Is it a step forward? No, but it’s not a step backwards either, and I suppose that’s something.
To say Jordan Davis made a bad first impression in country music is an understatement:His debut single “Singles You Up” would up as the worst single of 2017, and his follow-up “Take It From Me” finished as the fourth-worst song of 2018. 2019’s “Slow Dance In A Parking Lot,” however, was a much better showing, offering a brief glimpse of hope that Davis could eventually become a competent country artists. Now, Davis is back with a new self-titled EP and new radio songle “Almost Maybes,” and it…well, it’s more of a lateral move than anything else, continuing to hint at Davis’s potential but not really turning in into production. It’s a decent-but-flawed look at how past relationships are stepping stones to present ones, and it’s at least a step up from the careless Cobronavirus party tracks we’ve been force-fed over the last few months.
Davis’s style has always run closer to the Metropolitan movement than Bro-Country, and that trend continues here: The track opens with a slick electric guitar and a full string section, and is eventually backed by the most diverse percussion set I’ve heard in a while, including everything from hand-played bongos to drum machines to thew usual drum set. (A keyboard and dobro can be heard in the background as well, but neither adds a ton to the mix.) The tone of the arrangement walks a fine line here: There’s a lot of past negativity to parse through, so the instruments don’t sound exceptionally bright, but there’s a fair amount of energy here and the overall vibe is generally optimistic to reflect the payoff for the narrator and their current partner at the end of the tunnel. This sound won’t set the world on fire by any means, but I appreciate the producer’s willingness to take a few risks on some non-standard instruments and walk a fine line through a complex, two-sided subject.
I’m also happy to report that Davis’s improvements as a vocalist seem to be more than temporary changes. Despite the sleazy persona he cultivated with his first few singles (or perhaps because of it), he’s actually believable in the role of an unlucky-in-love sap who’s finally stumbled into a good thing and has learned a) what they want, and b) how not to lose it when they find it. It’s a passable performance technically (the range and flow demands are minimal, although Davis still lacks the vocal identity that would distinguish himself from his peers), but being able to credibly deliver these lines and convince the audience that he’s really learned his lessons is a big step forward in his development. I wouldn’t say I’m convinced that he’ll actually make this particular relationship work, but I’m reasonably confident he’ll make a good faith effort.
I have mixed feelings about the writing here: On one hand, I like the recognition of the various reasons the narrator’s previous relationships ended (he actually admits that he ended some of them by choice!), there are a couple of nice line mixed in (“the weeds that looked like daisies,” “My mama loved her more than me”), and I’ve always had a soft spot for songs like this that recognizes the failures of the past and proclaim that they will learn from them. On the other end, we’re never really given a reason why some of the other parties ended the relationship (things just kind of stopped from the narrator’s perspective, and it’s hard to learn from an experience when you don’t understand why it happened), and the “almost maybes” hook is weak and poorly constructed (it’s as made-up a term as “singles you up”was). I’m also not a huge fan of the bridge: The “sad songs” line doesn’t fit in the story at all, and I really don’t like the “bat shit crazies” label the writers throw in. There’s a decent kernel of a song here, but I feel like it could have used a bit more polish.
While I would rank “Almost Maybes” behind “Slow Dance In A Parking Lot,” it wouldn’t be by much, and the song is still a huge improvement over the drivel Jordan Davis was dumping on us in the beginning. The production is solid, the vocals are believable, and the strengths of the writing help balance out its weaknesses. I doubt I’ll truly remember this song in a few months, but I’m also reasonably certain I won’t be cursing its name the way I am with Brad Paisley’s “No I In Beer,” and it gives me hope that Davis might eventually find his footing in country music and contribute to the genre rather than detract from it.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth a few spins to see for yourself.