This is not a great song for Morgan Wallen, but at least it’s a decent song from Morgan Wallen.
For the life of me, I do not understand Wallen’s appeal at all. However, it’s undeniable these days that Wallen has appeal, and lots of it, as evidenced by the unexpected drop several weeks ago of a new single “7 Summers.” The track was initially released to the public as a brief Instagram demo, and generated so much buzz on social media that Wallen and Big Loud Records were compelled to release the track to mainstream radio to see how it fared. It was a bold move considering Wallen is already pushing “More Than My Hometown” as an official single, but I’ll give credit to the fans on this one: This situation is more “Hole In The Bottle” than “Champagne Night.” While I’m not sure the song is a stellar fit for Wallen, it’s still an upgrade over the irritating “More Than My Hometown,” and might be the first single from Wallen that actually sticks in my head for longer than three seconds.
The real star of this track is the production, which has a retro vibe that’s surprisingly smooth and relaxed. The electric guitar that opens the track is slick but restrained, blending well with the acoustic axe that carries the melody. The background keyboard has a similar low-key feel, and the drums are both real and subdued. Unless the “indistinguishable wall of noise” heard in “More Than My Hometown,” the instruments feel a bit more distinct and separate here (there’s lot more texture to their sound as well), and the mix’s decent groove and chill atmosphere makes up for the track’s lack of energy (even the barely-noticeable guitar solo works in this context—this is a wind-down track, not a wind-up one). The tone stakes out a nondescript middle ground between the highs of the relationship and the bittersweet feel of the memory, and does a decent job supporting the writing. It’s not a Midland throwback mix, but for a cheaper, catchy replica of that sound, you could certainly do a lot worse.
Unfortunately, I’m still not that impressed with Wallen as a singer, and feel like he’s just not the right person to sing this song (he hasn’t gone through the redemption arc that Thomas Rhett or Old Dominion have, although this could be the start of that process). For one thing, his voice is fairly rough and gravelly, which clashes a bit with the smooth finish of the production. (His technical skills are otherwise tolerable: He handles the range and flow demands without a problem, although his enunciation is still a problem during the faster lyrical sections.) The bigger issue is with Wallen as a narrator: I just don’t find him that believable as a mature, reflective speaker that can appreciate a relationship beyond the alcohol and physical attraction. He might care about his long-lost summer fling, but he doesn’t do a great job convincing the audience to care along with him (especially when it’s this far in the past). Wallen just isn’t ready to deliver a song like this right now, but the fact that he avoids driving this one completely into the ground makes me think he might get to that point eventually…maybe.
Of course, part of Wallen’s believability problem is that he gets handicapped by less-than-stellar writing for the second song in a row. I’m generally not impressed with backward-looking tracks like this (it’s been “7 summers” since this whole thing ended, get over it already), but despite all this time passing, we don’t get much of an indication that the narrator has matured since then. They’re still dropping slang like “sipping on a sixer,” still personally offended by the attitude of the other person’s father, and of course, still the same “go drinkin’, same friends on Friday” person they always were. (The “bought a few acres” line would help matters…if it weren’t breezed through so quickly that you have to look up the lyrics to know what the narrator’s saying.) The constant musing about whether the other person ever thinks about the relationship just reinforces this perception: It comes across as a tad whiny, and seems to say more about how far the narrator hasn’t come than anything else. This dude is just stuck in the past dreaming about a relationship that wasn’t much more than rivers and Southern Comfort to begin with, and it’s not a terribly endearing look.
I would put “7 Summers” in the same category as Rhett’s “Beer Can’t Fix”: It’s not a great song, but if you had to listen to a song like this, it’s probably the one you’d pick. The production goes a long way in setting the mood and drawing in listeners, even if the writing is poorly framed and Morgan Wallen himself doesn’t provide a ton of vocal support. While I still don’t think it justifies all the hype Wallen is getting right now, I’ll concede it’s his best release to date, and it might be the first step towards convincing me his presence in the genre is worthwhile. However, I’d like to see more progress from him before I reserve a seat on his bandwagon, and only time will tell if he can build on this.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth a few spins to see what you think.