I feel like this song contradicts its own conclusion: Its bones are okay, but everything else isn’t.
At this point, I have absolutely no idea what to make of Maren Morris’s career. Since her debut in 2016, she’s been considered both an overachiever and an underachiever, she’s been both hailed and reviled by the country critical community, and she has an impressive Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100, but only two Billboard airplay No. 1s to go along with it. While her last single “GIRL” managed to reach the airplay pinnacle, its rise was fairly nondescript, and it was overshadowed by massive hits like “God’s Country” (ugh) and “Beer Never Broke My Heart.” It seems to me like Morris is in need of another needle-moving song like “My Church,” something that will get people’s attention and get her name back in the country music conversation. Unfortunately, her latest release “The Bones” is not that song: It’s a placid, boring track with a glaring sound/subject mismatch, and isn’t going to turn many heads on the radio.
Whoever was responsible for the production on this song needs to have their head examined, because they made this thing sound like a cut-rate sex jam instead of a solid statement of devotion. The slick-yet-choppy electric guitar and the prominent clap and snap tracks severely oversell the sensual mood of the writing (which isn’t sensual at all), and the dark instrument tones and occasional minor chords give the song feel pessimistic, almost ominous feel (which is the exact opposite of the narrator’s feelings). The whole thing ends up sounding incredibly generic, and the simple riffs and slower, deliberate tempo generate zero energy and leave the song to trudge lifelessly from start to finish. It’s the sort of sound that’s really hard to review because it just can’t keep your attention, and you have to run it back ten times because your mind keeps wandering away to more interesting subjects.
Morris’s performance here isn’t anything to write to home about either, mostly because she doesn’t capture the depth of the narrator’s feelings or transmit them to the audience. Her range and flow are as decent as they’ve ever been, but the “tired, weary quality” of her vocals I mentioned in my “GIRL” review works against her on this track. While it may reflect the hard times the narrator and their partner have survived, it doesn’t project any confidence that the feelings between them were remain strong (despite the lyrics explicitly declaring that they will). In fact, Morris’s flat, disinterested delivery doesn’t really project anything at all, making the writing’s sentiments feel shallow and disingenuous. Where the production gives you the wrong idea about the song, Morris gives you no idea at all, and it’s tough to tell which is the worse outcome.
In general, the writing isn’t too bad: The narrator and their partner have weathered an unspecified metaphorical storm, and are convinced that the foundation of their relationship is so strong that nothing could ever shake it. The sentiment and commitment feel genuine, and while not terribly novel, the “love as a house” metaphor is well-executed and mostly works (except I can’t stand “the bones” hook, which is apparently a real-estate term for quality construction that I had to look up on Google to make sure it was actually a thing). I kind of wish we got more details about exactly what the unspecified hard times were, but the emotions run deep enough to give you a real sense of optimism about the relationship, even if nothing else about the song shares that feeling. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a “love that survives the tough times” track, and it’s a shame that the other pieces of the song can’t help elevate it.
I feel like the bones of “The Bones” are decent, but everything around them crumbles to dust under scrutiny. The writing is solid if not spectacular, but it’s undercut by poor production choices and a mediocre performance from Maren Morris herself. In the end, it’s a middle-of-the-road love song that doesn’t stick in your head for very wrong, and it likely means that the strange, inexplicable saga of Morris’s career will continue to be strange and inexplicable for a while longer.
Rating: 5/10. *yawn*