To borrow a phrase from Restless Heart, “that rock won’t roll.”
Since getting his requisite fifteen minutes of fame with his #2 debut “Rock On,” Tucker Beathard’s career has been in complete freefall, including a failed follow-up single “Momma and Jesus,” a shelved debut album, and an eventual acrimonious split from Dot Records. Beathard has been picking up the pieces ever since, eventually self-publishing the first of an intended double album late last year and signing with Warner Music Nashville earlier this year to release the second part. While no radio singles came from last year’s release, he’s putting out the post-breakup reflection “Better Than Me” as a leadoff single for disc #2. Unfortunately, not only is this song an inferior version of “Rock On,” but his fixation on his ex’s well-being puts him in direct competition with Riley Green’s “In Love By Now,” and Green’s track runs circles around Beathard’s attempt to turn the story into a dark, hard-rock anthem.
The production here feels ripped from a Kip Moore or Jason Aldean album, opening with shouting (but not quite screaming) electric guitars, heavy bass, and a hard-hitting drum set, and never letting up until the track ends. However, the gas pedal only seems to be halfway down, as the volume feels a bit restrained and the slower, deliberate tempo tries to give the instruments enough time to let each note soak in. The biggest difference between this track and Green’s tune is the tone of the mix, as the instruments here are much darker and emphasize the pain of the narrator rather the good vibes the other person is supposedly feeling. It’s just not as engaging as Green’s sound, and given that both narrators implicitly admit that they were the problem in the relationship, the attempt to darken/sharpen the arrangement and paint the narrator as a sympathetic character just isn’t terribly effective. There’s something missing here, and it flat out fails to capture and hold the listener’s attention.
Vocally, Beathard’s tone falls somewhere between Moore and Morgan Wallen, and isn’t much of an improvement on either one. Neither Beathard’s range nor his flow are really tested here (even the “rapid-fire” sections of the song are relatively slow), but his voice doesn’t have a lot of tone and is a bit too sandpapery for my tastes. The biggest thing, however, is that he doesn’t demonstrate a lot of charisma here: His focus on the other person’s feelings feels superficial and only seems to be a vehicle to express his own pain, and he doesn’t have enough power and presence to crank up the emotion and transmit the depth of his pain to the audience. In truth, he really doesn’t sound that broken up at all—he sounded a lot more distraught on “Rock On.” Simply put, he just can’t convince me to care about his problems, and the response from the listener is less “What are these tears in my eyes?” and more “Too bad bro; sucks to be you,” which wasn’t the reaction Beathard and company were hoping for.
Lyrically, the only difference between this song and “Rock On” is that the narrator doesn’t have a social media feed they can use to cyberstalk their ex, so they’re stuck imagining what said ex could be doing and what kind of relationship they might be in. Unfortunately, the narrator’s imagination isn’t too good, so with stuck with the most generic scenes you could imagine: drinking, sunbathing, nighttime hood-sitting, riding around with a new beau, etc. While the narrator claims that he hopes that his ex’s imaginary friend will “treat you better than me,” the chorus frames her well-being in the context of the narrator’s own pain (“If you can sing along when they’re playing our song with no tears in your eyes”), which makes it feel like this dude is really not that concerned about the other person’s feelings and more about how the whole thing has made him feel, even though he’s the one that screwed things up in the first place. I’m sure he’s hurting in all, but he’s lying in the bed he made, and I’m not too keen on commiserating with a guy with a self-inflicted wound. Where Green focused on the other person and use a brighter approach to make his claim about wishing the other person well feel more genuine, Beathard just wallows in his own sorrow, and it’s not a good look for him.
“Better Than Me” winds up being the worse choice when pitted against Green’s current single, Tucker Beathard’s last significant hit, and even a fair bit of the current radio playlists. The sound has too much darkness and not enough power, the writing has too much self-pity and not enough feeling, and Beathard himself just doesn’t have the chops to hold all of this mess together. I didn’t really miss Beathard while he was missing from the airwaves, and when this song fades into oblivion, I still won’t.
Rating: 5/10. It’s not worth your time.