Ryan Hurd might have “got you down to a T,” but I’ve got him down as a generous C-.
The latest product to roll off of Nashville’s young male assembly line is Michigan native Hurd, who had kicked around Nashville for a few years as a songwriter (his biggest hit being Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe’s “Lonely Tonight”) before signing with RCA Nashville early in 2017. Sony Nashville chairman Randy Goodman is on record saying Hurd would be “one of our new breakout artists in 2017,” but that potential has thus far only translated into a self-titled EP and a pair of flop singles (one barely made Billboard’s top fifty, while the other didn’t chart at all). Now, Hurd is being foisted upon us once again with a brand new single “To A T,” an uninspired retread of a love song that simply doesn’t make a case for letting Hurd hang around in the genre.
The first question you’ll ask upon hearing the production is “Why the heck are all the instruments underwater?” The initial drums and synths are drowned in a sea of fuzzy audio effects, and only an acoustic guitar and the occasional pedal steel riff are allowed to emerge (the drums get pulled up out of the water and then shoved back down like they’re being tortured. Come on, what did that drum machine ever do to you?). It’s yet another example of a country mix trying to slow things down and create a sexy, sensual atmosphere, and ultimately failing to pull it off. The drums are too soulless, the guitars aren’t spacious enough, and the mix counters whatever brightness the instruments have by using a bizarre mix of minor and suspended chords. The whole thing just feels too cold and clinical to properly set the mood, and serves as yet another example of why most country artists should leave sex jams to the professionals.
Vocally, Hurd reminds me a lot of Devin Dawson, except that Dawson has a lot more interesting things to say in his material. While Hurd is solid from a technical perspective (his range and flow sound fine, although they’re not really tested by this track), there’s just nothing interesting or distinct about his delivery that would make me stand up and say, “Hey, I’d like to hear more from this guy!” I’m sure the narrator feels strongly about the person he’s serenading, but Hurd just doesn’t have the charm or charisma to be able to transmit this passion to his audience, leaving them a passive observer to his romantic antics (and making them wonder why they’re paying attention in the first place). Stick any of the faceless singers from Nashville’s assembly line behind the mic here, and the song would sound and feel about the same as it does here, which is to say you wouldn’t feel much at all. For a singer still looking for his big break in the business, this is pretty much a worst-case scenario.
Lyrically, the narrator is telling their significant other that they can just relax and be themselves, because the narrator knows them so well (“to a T”) that both parties will experience maximum sexual pleasure this evening. The whole “down to a T-shirt” hook is not terribly clever and has been done to death in the genre lately (Jordan Davis’s “Take It From Me,” Thomas Rhett’s “T-Shirt”), and despite the promises of a long, comfortable sexual evening, the details we get don’t talk go too far beyond the explicit ones. Sure, the guy will “dot every I” (yeah, not a ton left to the imagination there) to some Marvin Gaye, but where’s the foreplay? There’s no holding, no kissing, no “I love you”…it’s just two people tangled up in sheets 69ing. In fact, aside from the narrator’s assertion that he knows the other person so well, there isn’t a whole lot separating this from your typical “we just met, but you’re so awesome we should totally get jiggy with it right now” tune that’s been plaguing the airwaves lately. Throw in a “meh” performance from both the producer and the singer, and you’re left with an unsexy sex jam that’s utterly forgettable.
“To A T” ends up being an awkward fit all the way around, and nothing from the sound to the writing to Ryan Hurd himself comes across as either sexy or memorable. It’s nothing more than radio filler, and while that might be enough to make some noise in the current weakened state of the chart, there’s not enough here to sustain a long chart run and become the breakout hit Hurd and company have been looking for since 2017. Despite his previous songwriting success, this artist appears fated to be seen and not Hurd.
Rating: 5/10. Don’t go out of your way for this one.