Dylan Schneider: “How does it sound?”
Me: “I dunno, I fell asleep halfway through the song.”
Schneider is an Indiana native who appears to be working from Kane Brown’s playbook, parlaying a strong online presence and a dash of Billboard buzz into a 2017 contract with Interscope Records. Officially, “How Does It Sound” was released almost two years ago, but it’s only now finding enough radio traction to threaten to crack the Mediabase Top 50. After a couple of spins, it’s not hard to see why this thing has struggled to find an audience: It’s the same old lightweight, milquetoast love song that everyone seems to be singing these days (ask Tyler Rich how that tactic’s working out for him), and while it’s better than the Bro redux drivel we’ve heard recently, it’s still a far cry from sounding unique or memorable.
The production here deserves some recognition for trying to iterate on the same tired formula everyone else uses, but it’s honestly not much of an effort. The drums might actually be real from start to finish, and a dobro appears for the briefest of moments (and there don’t seem to be any acoustic guitars here at all), but beyond that, it’s basically the same mix you’ve heard a million times before: Slick, clean electric guitars carrying the melody (with a hard-rock guitar randomly tossed in for the second verse), a keyboard for added gravity and seriousness, spacious synth tones in the background, and an overly-dark tone that really doesn’t suit the mood of the writing. (The instruments brighten up a bit on the chorus as the slicker guitar steps up to the mic, but not much.). It’s got a decent groove and more energy than it deserves, but it just doesn’t come across as sexy or romantic like it wants to. In the end, it leaves the audience with mixed feelings, and any remains are quickly washed away by the next song.
Vocally, Schneider’s deeper voice falls somewhere between Brown and Dylan Scott (but not quite as smooth as Carlton Anderson), but he seems to be the weakest of the aforementioned artists. Not only are there now enough deep voices in the genre to keep artists from standing out just by being baritones, but the song pushes Schneider a bit too far below his comfort zone (especially on the verses), causing him to lose his tone and sound raspy and breathy. The choruses are even worse: While Schneider himself sounds more comfortable, the backing vocals are a terrible match for his voice, making him sound (and I can’t believe I saying this) programmed and robotic. Seriously, this song is the answer to the question “What would RoboCop sound like if he sang a love song?” Beyond that, there’s not much to say: His range and flow are enough to keep the song moving, and while he’s believable in the narrator’s role, he doesn’t demonstrate enough charisma to pass along his romantic vibes to the audience. At this point, he’s just another singer singing just another song.
“Just another song” is a pretty good summary of the lyrics, which plow the same old barren ground that was done to death during the Bro-Country era. The narrator approaches the subject from an aural perspective, asking their partner “how does it sound?” when they think of the time they spent together. Unfortunately, the writing here sounds like every other song on the radio in the last few years: Plenty of Bro tropes (tire-burning trucks, high-altitude makeout sessions), 90s-era name drops (George Strait and Tim McGraw), and generic vignettes that offer little to no story progression (truck, dance, truck again, escape crowd, back to truck, here a truck, there a truck, everywhere a truck truck). There’s nothing overly offensive here, but in truth there’s not a whole lot here period, and there’s certainly nothing here that’ll make people feel the narrator’s love.
So to answer Dylan Schneider’s initial question, “How Does It Sound” sounds like everything and nothing, a mishmash of bits and pieces from dozens of songs that produce a track which has everything except a reason for people to keep listening. Everything from the sound to the writing to the singer’s performance is unoriginal and recycled, making the song forgettable, uninteresting, and an absolutely horrid choice for a debut single (which helps explain why it’s taken so long to get country radio’s attention). Schneider needs to up his game on every front, or the next sound he hears will be the door closing on his mainstream career.
Rating: 5/10. How does it sound? You’re better off not knowing.