Song Review: Luke Bryan, “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset”

Yawn, roll eyes, check watch, repeat.

Earlier in his career, Luke Bryan was known for his Spring Break EP series, as he released a yearly dose of lightweight, beach-flavored material between 2009 and 2014. The quality varied from year to year, but eventually the optics of someone Bryan’s age talking about partying with college coeds caught up with him, and the series was discontinued. He did not, however, give up beach songs entirely (and hey, if Kenny Chesney can still do it, why not?), which bring us to Bryan’s latest single “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset,” the third from his latest album What Makes You Country. It’s a run-of-a-mill Bro-lite beach party song, and while it has the proper framework to keep it from feeling creepy, it’s also boring beyond belief and utterly fails to engage the listener.

The production here splits the difference between Bro-Country and your typical beach-song fare. It opens with an acoustic guitar and light synthetic beat, but quickly passes the melody over to an electric guitar once the verses start, who then hands it over to a banjo (backed by a real drum set) during the chorus. I’m not terribly impressed with the composition of the mix—the banjo feels a bit too token for my taste, and the real drums are far too loud and prominent on this track, especially on the choruses. The tone also strikes me as a bit too dark for the lyrics, with a twinge of regret and sadness that isn’t reflected in Bryan’s performance. It’s not a terrible mix, but there’s also absolutely no energy here, making it easier to sleep through than listen to.

Bryan at least tries to inject some sunshine into the track through his delivery, but even then his effort feels pretty weak compared to his past work. His range and flow are fine, and he certainly sounds like he had a ball back in the day, but his performance seems to lack the power to really drive his point home (looking back, “Most People Are Good” had similar issues). As fondly as the narrator looks back on his memories, Bryan just doesn’t do enough to interest me in his past exploits, and thus I don’t really care to hear about them. Toss in the conflict with the production (with neither side making a strong case for how the listener should feel), and by the time you reach the second chorus, you’re ready to hear something else.

The setup may be different than Jake Owen’s “The One That Got Away” or Easton Corbin’s “Hearts Drawn In The Sand,” but they’re all basically the same song: Two people find themselves in a temporary summer pairing, and use it as an excuse to drink, party, and love the nights away. The “sunrise, sunburn, sunset, repeat” hook is beyond weak, and besides a bizarre line about “[painting] those shutters the color of your eyes,” there’s nothing here you haven’t heard a hundred times before: The bonfires, the cut-offs, the moonshine jars, etc. It boils down to a Bro-Country song about doing Bro things in the past, and while the fact that this is explicitly a recollection from the past keeps it from veering straight into the gutter, there’s a layer of sleazy weirdness that’s hard to overlook. (I initially thought Bryan meant he was a high school sophomore in the opening lines, and spent my first few listens wondering “Are these sixteen-year-olds drinking and hooking up? Because that’s not something I really want to hear about.”) The biggest problem, however, is that the song is caught somewhere between bitter nostalgia and fond remembrance, and while the writing is ambiguous enough to have it go either way, nothing else takes enough of a stand to definitively set its direction, and the track winds up being nothing but a waste of time.

I don’t hate “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset,” but I don’t like it either, and I don’t have any interest in revisiting it once this review is finished. It pales in comparison to recent summer songs like “Hotel Key” because it can’t decide what it wants to be: Luke Bryan went light, the production leaned dark, and we ended up with a gray, boring mess. Next time Bryan wants us to reminisce with him, he should decide exactly how to tell the story first.

Rating: 5/10. It’s background noise and nothing more.