Song Review: Brett Young: “Here Tonight”

Yes, it’s lightweight and mainstream, but Brett Young doing “lightweight and mainstream” is better than most singers doing anything else.

Young was a revelation when he showed up in 2016 with “Sleep Without You,” and his self-titled debut album surpassed everyone’s expectations: Forget the four #1 singles (three Billboard, 1 Mediabase), the dude scored two Top 30 hits on the Hot 100 (neither topped the Hot Country Singles chart, however, because they were blocked by Sam Hunt and Bebe Rexha). All good things must come to an end, however, and now Young is preparing to launch his follow-up album Ticket To L.A. with his latest single “Here Tonight.” By the standards of the genre, it’s a pretty decent track, but Young set a high bar for himself with Brett Young, and the sound and subject here feel just a shade too conventional to allow him to clear it.

A lot of good things from Young’s first album carry over to “Here Tonight”: The inclusion of classical-but-oft-forgotten instruments like the dobro, and the well-balanced mix of real and synthetic percussion (none of which jumps in at all until the first chorus), and above all the understated tone that compliments the song’s emotion perfectly, capturing the uncertainty of the night ending on the verses and the happiness of staying “here together” for a while on the choruses. What I miss, however, is the acoustic foundation from Young’s previous singles, as a clean electric guitar and bass take the lead here. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the instruments give the track a spacious, energetic feel that really envelops the listener, but I can’t shake just how run-of-the-mill this sound is, and how much it reminds me of everything else on the radio. In theory this song should give us a hint of how the rest of the album will sound, so I would describe my feelings about this right now as “mildly concerned.”

Young’s easy, earnest delivery opened a lot of eyes when he came on the scene, and he throws down another solid performance here. “Here Tonight” is one of those feeling-driven tracks whose demands are more emotional than technical: Its range and flow requirements aren’t exactly strenuous, but connecting with the listener and allowing them to share in the song’s atmosphere is paramount to its success. For Young, this is a piece of cake: “In case you didn’t know,” romantic ballads are squarely in his wheelhouse, and he makes the narrator’s request to share a romantic moment for a few more minutes feel as heartfelt and genuine as anyone could. The lyrics leave the door open for the narrator’s request to feel forced and one-sided (for all we know, this could be a spontaneous request), but Young makes the passion feel natural and shared, and gives the listener no reason to question his intentions. There will never be another Conway Twitty in this business, but Young’s doing a darn good impression of him on this tune.

The lyrics here feel a bit more generic than I was hoping to hear. The narrator declares that he’s getting lost in the beauty of whoever’s he talking to, and proclaims that he’s open to ignoring the rest of the world for a while and letting the current romantic mood linger as long as it can (when he says “let’s just stay here tonight,” he’s talking about the emotion of the moment as much as the physical location). It’s got just enough detail to allow the listener to picture the scene, but honestly the story feels like the same old, same old to me: Same night sky, same passionate kiss, same old ‘only this matters’ plotline. On the plus side, there’s nothing overtly off-putting about it (no boorish remarks, no pushy attitude), and what openings that the song leaves for such interpretation are thoroughly papered over by Young’s charisma. It’s a perfectly reasonable track whose lyrics are light and fluffy enough to be carried along by the emotion provided by the sound and singer, but it’s just not as interesting to me as his prior work.

For a lot of other singers, “Here Tonight” would be a really positive step. Brett Young, however, set an incredibly high standard with his previous singles (with most of his first album, actually), and so I’m a little sad to see him adopt a more-mainstream posture with his sound and writing this time around. It’s still a decent song with plenty of emotion and energy, so I wouldn’t be too worried about how his next album will turn out, but for now I’m lowering my expectations a notch or two.

Rating: 6/10. Try it yourself and see what you think.