerily similar). Sure, there are slight differences (Aldean leans on electric guitars where Urban primarily went acoustic, Aldean uses an organ for background atmosphere instead of strings) but the atmosphere they set is the same: a serious vibe with equal parts darkness and sexiness. As with darn near everything Aldean releases these days, the mix comes across as very stiff and serious, which is fine if the lyrics have darker undertones as Urban’s hit did, but not if the song is supposed to be a happy, celebratory song about how awesome life is with the narrator’s partner.
The ZBB influence is seen in the writing, as this song is just an off-brand version of “Loving You Easy,” right down to the girl-as-angel comparison and the PG sexual innuendo. Outside of an unexpected fourth-wall break (“girl you…put the words right into these songs”), the imagery is generic and predictable, and the track’s description of the narrator’s partner is disappointingly shallow. Again, none of these are deal-breakers by themselves, but Zac Brown and company were at least smart enough to pair their tune with bright, bouncy production and drive home the woman’s awesomeness with every note. Here, the writing just highlights how poor of a pairing it makes with the mix, and leaves the listener more confused about how to feel more than anything else.
To his credit, Aldean really tries to sell this song, fighting through the low fidelity of the recording and his own serious reputation to turn in a decent performance. His range and flow both handle the song’s demands without much trouble, and you get a slight sense of sexiness from his delivery, but “slight” is as far as Aldean can go. When he’s weighted down with the awkward fit of the production, he simply can’t make the narrator feel all that believable. The song needs a bit more power à la “Don’t You Wanna Stay” to better fit Aldean’s style, and it’s just not there.
Overall, “You Make It Easy” isn’t a bad song, but it feels like an experiment gone wrong, an attempt to shove a square peg into a round hole. Fusing the sound of “Blue Ain’t Your Color” with the message of “Loving You Easy” was not a great decision, and it left Jason Aldean struggling to pull the whole thing together. Still, I suppose when faced with the alternative of pulling a Dan + Shay and doing nothing, I guess Aldean’s team deserves a little credit for the effort.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth a listen or two, but not much more.