Sorry Brad, but this song isn’t the miracle you’re looking for.
After twenty years in the mainstream spotlight, even maestros like Brad Paisley can struggle with keeping their material fresh, and country radio is signaling that they’re just not that into him anymore. “Last Time For Everything” peaked at a mediocre #19 on Billboard’s airplay chart, “Heaven South” barely made it into the top fifty, and Paisley’s most-recent single “Bucked Off,” despite its interesting take on romance, subtle name-dropping technique, and being good enough to make my year-end Top 10 list, spent most of its time in the forties on the Mediabase chart after a splashy debut (officially its Billboard peak is #24, but that stemmed from a big rollout push that never found traction). In the chess game that is Nashville, Father Time has Paisley’s career in check, and the plucky guitar wizard appears to be running our of moves. His latest single “My Miracle” is the sonic equivalent of castling, smashing together several current trends to produce a simple “my girl is so awesome” track that feels both forgettable and recycled (in a world where “She’s Everything” also exists, this track doesn’t really serve much of a purpose). A song this “meh” doesn’t strike me as the one to lead Paisley back to the promised land.
In “Bucked Off,” Paisley struck a delicate balance between traditional and modern production values, but despite its expert execution, the bet didn’t pay off in the end. While “My Miracle” is not the concession to time and modernity that Moonshine In The Trunk was, the balance has definitely shifted in the modern direction: The guitars and drums are the driving forces here (especially Paisley’s signature electric axe), with the steel guitar and keyboard relegated to background atmosphere and the fiddle omitted entirely. While Paisley’s guitar work remains strong and definitely helps distinguish his work from the rest of the field, it’s starting to get lost in the fog of his own discography, and you can’t listen to the song without thinking you’ve heard all of this somewhere before (seriously, the steel guitar riff just before the bridge is the same one he used in the same place on “Who Needs Pictures” twenty years ago). The slower tempo, serious vibe, and simple, methodical arrangement ends up making the song drag, and not even Paisley’s wizardry can inject any energy into the mix. I’m really struck by how boring this song feels, and how often I was checking the clock waiting for it to end.
I wouldn’t call Paisley part of the problem on this song, but he isn’t part of the solution either. From both a technical and emotional perspective, this is the same guy we’ve been listening to for years: Solid range, smooth flow, and more charisma and earnestness than he knows what to do with. Something’s missing this time, however: I totally believe Paisley in the narrator’s role, but he can’t seem to transmit the good vibes he’s feeling to the audience this time around. Much like Carrie Underwood on “Cry Pretty” or me trying to use a sniper rifle in Splatoon 2, Paisley just doesn’t seem to hit the mark here despite his best efforts, and I’m at a loss to describe what makes this performance different from, say, “She’s Everything” or “Perfect Storm.” Regardless of why things don’t add up here, however, the fact remains that there’s a deficit, and it leaves the listener shrugging and saying “That’s cool, I guess,” rather than getting swept up in the story.
Of course, part of the problem here is that we’ve heard the same darn story so many times over the last year or so that we’ve grown immune to whole idea. Lyrically, “My Miracle” is only slightly less generic and boilerplate than “Heaven South,” as it leaps onto the twin genre tropes of a) deifying the narrator’s significant other, and b) leaning heavily on religious imagery to convey the depth of their feelings. There are slivers of classic Paisley is here (for example, he dives far deeper into the spiritual thesaurus than other artists do), but it lacks the wit and the detail that I’ve come to expect from Paisley at this point. It’s the sort of song that could have been written and performed by anyone, and it doesn’t measure up to Paisley’s previous expressions of love (“Little Moments,” “The World,” etc.). I’m tempted to say there aren’t a lot of hooks here for the artists to latch on to and use to elevate the track, because if Brad freaking Paisley can’t sell your song, no one can. (Of course, Paisley’s also a co-writer here, so he bears some responsibility here no matter how you slice it.)
In truth, “My Miracle” isn’t a bad song—in truth, I’d take it over a fair bit of what’s currently on the radio. However, Brad Paisley is one of those artists that I have higher expectations for, much like I do for Easton Corbin or Thomas Rhett, and when I get a song like “Somebody’s Gotta Be Country” or “Look What God Gave Her” or this one, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. The flat production, run-of-the-mill writing, and Paisley’s inability to connect with his audience leaves me both confused and unimpressed, and while Paisley claims he’s found his miracle, he’s going to need another one to stay on the radio much longer.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth a spin or two, but you’ll quickly end up going back to Paisley’s classics instead of sticking with this one.