Apparently Bro Country isn’t just for bros.
For a brief moment last year, Carly Pearce looked like she might be the next big female voice in country music. Her debut song “Every Little Thing” earned her both commercial and critical acclaim, and became only the second debut from a female artist to hit #1 in eleven years (the other being Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me Like You Mean It”). Unfortunately, her mediocre follow-up single “Hide The Wine” completely squandered her momentum, languishing for forty-plus weeks on the chart before bowing out at a disappointing #13. Given country music’s allergy to female artists, any sign of radio weakness is a cause for concern, and apparently Big Machine was concerned enough to close the book on Every Little Thing after just two singles and roll out “Closer To You,” hoping the typical leadoff-single hype would make up for the momentum loss. Unfortunately, the song is nothing more than a recycled Bro-Country track that leans on the same tired, generic clichés that nondescript male artists have been peddling for years, and it just isn’t strong enough to merit paying any attention.
The production begins exactly how you’d expect a song like this to start: Amplified acoustic guitar riffs, some restrained-but-slick electric guitars in the background, and a prominent drum machine (which gives way to a real drum set on the choruses). Outside of the nifty dobro solo before the bridge, this is the same mix you’ve heard on a million Metro-Bro tracks, right down to the dark instrument tones and minor chords that make the song sound way more melancholy and serious than it should. While the song admittedly has a decent groove, it doesn’t have either the energy or romantic feel that you’d expect in a head-over-heels love song, and as a result it doesn’t seem to fit the lyrics and leaves the listener unsure exactly to feel when it’s over. While it’s still a step up from the obnoxiously-sleazy feel of “Hide The Wine,” it only rises to the level of being forgettably bland.
While Pearce’s performance here is also a slight step up from “Hide The Wine,” it’s still feels more uneven than it should. Unlike a lot of “emotion-only” songs I’ve heard recently, this song makes a point of testing both Pearce’s range and flow, and the results aren’t great: The slower, higher-ranged parts sound good, but the lower and faster the song makes Pearce go (especially on the first verse), the more her voice loses its tone and texture. (Flow seems to be the biggest culprit here, but even on the slower low parts she sounds a bit flat.) There’s also a strange Aldean-like seriousness to her delivery, which matches the production’s tone but detracts from the mood and keeps the song from feeling terribly romantic (if she’s madly in love with her partner, she doesn’t sound it). The best thing I can say here is that Pearce has enough charm and charisma to keep the song from feeling as sleazy as say, Jordan Davis or Pearce’s current boyfriend Michael Ray would make it sound.
Unfortunately, the worst thing I can say about this song is that it sounds exactly like something Jordan Davis or Michael Ray would record (although Brett Young’s album cut “Close Enough” is probably the closest comp). Stop me if you’d heard this before: The narrator wants to escape from wherever they are with the object of their affection, and engage in some good ol’ fashioned backseat lovemaking under the stars. The writing features exactly zero cleverness or interesting turns of phrase (is “diamond sky” really the best they could do?), and most of the usual Bro tropes are well-represented here, although alcohol is notably absent. Although the other party in this song is never really described (and thus the song avoids any overt objectification), this lack of detail means that a male artist like Davis or Ray could have cut the track as is, making it feel even more like a Bro-Country reject. In other words, it’s a shallow song that’s reliant on the singer and sound for its emotional energy, and neither party provides it.
“Closer To You” is yet another loveless love song clogging up the airwaves, combining lightweight lyrics with ill-fitting production and a subpar performance from Carly Pearce. It’s one of those songs that you’re ready to move on from before it’s even halfway over, and you forget it existed the moment the next song starts. Despite what the title says, the track actually puts Pearce farther away from the success she and her label are looking for.
Rating: 5/10. It’s not worth your time.