Song Review: Brett Young, “Catch”

If only Brett Young could “Catch” some better material.

I found Young’s sophomore album Ticket To L.A. to be a bit weaker than his self-titled debut disc, and after “Here Tonight” spent multiple weeks at No. 1, I didn’t see an obvious choice on Ticket To L.A. for a follow-up single (the title track? “Where You Want Me”? Maybe “Chapters” with Gaven DeGraw?). For Young and his team, the answer they settled on was “Catch,” and frankly, Big Machine is darned lucky that Young is as talented as he is, because this song wouldn’t stand on its own. The track is a “hey, I randomly bumped into my soulmate and I’m going to chase after them” creepfest along the lines of Jimmie Allen’s “Make Me Want To” (Chris Young’s questionable “Aw Naw” comes to mind as well), and it’s a credit to Brett Young that he not only manages to keep the song out of the gutter, but makes it feel inoffensive and earnest, if not terribly memorable.

In contrast to “Here Tonight,” “Catch” runs a bit closer to the original “Caliville” style that defined Young’s debut album. The song features the same deft balance of acoustic and synthetic elements that “Sleep Without You” and “In Case You Didn’t Know” had, leaning on an acoustic guitar and a subdued mix of real and fake percussion, adding a few spacious synth swells in the background to give the song a spacious feel. (A few extra elements get some space to breathe later in the mix, such as a clean electric guitar on the pre-bridge solo and a string section on the bridge proper. Heck, even a mandolin shows up to open the final chorus!) The brighter instrumentation meshes well with the narrator’s sudden elation at finding the perfect partner, and the slower tempo and softer sound add some emotional heft to the writing (while also keeping the drum machine from annoying the audience). That said, the result is the sort of light, inoffensive pop-country sound that blends in a little too well with everything else on the radio, and it doesn’t register as anything too exciting in the listener’s mind. I’d call it a no-op overall, as it’s neither terribly good nor terribly bad.

I’m calling an audible and jumping to the lyrics, because as clever as they might be, I really don’t like them. The narrator starts by claiming they were just out to decompress and go out with friends…

But then I saw your face
Now you got me trying to
Catch your eye, catch your name
Catch a spark and start a flame
The way you’re smilin’, I can’t help myself
Girl you got me trying to catch my breath

While I do like the way the “catch” phrase was worked into the chorus in various ways, it doesn’t obscure the fact that this narrator is just another pushy meathead who spots a women and just has to have her in his arms. Never mind what the other person wants or thinks; the stars have aligned for the speaker, so the chase is on. In a vacuum, this sort of attitude calls everything the narrator says into question: Were they really just out to “catch a buzz, catch a game, catch up with the boys”? Did this other person really “[mess] up all [their] plans”? And just how deep is this sudden devotion anyway: Is it really love, or will it only cover a one-night stand? The song doesn’t explicitly address this last question, but given the narrator’s aggressive behavior and the amount of sleazy songs in this vein I’ve heard in the last few years, I’d bet on the latter over the former. Simply put, this track is neither wholesome nor well-written, and I’m not impressed with its message.

So with objectionable writing like this, why am I not immediately exiling this track to sonic purgatory? The answer lies in the artist: Brett Young is one of the smoothest operators in country music, and much like Darius Rucker on “For The First Time,” Young surgically drains all the sleaze out of the song with his earnest charm and his incredible charisma. The song fits well within his range and doesn’t strain his flow, but it’s the honest and genuine feel of his vocals that fills in the many cracks in the writing and elevates the song to a respectable level. The highest compliment I can pay him here is that despite twenty or so spins of the song, I really didn’t notice the issues with the narrator or the similarities to other not-so-highly-rated songs until I really started digging into the lyrics. Yes, the song isn’t terribly novel or memorable, and the words tend to flow in one ear and out the other, but I have to tip my hat to Young here: He takes a song that has no right to be listenable and actually makes it enjoyable.

“Catch” is best described as an averted train wreck, with only the sheer force of Brett Young’s talent standing between the track and the garbage can. With such poor writing and unremarkable production, the fact that this even resembles a decent listen is a minor miracle, and makes the outlook for Young’s future in the genre even brighter. His debut album demonstrated how far he could go with good songs backing him, but this shows that he can take even a mediocre track a long way.

Rating: 6/10. Give this one a shot and see what you think.