Song Review: Chris Janson, “Done”

Wait, didn’t I just review this song? Twice?

Chris Janson just can’t get country music to take him seriously. When he sticks to lightweight, alcohol-fueled ditties like “Buy Me A Boat,” “Fix A Drink,” and “Good Vibes,” he gets a decent chart position and a little buzz, but the minute he tries to say something more substantial like with “Holdin’ Her” or “Drunk Girl,” he’s either kicked off the escalator early (#20 peak for “Holdin’ Her”) or is made to wait an inordinate amount of time for a lesser amount of praise (“Drunk Girl” took about a year just to reach #7). Now, however, Janson thinks he’s found an opening: The current fad in the genre right now is men promising women the moon and stars and listing all the ways they’ll change if the women reciprocates their interest (and if the woman does not, the guy hangs around like a stalker until they do). Janson’s got a ready-made story for this sort of schtick (heck, “Holdin’ Her” already tells the story of how Janson’s wife turned his life around), so he trimmed out the details, polished up the sound, and shifted his hyperbole machine into high gear. The result is “Done,” a less-interesting, more-radio-friendly origin story that is indistinguishable from the last few songs I’ve reviewed. Quality-wise, this splits the difference between Dillon Carmichael’s decent “I Do For You” and Mitchell Tenpenny’s decidedly-not-decent “Anything She Says,” and doesn’t quite reach the threshold of getting the listener to pay attention or care.

There isn’t a whole lot to the production here, both in terms of the instruments or the general atmosphere. At it’s core, this is the same old guitar-and-drum arrangement we’ve come to expect from today’s country music, although the guitars are a bit slicker than Janson’s previous work. (There’s a keyboard here as well, but unlike the mood-setting classic sound from “Drunk Girl,” we get a higher-pitched, synthetic-sounding instrument that’s constrained to long-winded chords that try to make the atmosphere feel a bit more expansive and spacious.) The tempo is a bit faster, and the drums at least attempt to drive the song forward, but at the end of the day there isn’t a lot of energy or emotion created here. The minor chords try to inject some seriousness into what is otherwise a brighter, optimistic mix, but it falls far short of the anthemic feel it’s going for, and mostly fails to catch the listener’s attention. The mix stands out only for how much it doesn’t stand out, and calling it “generic” undersells just how nondescript this sound is.

Janson can be an earnest, charismatic artists when he’s in his element, but this track is nowhere close to his comfort zone. Part of the problem is that the song really doesn’t seem terribly suited to his voice: It makes him stand on his toes to reach his upper range the whole time, and really forces him to exert a lot of energy to maintain his tone and power. As a result, he sounds like an engine that’s seconds away from overheating, and his delivery lacks the crispness and poise he usually exhibits. Frankly, he sounds really uncomfortable at points during the song, especially when the chorus pushes him to find another gear that he really doesn’t have. As a result, he doesn’t have enough cycles left to transmit his feelings to the audience, and while they certainly believe that he loves his wife, they don’t see why they need to spend three-plus minutes listening to him blow a fuse while gushing over her.

The lyrics here don’t feel nearly as shallow and cheap as “Anything She Says,” but they don’t have the depth of “I Do For You” either. Yes, the narrator claims that their wild days ended the moment they met their partner and that they would give their last breath to fulfill any and all of their partner’s wishes, but beyond that the writing waffles between vague and generic: No dreams are actually specified, the images we get are retreads that are nothing to write home about (counting stars, fading songs, sunny days, etc.) and the only difference between Janson’s ideal house and the generic American dream is that the fence he has around is a four-plank rather than a picket one. The story progression and narrator maturation here are token at best: These are the same darn pledges men have been making to women for centuries, and they’re delivered no more interestingly here than they’ve ever been. Finally, the writers’ uses of the “done” hook are telegraphed worse than Yu Darvish’s pitches, and are far from clever or interesting. It’s an uninspired retelling of a story we already know, and the reboot is just not worth hearing.

“Done” is a strange name for a song that feels this half-baked and unfinished. The production and writing lack the variety and attention to detail to elevate their rehashed material, and Chris Janson gets shoved into a role that he just doesn’t have the chops to fill. Put this in the hands of a stronger vocalist (maybe Chris or Brett Young?), add a little spice to the mix with an extra instrument or two, and push the writing through an extra draft or three, and you might have something that stands out from the crowd and catches people’s ears. As it stands, all we have is radio filler, and “done” only describes what the listener wants this song to be so they can move on to the next one.

Rating: 5/10. You’ve pretty much already heard this. Why hear it again?