Is it better to be bad or boring? Because Dustin Lynch is about to find out.
Lynch won my unofficial “Worst Artist of 2017” award by placing two songs (“Small Town Boy,” “I’d Be Jealous Too”) in the bottom five of my song rankings for that year. In comparison, however, 2018 was relatively quiet, with Lynch only releasing the forgettable “Good Girl” and generally losing most of the buzz he had created the year before (despite earning an airplay #1, “Good Girl” didn’t convince Broken Bow to let it headline a new album). Now, with 2019 nearing the quarter pole and the genre knee-deep in the Luke Combs meta, Lynch’s team has decided to release an EP instead of an LP, promoting “Ridin’ Roads” as Lynch’s latest single. The decision is a puzzling one, as “Ridin’ Roads” is Lynch’s most sleep-inducing work to date, lifelessly slogging through yet another recycled Bro-Country trope.
The first thing that hits you when listening to the production is just how lethargic it is. It starts off as the same-old guitar-and-drum mix that seems to be required by country music law nowadays (and yes, the drum machine is here too, mostly on the verses), but to their credit the producer tries to mix in a few other instruments (a dobro gets some room to show off, a steel guitar floats around in the background). However, it’s not the “what” that leads to trouble here, it’s the “how”: The slow tempo, simple riffs, darker instrument tones, and overall serious vibe of the mix drain the track of all its energy and momentum (to say nothing of the supposed joy of “ridin’ roads”), leaving the song to just plod along from start to finish. (Seriously, the dobro player is the only person involved who offers evidence of having a pulse.) I just don’t get why artists laud activities like nighttime drives as the most awesome thing evar, and then their producers make the track sound like said activity is about as fun as watching paint dry. In the end, the listener is left wondering if this song is supposed to be fun or serious…or at least they would wonder about that if they weren’t snoring by the time the song finished.
For someone who’s found a decent amount of success in the genre, Lynch is one of the least charismatic performers on the radio today. Technically, his performance is fine: His range is tolerable and his flow is fairly smooth (albeit mostly untested). Behind the mic, however, he demonstrates all the personality of a cardboard box, and he delivers his lines here without an once of life or happiness, making him feel like the least-believable narrator in the world. I mean, come on, dude! You’re supposedly out for a ride with the woman of your dreams, and you’re singing with all the passion of a guy filling out his tax return! (For as pointless as Kip Moore’s anger was on “The Bull,” at least he felt like he really meant what he was saying.) “Ridin’ roads” doesn’t sound like fun, it sounds like torture, and that’s the feeling Lynch ends up passing to the listener. Given the ubiquity of this topic and all the options country music fans have to hear people sing about it, why you would ever choose to listen to this song is beyond me.
Speaking of this topic…the narrator here is singing about taking a nighttime drive with his significant other (and all of the sexual implications of said drive). How novel! It’s not like we’ve heard a million songs like this in the last five years or anything. The imagery here is beyond generic (flashing lights, large tires, lack of nightclubs, etc.), and the actual countryside is never described outside of being “out there where the moon hits the water.” The lyrics run the gamut from weak (“thirty early out their in your drive” at least gets you some credit for trying) to nonsensical (“I hit the curb just to make you slide”? Huh?), and while they avoid any explicit objectification of the woman in the shotgun seat, the usual sleazy vibe is still there, as the narrator has “one hand on the wheel/And I got the other tryna cross the line, line, line.” This is just another bland Bro looking for just another sexual score, and I’d probably be more up in arms about it if the song didn’t keep putting me to sleep.
In short, there’s no good reason for “Ridin’ Roads” to exist: The production is lifeless, Dustin Lynch comes across as uninteresting and unmotivated, and the topic has been done to death already (and it’s usually done better than this). The track is a non-habit-forming sleep aid at best and a Bro-Lite retread at worst, and Lynch has to be better than this is he wants to stick around the genre for much longer. While I don’t know if it’s better to be bad or boring, I’m afraid this song is both.
Rating: 3/10. No thank you.