Sorry Caroline Jones, but this isn’t a song that’s worth chasing.
From a distance, Jones (the rare artist from the country music hotbed that is the New York City metro area) looks like the second coming of Barbara Mandrell: She plays six instruments, has already released five albums (and produced or co-produced all of them), and hosts a monthly radio show on SiriusXM. For the moment, however, she remains outside the mainstream country scene, releasing her Bare Feet album on Jimmy Buffett’s Mailboat label last year and getting nothing onto the major airplay charts. Now, Jones is back with a brand-new single “Chasin’ Me,”a Hallmark-ready love song that comes across as the sonic equivalent of cotton candy: Light, fluffy, saccharine, ephemeral, and not terribly filling.
The production is exactly what you’d expect from a song like this, featuring bright, borderline-squealing electric guitars, spacious background vocals, synth tones ripped from 80s pop, and real-but-punchless drums. The mix has an airy feel and a light touch that at the very least fits the tone of the lyrics (contrast this with whoever tried to make Caylee Hammack’s “Family Tree” a dance track), but it’s also aggressively bland and completely uninteresting, relying on sparse, simple riffs to try to carry the melody (honestly, if feels like Jones’s vocals are doing most of the heavy lifting). The slower, deliberate tempo robs the song of its energy, and while the guitars halfheartedly try to inject some life on the bridge, the listener has already tuned out by then and it’s too little, too late. (For someone as musically talented as Jones, it’s almost criminal that the producer didn’t find a way to showcase her talents here.) It’s a sound that will elicit contented sighs from the sappiest among us, but for everyone else this song is empty sonic calories, and when it’s over you’ll wished you’d had spent your daily carbohydrates on something with a little more substance behind it.
If you took Kellie Pickler are drained away all of her vocal power, what remained would sound a lot like Jones. To her credit, Jones has a pretty high ceiling on her range and the song gives her plenty of room to show it off, but her voice gets overly breathy when she tries to push it a little too far, and sounds thin and frail overall (although that may be an intentional decision to pull back and match the production). While she certainly sounds smitten with the Prince Charming character she’s found, she just isn’t able to share her feelings with the audience, which just stands around on the sidelines and says “That’s nice” before looking for another song to listen to. There’s a real overdone fairy-tale vibe to the whole thing which heightens the audience’s sense of disbelief and keeps them relating to the story, putting up a wall that Jones isn’t able to scale. In other words, it’s not a great song for Jones as a vocalist, and making it her debut single seems like a bad decision to me.
The writing is…well, I’ve already thrown the terms “fairy-tale” and “Hallmark-ready” around, so let’s keep running with them. The narrator has the typical heart of stone that will never give in to the silly notion of romance…until the right person comes along, and the narrator’s worst fears are realized, and they realize it’s not so bad after all. It’s a well-worn trope in country music by this point, so much so that writers have to throw in at least some interesting details to keep listeners paying attention, but this song? It doubles down on the boilerplate imagery right down to the guy waiting outside the girl’s house in the rain, and there’s nothing here that you haven’t heard a hundred times before. The “chasin’ me” hook feels weak even by love song standards, and combines with the second verse to make the guy here feel a little pushy (unlike Jordan Davis of all people, this dude doesn’t seem to have a ton of patience), and it takes Jones’s explicit confirmation that she’s okay with all this to keep the song from careening into the gutter. In the end, however, the middle of the road is the only place the song ends up going, with nothing here to make it stand out or stick in the listener’s memory.
“Chasin’ Me” is just another song from just another singer, and that’s a huge problem when you’re trying to push an artist into the mainstream conversation (and double trouble when you’re also fighting the headwind of country music’s allergy to female artists). It’s a sticky-sweet love song with bland production, boring writing, and a mediocre performance from Caroline Jones herself. Unlike with Hammack’s debut single, I heard nothing here to interest me in hearing more from Jones, so if she’s as good as her bio proclaims, she needs to find a way to prove it, and fast.
Rating: 5/10. *yawn*