Song Review: Chris Janson, “Good Vibes”

Somebody light up the Bat Signal, because it sound like Two-Face is back in town.

It seems to be a coin flip as to which Chris Janson is going to appear on the charts. Good Janson has some serious substance to his material back up with some real emotion (“Holdin’ Her,” “Drunk Girl”), while Bad Janson is an unrepentant nihilist who’s forever dreaming of an escape from reality (“Buy Me A Boat,” “Fix A Drink”). Unfortunately, everyone loves a bad boy, and after “Drunk Girl” only made it to #7 on Billboard’s airplay chart after a ten-month slog, “Doesn’t Care Chris” is making a return on “Good Vibes,” the intended debut single for his upcoming third album. The song is basically “Fix A Drink, Part 2,” with the same narrator ignoring the same world and chugging the same drinks, running for the nearest exit while his “Drunk Girl” counterpart tries to, you know, make the world a better place or something.

The biggest difference between “Good Vibes” and “Fix A Drink” is that this track drops all pretense of seriousness and goes into full-on party mode like it’s a LoCash track. The guitars and drums are the same ones you hear all over the radio these days, but they’ve got their volume and brightness knobs cranked up to the max, giving the mix a bouncy, almost beach-like feel with a lot of energy. It’s a good fit for the writing, both because it fits the happy, care-free lyrics and because the cacophony distracts the listener from the fact that said lyrics have absolutely nothing to say. (When the guitars step back and let Janson take the lead, the results are not pretty.) This mix is the sonic equivalent of cotton candy, providing a cheap, short-lived high while giving the listener absolutely nothing of substance.

For as good as he was on “Drunk Girl,” Janson doesn’t acquit himself very well here. His range is as good as always, but his flow is awkward and stilted when he tries to do his Jake Owen impression on the bridge, and he just comes across as insufferable and in denial as the narrator. It’s as if he’s got in his fingers in his ears saying, “La la la la la, I can’t hear you! I’m just going to sit here in my little bubble drinking myself to death while the world burns, la la la!” In “Fix A Drink,” he at least made the case that all the badness in the world was out of his control, but here he doesn’t even care to make the effort: He’s out, and whatever happens happens. Escapist songs like this are not inherently bad (see: Danielle Bradbery’s “Sway,”), but Janson’s putrid mix of defiance and nihilism makes him completely unsympathetic, and only moves the listener to give the narrator a wide berth and leave him to imbibe by himself.

Of course, the lyrics don’t give Janson a lot of room to work with: All the details and specifics included in “Fix A Drink” are gone (no stock market, no TV networks, nothing), and this narrator specifically declares that they “aren’t trying to hear the negative,” have “my windows down and my blinders on,” and if you want to rain on their parade, you can just “shut your mouth.” Forget ignoring the world’s problems, this dude doesn’t even to want acknowledge them, to say nothing about pitching it and doing something about them. (Seriously, how many issues in the world are now at a crisis point because people have turned a blind eye to them in favor of having another round and “feelin’ them good vibes”? Like, say, income inequality, climate change, and every “ism” you can think of?) I get that everybody needs a break from the spin cycle now and again, but the narrator’s refusal to leave their bubble and rejection of the world around them isn’t just irresponsible, it can be downright dangerous, and it’s the last thing I want to hear encouraged on the radio.

I don’t get a lot of good vibes from “Good Vibes,” because it’s essentially the exact opposite of “Drunk Girl.” Whereas Chris Janson previously encouraged people to take a look in the mirror and do the right thing, he now hands you a shot glass and says “Who cares about the right thing?” The sad truth, of course, is that this sort of drivel gets eaten up by country listeners and leads to larger spin counts and bank balances, and since “doing the right thing” led to a whole stack of nothing for Janson on his last single, he’s stuck going back to what sells to keep his career afloat, regardless of the consequences. Understanding what he’s doing is one thing, however; liking it is another.

Rating: 4/10. Just…no.


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