Song Review: Michael Ray, “Her World Or Mine”

One of us want to forget how we got to this point. One of us is not about to let that happen.

If there was any justice in the universe, Michael Ray would have been rode out of Nashville on a rail after he foisted the disgusting pile of filth that was “Think A Little Less” upon the world in 2016. Instead, Ray hung around just long enough to give us a head-fake towards respectability with “Get To You”… and quickly dove back into the Bro-Country turd pile to bring us “One That Got Away,” a self-centered, misogynistic nightmare that took sole possession of the record for the worst-ever song reviewed on this blog. (While it managed to top the Mediabase airplay chart, its quest for Billboard glory was denied by Thanos Luke Combs, and it had to settle for a #3 peak.) Now, Ray is back with “Her World Or Mine,” the third single from his Amos album, and frankly, my initial response was this:

Image from /Film

Still, I gave Jordan Davis the chance to repent this year, so I suppose I owed Ray the same courtesy. While Davis took advantage of his opportunity, Ray’s attempt falls a bit short, as it’s a forgettable sob story that looks really bad when placed in the context of his previous single.

The production is a stark (and welcome) departure from the bright, uptempo vibe of “One That Got Away,” instead going for a restrained, reflective atmosphere. Melody-carrying duties are given to an acoustic and electric guitar pair, while a light-touch, later-to-the-party drum set provides a foundation and some keyboard and steel guitars are sprinkled in for flavor. There’s a bit more texture to the arrangement this time around, and while I wouldn’t call the instrument tones terribly dark, the track uses regular minor chords to support the writing and hammer home the narrator’s depression. It’s the sort of mix that invites the listener to think about the lyrics (and hey, the lyrics are kinda-sorta worth thinking about this time), but it’s also kind of a cookie-cutter arrangement that doesn’t do much to stand out from its contemporaries. The producer gets an A for effort here, but I doubt I’ll remember much about this a month from now.

The best thing I can say about Ray is that he sounds surprisingly different than he does on “One That Got Away,” both in the vocal themselves (seriously, it’s almost like these are two different people singing) and the attitude of the person saying them. Dialing back the tempo and giving him more space to speak seems to let him add a bit more tone and emotion to his delivery, and he actually shows off some charisma and believability here…at least, he would be believable in this song existed in a vacuum. Unfortunately, “One That Got Away” was a thing not that long ago, and the stench of that sleazy, unlikeable narrator doesn’t dissipate this quickly. Even worse, where the narrator of “One That Got Away” acknowledged that the relationship there would be short-term and didn’t seem to care all that much, this narrator spends all his time mourning the loss of a lover who left him coldly in the lurch, and while Ray was hoping to get sympathy from the audience, the reaction instead is one of schadenfreude, as the listener links the two narrators together in their mind and gets some satisfaction out of watching the smug Bro from before getting taken down a notch or two. (She’s not “decorating [your] car” anymore, huh?) In other words, Ray is reaping what he sewed here, and despite a objectively decent performance (in fact, it might be his best yet), he’s weighed down by the consequences of his prior actions.

Lyrically, this song is essentially Tucker Beathard’s “Better Than Me” with a duller edge. The narrator spends the entire track comparing and contrasting the current status of themselves and the person that left them, noting that the former is struggling while the latter is doing just fine. There’s nothing terribly novel here, as the speaker references the usual vignettes that highlight their pain: favorite songs, dashboard pictures, too much drinking, not enough sleeping, etc. The hook also feels a bit disconnected from the rest of the song, as the actions of both parties don’t depend on whose point of view you’re considering, and the logical connection of “that’s the difference between her world or mine” isn’t made until the very end of the song. There’s certainly nothing offensive or rage-inducing here (which is a huge step in the right direction), but there’s  also a lack of self-awareness here: Given how emphatically the woman decided that she was done with all this (throwing pictures away like Jason Aldean), I get the feeling that the narrator bears at least some of the blame for this whole thing falling apart, but there’s no admission of guilt anywhere in the song. Overall, this ground has been plowed a thousand times before, and those stories features much more interesting details and much relatable narrators than this one.

In all honesty, I would have a lot more receptive to “Her World Or Mine” had someone else been behind the mic. Unfortunately, Michael Ray poisoned that well with his past unrepentant Bro shenanigans, making me less inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt here. With production and writing that’s passable as best, he drags  the song down until it’s little more than radio filler, something that helps pass the time until something better comes along. If he can string a few songs like this together, then maybe we can talk; until then, I’ve given all the f*cks about this song that I intend to give.

Rating: 5/10. Pass.