Seriously? Are we really going back here again?
Brantley Gilbert had been struggling to find his groove since the collapse of the Bro-Country trend, but his previous single “What Happens In A Small Town,” a duet with Lindsay Ell that became Gilbert’s first Billboard #1 since 2014, appeared to offer a potential path forward: Sand down the rough edges, tone down the bombast, and show a little emotion and vulnerability for a change. Instead, with the Metropolitan sound making a comeback and Jason Aldean surging with “We Back,” Gilbert decided it was time to bring Bro-Country back by releasing “Fire’t Up” as the second single from his Fire & Brimstone album. Aside from one small nod to 2019 (we’ll get to that later), this is the same old schlock we were dealing with five years ago, and it’s no more interesting, innovative, or welcome than it was back then.
The warning lights start flashing the moment the production kicks off: We get a wave of prominent synthetic percussion, edgy rock guitars that get cranked up to eleven on the chorus, and a banjo that’s so choppy and flat that it sounds like a MIDI instrument. There’s barely any effort to carry the melody on the verses, and the chorus hit the listener with a wall of noise and attitude that fills surprisingly cheap and vapid. There’s far less energy here that I expected from a wannabe banger, and while there’s a slight hint of excitement buried here, the instruments are far too dark to be much fun, and seem to focus more on impressing the weight of the moment on the audience and less on actually letting them enjoy it. This song reminds me of a dud firework: It makes a lot of noise and release a lot of empty sonic calories as it shoots into the sky, but its fail to detonate and instead falls lifelessly back to earth, leaving no impression on those who hear it.
After showing some actual depth and emotion on his last single, Gilbert reverts to the same old meatheaded Bro here that we had hoped was gone forever. His voice is as raspy and toneless as ever, his power is middling at best, and lacks the bounce of even “Small Town Throwdown.” He seems to focus more on his intensity than on his enthusiasm, but for all the attitude and swagger he tries to project, I just don’t feel it on this end of the speaker. While he may not sound as explicitly creepy as he did years ago (this is mostly thanks to the lyrics rather than anything Gilbert’s changed), he’s still the same shallow, unsympathetic narrator that he was on country classics like “Bottoms Up.” (He claims he’s got “good times in the makin’,” but honestly he doesn’t come across as the sort of guy I’d want to party with.) Aldean may have the success and the track record to get away with a clunker like this, but Gilbert’s hanging onto to his career by a few threads at this point, and he can’t afford to leave points on the board from “What Happens In A Small Town” to go back to the backwoods party.
And then we get to the lyrics:
We done circled up them four-wheel drives
Stacking palettes to the sky
We got all you wanna drink
A tank of gasoline
And baby, all I need’s a light
To fire’t up
You can probably guess what comes next: nighttime bonfires, moonshine in mason jars, “old school on them speakers,” etc., etc. There’s absolutely nothing here that we haven’t heard a million times before, and it’s just as bland and uninteresting now as it was then. (Also, would it have killed these people to just call the song “Fire It Up” instead of inventing a dumb contraction just for the song?)
There is, however, one noticeable change: Women are only mentioned in the “country queens do your thing” line, and there’s no mention of cut-off jeans, long tanned legs, or impromptu makeout sessions. Apparently the only takeaway the writers got from the Bro-Country backlash was to lay off the objectification and misogyny, and while it’s a slight step in the right direction, what isn’t said is still heavily implied by the fact that everything else is still here. Bro-Country’s got a history at this point, and you can’t expect to cut a few lines and figure that will take care of the problem. The bottom line is that this is the exact same drivel with the exact same connotations that we tossed into the garbage not that long ago, and I’d rather it stayed where we put it.
“Fire’t Up” is the Bro-Country callback that nobody wanted, a shallow party track that offers only a token effort to get with the times. Everything from the sound to the lyrics to Brantley Gilbert’s vocal performance feels recycled and half-baked, and there’s no point in going back to all this junk when we’re still dealing with the remnants of that era on the 2019 charts. The only thing we need to fire up is this mini Bro-revival, so that it burns back down to ashes and never rises again.
Rating: 4/10. No.