Song Review: Jake Owen, “Homemade”

You know the bar is low when a mediocre trend-hopper like this song might be Jake Owen’s best song in three years.

No artist makes me bring out the knives more consistently than Jake Owen, who hasn’t earned a score higher than 4 from me since I started his reviewing his garbage back in 2016. “Down To The Honkytonk” was formulaic, “Good Company” and “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” were creepy and disgusting, and “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” was flat-out plagiarism. Now Owen is back with “Homemade,” the thrid single from his current Greetings from… Jake Owen album, and while it’s a barely-disguised “I’m so country!” song wrapped in a thin, generic layer of nostalgia that will be forgotten thirty seconds after you hear it, that’s still enough to constitute his best work since I started hanging out at this corner.

The production here is about as bland a guitar-and-drum mixture that you could think of, without even the seasoning of a steel guitar or keyboard to break up the monotony. The electric axes feature only the slightest sliver of texture to them, and their tone is so dark and gritty and that it paints the entire track in a bittersweet, overly-nostalgia light that doesn’t really fit the grateful, forward-looking feel of the writing (and the methodical usage of minor chords doesn’t help). There’s a hint of Blake Shelton’s “I Lived It” in the sound: There’s so much darkness in the sound that even though it’s not explicit in the lyrics, it’s hinting that this ideal home life has been lost to time, and that the times that have followed haven’t been a good and we’d all be better off reverting to the old ways (excuse me for a moment while I gag). The tempo is also as issue as well, as its slower, methodical pace makes the mix feel like a reheated Bro-Country arrangement (minus the token banjo) and sapping the track of whatever energy it was hoping to generate. Overall, the sound is just not that interesting, and it blends in far too well with everything else on the radio.

Owen is generally a very charismatic singer (which can sometimes be a disadvantage if the song is bad enough), but I found his performance here to be fairly flat and uninspired. His range and flow are solid, but there’s a real matter-of-factness to his delivery that makes him come across as slightly detached and even monotone, like he’s holding his true vocal power back for some reason. As a result, I don’t find him very believable in the narrator’s role, and while his home doesn’t sound bad, it also doesn’t sound interesting enough to be worth waxing on about it like this. Granted,  a neutral performance like this certainly beats an angry or sleazy one, and given how badly I’ve ragged on Owen’s last few songs, this is at least a step in the right direction (although you could argue that making the audience feel nothing is the worst thing you could do). A veteran performer like Owen should be much better than this, but hey, you have to start somewhere.

As far as these sort of rural-pride songs go, this is actually one of the better-written tracks I’ve heard in a while, Yes, this may be nothing ore than yet another “I’m so country!” song (my hometown is so country, therefore I am too) and it brings out every tired cliché you can think of (God, truck, dirt roads, Friday nights, George Strait, beer, sweet tea, etc.), I really like the way the song riffs off of the hook: “Home made” me this person, “homemade” items, a “home made” for a good life, and so on. I also like how forward-looking the song feels: Home was great and all, but it also made the narrator the person they are today and inspired them to a create a home just like that for the future. The whole approach feels a lot more inclusive than exclusive (even if the production feels like it’s looking backwards), and are are even a few extra clever turns of phrase tossed in (“turned to Miller Lites when I turned twenty-one”). While the end result isn’t any more memorable than its predecessors, I can at least appreciate the effort put forth.

Overall, “Homemade” is an unremarkable sound whose surprisingly-decent lyrics are weighed down by bleh performances from both Jake Owen and his producer. I wouldn’t go out of way to hear it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid it either, and that might be the first time I’ve been able to say that since I started this blog. Owen’s still got a long way to go to get back into my good graces, and I’d lie to see him take bigger swings than this, but being forgotten is a lot better than being remembered for the wrong reasons.

Rating: 5/10. It exists, I suppose.