Song Review: Morgan Evans, “Diamonds”

A struggling artist hopping on the latest trend to survive? At least that would be a more interesting song than this one.

Morgan Evans released two singles in 2018, and both ended up as dishonorable mentions on my “worst songs of 2018” list. While country music let “Kiss Somebody” slide with a #3 peak, the radio got tired of Evans’s act pretty quickly, and “Day Drunk” didn’t even crack the Top 20 on Billboard. After an Australia-only single “Young Again” that earned a mediocre #77 peak on the ARIA charts, Evans and Warner Bros. have decided to close the book on the Things That We Drink To era and start anew with the oldest trick in the book: Jumping onto the latest hot trend in the genre (in this case, “Boyfriend Country”) to kick start his brand new single “Diamonds.” It’s a generic and forgettable premise to begin with (especially since major players like Dan + Shay and Sam Hunt are already camped out in this space), and it’s made worse by its absolutely horrid execution on nearly every front. It’s not as creepy as some of the tracks that predate it, but it’s nearly as obnoxious anyway.

Let’s start with the questionable production choices on this track, where the producer tried (and failed) to split the difference between Boyfriend country and the more-traditional sounds that have also rebounded in the mainstream. The song opens with some crisp banjo and dobro riffs, and leans on an acoustic guitar (with a steel guitar note or two tossed in) during the verses, but they clash with the cold effected snare drum that anchors the percussion, and the whole thing is so deep-fried in audio effects that the instruments sound washed out and start running together. Then we get to the chorus: The percussion gets busier thanks to the tambourine, the banjo goes into ‘token mode’ just like in every other song over the past decade, and the audio effects (especially the echoing vocals) just blur the whole mess into one big wall of noise. There’s nothing even remotely interesting or enjoyable about this mix, and given the choice of this or nothing, I’d just as soon turn the radio off.

The good news is that Evans lacks the creepy, selfish persona we’ve seen on his last two singles, but the bad news is that what we get in its place is no less annoying or earache-inducing. I’m amazed at just how little range he demonstrates here: He loses his tone when it drops too low, he loses his power when he jumps up too high, and his attempted falsetto during the chorus makes me cringe every time I hear it. (The same goes for whenever he drags out a note too long to fill space in a lyric.) By now, the listener knows exactly what this narrator is all about (they were a total waste of humanity until that special person walked into their life, and now they’re going to love that person forever and ever, amen), and Evans just doesn’t inject any charm or personality into his performance (and the fact that he seems to be buried under the same effects as the instruments doesn’t help). I’m sure he likes whoever he’s singing about, but not only does he not make me care about this fact, his subpar showing actively pushes me away from wanting to care about the tale. If you sound like this when you’re professing your undying love, I’d rather you just keep your mouth shut. (Actions speak louder than words anyway, right?)

The lyrics are pretty much boilerplate for this sort of song (guy meets girl, his life gets a hundred times better, and he’ll love her forever), but what irks me here is how much better the writing could have been if the writers had put in the extra effort. The opening line “I was under pressure before I ever met you” intrigued me: Diamonds are formed under extreme pressure, so maybe the narrator would take a geological approach and discuss how love had made them a better person? But no, the hook instead hinges on the lame “diamonds are forever” trope, passing up an easy lay-up in favor of a contested jumper that doesn’t even draw iron. Beyond that, you can probably fill in the blanks yourself: Finding a treasure in a mine, sparkling eyes that absolve the narrator of all sins, and “when you find one you never let go ever.” This is a textbook example of paint-by-numbers songwriting, and the ironic thing is that being formulaic and forgettable might actually make it the best part of the entire track.

Frankly, “Diamonds” is the sonic equivalent of cubic zirconia: It masquerades as a heartfelt, touching ballad, but it’s actually a cheap knock-off of the real deal. The production is a mess, the writing is cookie-cutter simple, and Morgan Evans acquits himself so poorly that I almost prefer the sleazy version of him from his last few songs. This thing only aspires to be worthy of the term “radio filler,” and with any luck this will be the last we hear of Evans for a long time.

Rating: 4/10. If you’re going to listen to Boyfriend country, find some higher-quality stuff than this drivel.