Ugh, don’t we have enough boring male singers in this genre already?
Adam Hambrick is an Arkansas native who credits his big break to…Justin Moore’s TV-watching habits? This chance encounter set the stage for Hambrick’s publishing deal and eventually a record deal with Capitol (where apparently he was the first new artist that label had signed in five years? Jeez, how the might have fallen). His debut single “Rockin’ All Night Long” was released back in October, but hasn’t made a whole lot of noise since, and after a few listens, it’s easy to see why: From the sound to the singer to the songwriting, there’s next to nothing here that you haven’t seen or heard before. This song is about as exciting as listening to paint dry, and you’ll be snoring long before it ever gets to the punch line.
After I first saw the title, I prepared myself to be hit with a massive wall of noise from the word go, only to find that the production was nothing more than a milquetoast Metropolitan mix that fails to stand out from its competition. The track opens with a pair of dark, amplified guitars (one acoustic, one electric) and a subdued drum machine, through it eventually sprinkles in some real drums and a background steel guitar for flavor. The producer does their level best to make Jason Aldean proud here, as the mood they establish is so somber and meloncholic that it makes you think you’re listening to a sad song, which is the exact opposite of the picture the writing tries to paint. However, said producer forgot to add Aldean’s trademark energy to the mix, causing the song to plod lifelessly along until the listener gives up and stop paying attention. (Seriously, that bridge interlude couldn’t be more boring if it tried.) In other words, this song does everything a debut single is not supposed to do, and that’s a huge problem.
Hambrick’s voice falls somewhere between Jimmie Allen and Vince Gill, which at least gives him something to distinguish himself from the faceless young male singers crowding the genre (his upper range is particularly impressive). However, a distinctive voice is no good without some power and charisma to back it up, and Hambrick demonstrates neither on this track. I’m sure he remembers his youth fondly and loves his wife and daughter dearly, but his weak, hollow delivery doesn’t convince me to care about his story in the slightest. By the time he reaches the final verse, the audience has tuned him out completely and is already waiting for the next song to start. Again, this is not the first impression you want to make on the radio.
A wise man once told me (a lot) to “put the punch line first” when writing a story, because readers may never make it to the later chapters. Unfortunately, Hambrick and his co-writers never got the message, and instead open the track with this rubbish:
There were Chevys and levees, whiskey and rye
Friends and no end to the summertime
Gas was cheap and the radio was free
So were we on those backstreets
Chasing good times and pretty girls…
So in the first verse, the writing rips off an classic song (in this case, Don McLean’s “American Pie”) and runs through a laundry list of Bro-Country tropes (summer, driving, cheap gas, good times, chasing girls, etc.)—in other words, it’s doing what everyone else has been doing for the last few years. The first chorus reveals the song to be a reflection on the narrator’s party-all-night, “rockin’ all night long” youthful phase, which has also been done to death in the genre recently, so…yeah. Next song, please.
…Except that the song eventually does distinguish itself from its peers by cleverly pivoting the hook to mean actual rocking, as the narrator describes how they stay up all night rocking his infant daughter to sleep. It’s a nice scene that adds a unique twist to the song…except that it’s buried in the third verse, by which point the audience has already given up on the song and has either left or fallen asleep. Listeners have a limited amount of time and patience, and if you bore them to death for two minutes before getting to the good part, don’t be surprised when they don’t stick around.
“Rockin’ All Night Long” is a forgettable snoozefest that waits far too long to justify its existence, and should be tacked to the wall of every recording studio in Nashville as an example of how not to make a debut single. The production sets the wrong mood, the writing takes forever to make its point, and Adam Hambrick winds up being just another guy singing just another song. It’s not bad, but it’s not memorable either, and in a genre that’s overflowing with artists exactly like Hambrick, that might actually be worse.
Rating: 5/10. Don’t bother with this one.