“Goodbye summer, hello”… out-of-season summer song?
Despite her talent and her Voice triumph, nothing seems to be going right for Danielle Bradbery on the radio these days. “Sway,” which I labeled as one of my favorite songs of 2017, only made it to #47 on Billboard’s airplay chart, and “Worth It” sputtered out at #46 earlier this year. Now Bradbery’s team seems to have adopted a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” philosophy, teeming with hitmaker Thomas Rhett to release “Goodbye Summer,” which is basically an alternate telling of Luke Bryan’s “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset.” Unfortunately, I’m no more interested in Bradbery’s tale than I was in Bryan’s, as it’s an uninteresting song that feels slightly out of season despite the misleading title.
The production here does a nice job striking a balance between the positive and negative vibes that do battle here. There aren’t actually a lot of instruments to speak of here, with a dobro a mix of real and synthetic percussion doing the heavy lifting and some electric guitars added for some extra noise and volume on the choruses. The instruments themselves are pretty bright and bring a decent amount of energy with them, but they’re countered with a ton of sharp and minor chords that dampen the mood and create a real sense of tension within the mix. This decision accentuates the central conflict of the song really well, balancing the euphoria of summer with the reality of the coming fall. It’s a well-executed maneuver, and I’d go as far as to label it the best part of the track.
I’ve spent a lot of words gushing over Bradbery’s vocal talents, but this performance is my least favorite of the songs I’ve reviewed. I’ve criticized many a song for being a key too low for its artist, but this might be the first one I’ve heard that’s a key too high, pushing Bradbery far into her upper register at times and robbing her voice of its usual power and clarity. A song this lightweight can get away without a lot of power, but the clarity loss is really glaring—there were a couple of lines where I had no idea what she was saying (“hello summer, goodbye to maaaaarrrrr”?). Her smooth flow and earnest charisma are still here, of course, but compared to her last few singles, this performance falls a bit short. (For his part, Rhett’s performance mirrors Bradbery’s: Believable and effortless, but runs into some trouble when he attempts to climb the vocal ladder.)
The lyrics are just what you’d expect from a paint-by-numbers summer fling song: Two people meet, share a memorably-romantic summer, and then mourn when both fall and reality return. Setting aside the utter lack of subject novelty for a moment, the biggest problem here is that we get absolutely none of the details that tell us why the summer was so memorable, as Rhett’s middle verse focuses mostly on the question of time. As boring as Bryan’s song was, at least it gave the listener enough detail to let them visualize the house and the bonfires and the actual romance. Here, we get a few tidbits on the arrival and departure, and that’s it. There’s just nothing in the writing for the listener to latch on to, and as a result the song winds up feeling like an inside joke that the audience isn’t privy to. Toss in a misleading title and a surprisingly weak hook, and you’ve got yourself a song that will be forgotten before the leaves change color.
“Goodbye Summer” is easily the weakest Danielle Bradbery single I’ve reviewed so far, as its individual pieces just don’t fit together at all. The production tries its darnedest to set the proper mood, but the underwhelming vocals and vague writing fail to move the listener and keep the song from leaving an impression on its audience. I’d label “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” as the better of the two tracks, and if you can’t beat a boring song like that one, you’ve got a serious problem.
Rating: 5/10. Don’t bother dragging out your goodbye to summer for this one.