Song Review: Chase Rice, “Eyes On You”

Wait…is Chase Rice actually improving? He’s still not good, but a baby step in still a step.

I referred to “Three Chords And The Truth” as both “the best single Chase Rice has ever released” and “not even remotely worth listening to.” Apparently country radio felt the same way, as the track ended up being Rice’s best Billboard airplay showing since the height of the Bro-Country era..but still peaked at a mediocre #25. Still, progress is progress even when it’s small, and his follow-up single “Eyes On You” represents another small step in the right direction. There are still a lot of problems here, especially in the vocals and writing, but much like with Dustin Lynch’s “Good Girl,” it’s a song that you can actually listen to all the way through, even if you’ll forget it exists within five minutes.

The production here is centered around two instruments: A piano (serious song alert!), and a drum machine (whose prominence is actually surprising, given the genre-wide trend back towards real percussion). A few other things are mixed in over time (an electric guitar, some effected drums), but they’re left mostly in the background. The dominant theme here is how the mix succeeds in its mission in spite of itself:

  • Despite the sparse arrangement, the mix has a surprisingly spacious feel, especially on the choruses (the backup singers help a lot here).
  • Despite the deep, darker feel of the piano and occasional minor chords, the atmosphere here feels celebratory and reverent, with whatever seriousness that pops up only underscoring the depth of the narrator’s feelings.

It’s an impressive achievement, it’s easily the best part of the song, and it’s sad that absolutely nothing else here can hold up its end of the bargain.

Unlike the charismatic failures we’ve catalogued on previous songs, Rice’s problems here are mostly technical. Specifically, his flow is downright awful: His delivery gets stiff and choppy and points, he’s forever trying to cram too many words into a line (the writing shares some blame here), and every time he tries to switch to a more-conversational singing style, he disrupts the smooth vibe of the production and completely ruins the song’s mood. The track tries to paint a picture of the scenes the narrator describes through its sound and writing, but the listener keeps getting snapped out of the trance to focus on Rice’s awkward delivery, and as a result the song never really gets a chance to move its audience emotionally. It’s too bad, as Rice actually comes across more sincerely here than on his past singles and seems to have the requisite charisma to take the listener around the world with the narrator. With a performance this bad, however, he doesn’t give himself the chance to show his stuff.

The writing here is more confusing to me than anything else. In theory, the narrator is trying to express their feelings for their significant other by declaring that he never sees anything when they travel because “I’ve got my eyes on you.” On the surface, it’s your typical lightweight love song that you’ve heard done a thousand different ways, albeit with terrible verse construction that forces Rice to occasionally cram too many syllables into a line. Dig a little deeper, however, and some contradictions to the narrative emerge, such as in the second verse:

Speaking of the coast, remember Pfeiffer beach?
You and me, that sunset, cliffs by the sea
And the night rolled in
And you still talk about that moon that I can’t recall

I’m all for having vivid imagery and detail in a song, but didn’t the narrator just get through saying he didn’t remember anything from places like this? It makes that claim feel a bit disingenuous, and leads me to question whether they really loves the other person as much as they say. The production tries to sweep the question under the rug by carrying the listener away on a piano melody, but Rice’s vocals stymie its efforts and keep the listener focused on the lyrics, leading them to raise some uncomfortable questions.

“Eyes On You” may be a noble effort from Chase Rice to move beyond his Bro-Country efforts, but it’s more radio filler than needle mover thanks to mediocre writing and Rice’s poor showing. A better singer could have made this track the aww-inducing love song it was intended to be, and if Rice really wants to continue moving forward in country music, “a better singer” is exactly what he needs to become.

Rating: 5/10. So close, and yet so far away.