Song Review: Kane Brown, “Homesick”

Is it just me, or has Kane Brown gone from controversial to conventional in the span of three singles?

After all the buzz surrounding Brown’s rapid rise and radio success, he appears to have been somewhat forgotten in 2019. Sure, “Good As You” eventually became his fourth Billboard airplay #1, but its five-month-long trek to the top was fairly unremarkable, and it lost the hype battle by a wide margin to songs like “Beautiful Crazy” and “Whiskey Glasses.” Now, after a brief foray into pop collaborations with artists like DJ Khalid and Marshmello, Brown has returned to the country charts with “Homesick,” the third single from his Experiment album. While it’s not a bad song by any measure, it’s also surprisingly by-the-book and indistinguishable, and blends in a bit too well with all the lightweight love songs that are floating around the genre right now. If Brown wants to return to the forefront of the country music conversation, it’s going to take a lot more than this track to do it.

The production here is a classic example of how a producer can ruin the mood by over-inserting themselves into the process. There’s actually a surprisingly classic foundation here: An acoustic guitar carrying the melody with dobro support, a light hand-played percussion line, and even a classic fiddle-and-steel combination, with the former even getting some solid solo time. This arrangement gives the mix a rich, warm feel, and while the instrument tones aren’t terribly bright, they do a nice job reflecting the sadness and longing of the narrator as they spend time away from their partner. All of this is great…so why why why did the producer have to drop a snap track in the middle of this thing? It feels completely out of place and sticks out like a sore thumb, detracting from the atmosphere the other instruments worked so hard to create. (The rapid tambourines don’t help matters either.) It’s like sticking a red clown nose on the Mona Lisa: The picture is still beautiful, but you can’t help but focus on the unnecessary blemish. Sometimes a producer needs to know when to get the heck out of the way, and this lack of awareness really hurt the sound here.

It’s too bad the production stumbles so badly, because I think is the best Kane Brown has ever sounded. The biggest difference this time around is that his delivery seems more relaxed this time around, instead of the louder, more-direct style from “Lose It” and “Good As You.” He also avoids pushing the boundaries of his range in either direction, which make him sound a bit more comfortable and makes his flow even smoother than usual. Finally, he uses his distinctive tone to greater effect here, as opposed to his more-generic performance on “Good As You.” The changes suit Brown’s style well, and while he already had enough charisma to sell the narrator’s role, they make him sound even more earnest and believable, and combine with (most of) the production to effectively share his feelings with the audience. It’s a a strong performance that the rest of the track fails to live up to.

The writing here feels uninspired and unimpressive, and doesn’t provide Brown any help is making the audience care about his plight. The narrator is a traveler who longs to be home with the one that they love, which would be a decent-enough sentiment is the execution were a bit sharper. The “homesick” hook is one of the lamer ones I’ve heard this year (it’s got all the cleverness of a “did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” pickup line), and both the memories and language are about as cookie-cutter as it gets. Even the personalized second verse doesn’t feel fresh, as country singers have been trying to reconcile their home life and touring life since the beginning of time. I feel like I’ve heard this song a hundred times before, and as good as Brown’s delivery is here, there’s only so much life he can breathe into a bland ballad like this.

“Homesick” might be Kane Brown’s best single to date, but I’ve got enough issues with it to hold off of truly labeling it a good song. The paint-by-numbers writing and poor production decisions really take the wind out of what could have been a solid effort, wasting Brown’s vocals and the unexpectedly good arrangement. I still think Brown is trending in the right direction, but this song’s got a lot of company in the genre right now, and it’s not going to be enough to put him back on the pedestal with Combs and company.

Rating: 6/10. It’s worth hearing, but it won’t stick with you for long.