Is this what country music has become? Has the genre really devolved into a buck-measuring contest?
I was already getting tired of hearing artists like Luke Bryan, Chris Young, and Easton Corbin prattle on about just how “country” they were. The last thing I wanted was for some offended good ol’ boy to step up to the mic and declare that they, in fact, were the redneckiest redneck that ever rednecked, and that you were a soft little city slicker in comparison. Unfortunately, that’s just what we got from HARDY, a Mississippi native and the genius behind Morgan Wallen’s all-time classic “Up Down,” who operates under the Big Loud record label. I don’t know what they were shooting for with “REDNECKER,” but it’s about the dumbest declaration of countriness I’ve ever heard, sung by the most insufferable narrator who completely fails at making the track sarcastic, fun, or worth listening to.
Let’s start with the lyrics today, because frankly I hate everything about them. It’s not enough that the narrator has to proclaim how country they are just like every other song on the radio; no, they are offended that you think that your own redneck credentials measure up to theirs, and must point out in painstaking detail why yours are inferior. It’s meant to be sort of a “proxy song” where the listener imagines themselves saying this to someone else, but in my experience, people don’t fight over this kind of thing, they bond over it, and picking a fight where it’s not warranted or prudent just seems stupid to me. You could also try to make the argument that the narrator is being sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek, but there’s not enough hyperbole in the writing to stick the landing: Outside of the “my tick hound’s a little more blue” line, everything here sounds like it was ripped straight from HARDY’s competition: small towns, loud trucks, hay bales, sweaty brows, etc. (If they had gone really over the top with the lyrics—”I took a selfie with Hank Sr.! I gave Willie his first joint!”—then I might have bought this argument.) This narrator comes across as both dead serious and seriously annoyed that you would have the audacity to call yourself “redneck,” and while there’s no hard and fast definition of the term, I also take issue with claiming that having “got it on a tailgate” or being able to “piss where i want to” are valid criteria. To top it all off, the whole “rednecker” hook is the opposite of clever or witty, and stands as further proof that making up your own words/phrases for a hook (“singles you up”, “alcohol you later”) is not a viable strategy. This is the dumbest song I’ve heard in a looooong time, and this and “Up Down” form a strong case for never letting HARDY touch a pen, keyboard, or typewriter for the rest of his days.
Writing this awful would be near impossible to redeem for the best of singers, and HARDY is nowhere close to having that sort of stature. The song is neither a range-tester or a tongue-buster, but it requires a huge amount of charisma and skill to make the narrator seem endearing or sympathetic. Unfortunately, HARDY (who sounds like yet another off-brand Florida Georgia Line clone), has neither charisma nor skill, and delivers his lines with such an aggravated seriousness that he makes you think he’s actually annoyed that you think you’re more redneck than he is. Given the absurdity of the discussion and the fact that the narrator is addressing his grievances towards “you”(at least A Thousand Horses had to decency to include the audience on “Preachin’ To The Choir”), the performance causes the listener to recoil at the accusation and wonder what the dude’s problem is. (Much like Brantley Gilbert, HARDY “doth protest too much, methinks.”) There’s no twinkle in the eye, no tongue placed in cheek, no knowing smile…he just comes across as an angry individual who feels the need to put you in your place for no good reason. As bad as the lyrics are, HARDY’s delivery manages to drag them down even further.
At this point, there’s no hope for the production to save this sinking ship, so it just goes with the flow and doesn’t even bother to try. The mix opens with a swampy electric guitar and real drum set, and doesn’t really move much from that spot (it brings in an organ for the choruses). With it’s slower tempo and darker instrument tones, the producer seems to be shooting for the same “outlaw” vibe that Justin Moore captured in “Kinda Don’t Care,” but it only reflects the worst qualities of that spirit, channeling all of the status-quo irritation and I-do-what-I-want-no-matter-who-it-hurts nihilism without any of the endearing charm and underlying self-awareness. It certainly fits the serious vibe of the vocals and writing, but at some point blind adherence to the party line at the expense of listenability becomes more trouble than it’s worth. The song’s structure and riffs are also paint-by-numbers simple, suggesting that the producer is just here so they don’t get fined—if HARDY and company want to go down this rabbit hole of defiance and isolation, they can at least sound like a mediocre Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band as they go.
There aren’t many songs that I would choose a Mitchell Tenpenny single over, but “REDNECKER” is definitely one of them. The sound is generic and uninspired, HARDY is angry and unlikable, and the writing is so putrid that not even Greenpeace would dare clean it up. It’s a early front-runner for my worst song of 2019, and if anything good can come out of this, it’s that hopefully this song will make people realize that the”I’m so country!” trend has been played out to its logical conclusion, and the genre can finally get over itself and move on to something more substantive and interesting.
Rating: 2/10. Absolute garbage.