Apparently when you take the twist out of a song, you take all the flavor with it.
Neither Carly Pearce nor Lee Brice have had a particularly smooth go of things for a while. Pearce’s chart peaks have drifted sharply downwards since her #1 debut “Every Little Thing” (her last single “Closer To You” only reached #28 on Billboard’s airplay chart) and while Brice topped the charts with the earache that was “Rumor,” it was his first trip there since 2014. Desperation can lead to strange metaphorical bedfellows, and now Pearce and Brice have unexpectedly teamed up for a new single “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” a song that examines the wreckage of a failed relationship and wishes the other party well. It’s the exact same song as Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope” minus the vengeful twist at the end of the chorus, but that one subtraction (and the raw emotion associated with it) leave us with a bland, generic track that doesn’t leave anywhere near the impact of its immediate predecessor on this blog.
The production here is much more conventional than Barrett’s pop-leaning mix, but it doesn’t do as good a job setting the proper mood for the song. The foundation is primarily a standard guitar-and-drum affair (although the guitars that drive the melody start acoustic and stay that way), with a prominent dobro providing much of the seasoning as the track goes along. (A keyboard floats around in the background and an electric guitar steps out briefly and unimpressively on the bridge solo, but neither makes much of a contribution here.) The mix shoots for a spacious feel but doesn’t quite get there, and the energy level is just barely enough to keep the song from plodding, and the overall level of polish here gives the song a dull, controlled feel that severely blunts its impact on the listener (even the minor chords aren’t really dark, and just seem to introduce confusion about the narrator’s true feelings). It only kinda-sorta does the job it’s asked to do, and it’s certainly nothing to write home about.
Honestly, I don’t think pairing Pearce and Brice was a terribly good idea. The vocal chemistry is lacking, and their harmony vocals don’t sound good unless Brice really stretches to match Pearce’s upper range (when Pearce goes low, Brice just bottoms out and disappears). Similarly (and despite Brice’s best Marty Raybon impression), until they really start bringing some power to bear on the choruses, both artists come across as a bit nonchalant on their deliveries, as if the loss of the relationship really doesn’t bother them (which really sounds awkward when the chorus ends and the production immediately jumps to a minor chord). They’re certainly believable when they wish each other the best, but they just don’t seem all that hurt by the breakup, making the audience wonder if the other person really meant that much to them. Where Barrett brought an edge and an attitude to her song, Pearce and Brice bring a restraint and a casualness to the performance that simply isn’t as memorable or interesting, and the listener forgets that the pair even collaborated by the time the next song starts playing.
The lyrics here just feel lukewarm to me: Two people get together, one decides to go in a different direction and breaks things off, and both parties declare that they “hope you’re happy now.” The artists’s casual approach to the tune makes it seem like the breakup was mutual, but the lyrics tell a very different story: One person accepts the blame and says it was for the best, while the other expresses disbelief at the pairing’s termination. This feels like a very public split where everyone’s saying the right things and not getting too worked up over the incident, but there’s very little emotion in the writing, and it makes the relationship come across more like a business partnership than a romance. Outside of the “don’t know why it’s called a goodbye” line, there’s nothing particularly clever here, and the platitudes offered by both protagonists are a generic as you’d expect them to be. I think the writers were aiming for some emotion here, but they didn’t go far enough, and as a result it gets buried by the indifferent performances of everyone else involved.
In the end, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” doesn’t do anything besides exist, and its justification for such existence is lukewarm at best. The sound is too safe and stock, Carly Pearce and Lee Brice demonstrate zero interest in each other, and the writing doesn’t shout loud enough to make anyone pay attention. This is inferior not only to Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope,” but to Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell’s “What Happens In A Small Town” as well. I sincerely hope that Pearce and Brice are happy now, because if they aren’t, I doubt this song will change their mood.
Rating: 5/10. If you’re looking for a song like this, there are better options available.