Chris Lane: The poster boy for stranger danger since 2015.
Much like Dylan Scott, Lane seems to be treading water in a sea of faceless young male country artists, desperately searching for a solid foothold in the genre. Since his Metro-Bro breakthrough hit “Fix” in 2015, Lane has struggled to maintain his relevance, with the actually-decent “For Her” taking over a year just to reach #10 on Billboard’s airplay chart, and his forgettable Tori Kelly collab “Take Back Home Girl” only marginally improving on that showing (it made it to #8, and still took ten-and-a-half months to do it). Now, as he faced a sink-or-swim moment in his career, Lane and his team decided to go back to their “winning” formula and release “I Don’t Know About You” as the second single from his Laps Around The Sun album. The song is basically “Fix” without the drug references or unfounded narrator confidence, and winds up having no memorable (or redeemable) qualities at all.
The bright, echoey opening guitars give the listener a brief sense of hope…which is immediately crushed when the effect is cleaned up and the synthetic beat and clap track jump in, and the mix turns into the same sanitized guitar-and-drum arrangement everybody else leans on (complete with the eventual introduction of real drums and an uninspired guitar solo, although the latter sounds like it was stolen from a porn video). The slower tempo and simple I-V-vi-IV chord structure leave the song with absolutely zero energy (which was the one thing “Fix” brought to the table), and while the mix tries to set a serious tone, it overshoots the mark and comes across as melancholy and depressed, clashing violently with the writing’s underlying message of”let’s get out of this bar and make out.” (Seriously, by the sound of it, hanging out with the narrator is the opposite of a good time.) In other words, the production here is generic, an awkward fit for the subject matter, and overall just a complete mess.
Lane must have been through a lot since “Fix,” because the cocky, cheerful narrator from that tune has been replaced by a lethargic narrator who just sounds more tired than anything else. His range isn’t tested here (which is a bit of a shame; his falsetto is decent and about the only thing distinct about his voice), the tempo doesn’t push his flow at all, and when given the choice of sounding gentlemanly or creepy, Lane chooses door #3 and winds up sounding weary and defeated, like he expects the other person will reject his advances. Instead of elevating the narrator and writing, Lane weighs them down so much with his gloomy attitude that even Eeyore is telling him to lighten up.
Instead of passing a romantic or emotional vibe onto the listener, Lane makes them wonder if he has any more faith in the song than he does in his pickup lines. Either way, it’s not something I’m interested in revisiting.
Lyrically, the song makes a halfhearted attempt to pull the wool over our eyes: The narrator opens with some lame excuses about not usually being here this early and not usually talking to strangers, and then immediately peppers the other person with questions about their life, as if this is the first person the narrator has seen in twenty years. It’s all mean to look like thoughtful inquiry and signal that the narrator has serious interest in everything about the other person, but in the second verse the narrator reveals the real reason behind their advance:
I don’t know about you
We can dip, we can slip out of the back
Leave the scene put your feet on my dash
Find a spot past the railroad tracks and never look back
Yep, it’s just another one of those tunes, and the narrator is just another one of those meatheads who’s just looking for a hot partner to get it on with. There may not be any explicit objectification going on here, but you know darn well what’s going through the narrator mind (and it’s not “what’s your sign?”). Part of me thinks I should be offended that the writers thought the audience would fall for such a terrible bait-and-switch, but honestly, it’s like watching an incompetent cartoon burglar stumble through a bank robbery: Nothing’s really going to happen, and everybody in the room knows it. Most likely the target of this charade saw right through it, and they shut the narrator down with either a sharp “no” or a drink to the face.
Beyond that, there’s nothing really unique or interesting here: The setting, the drinking, the evening drives…most everything from the Bro checklist can be found somewhere in the song. It’s a generic wolf in the world’s most ill-fitting sheep costume, and it doesn’t offer the listener any reason to pay attention.
2019 has been a year of extremes in country music thus far: There’s a lot of quality out there, but there’s also a surprising number of unwelcome Bro-Country retreads getting foisted onto the public, and “I Don’t Know About You” falls squarely in the latter category. In fact, it’s probably the worst retread I’ve heard so far, as it combines all the usual tropes and topics you expect from such a song with a depression mix, an uninspired Chris Lane, and a lyrical fake-out that’s more obvious than that basketball wannabe you met at the Y who always pump-fakes the first time. “I don’t know about you,” but it all adds up to a song that I’d prefer to skip.
Rating: 3/10. No thank you.