For a song called “Long Live,” this thing seems pretty darn lifeless to me.
Just when you thought Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard’s moment had passed, Bro-Country came roaring back to prominence as the Cobronavirus movement, and abominations like Florida Georgia Line’s last single “I Love My Country” wormed their way back onto country music’s heavy rotation lists. However, you can only revel in shallow escapism for so long before reality breaks through, and as the coronavirus pandemic has stretched on, the Bro redux seems to have lost much of its steam. Unfortunately, nobody bothered to tell FGL about this, as they’ve decided to eschew the rest of their recent 6-Pack EP and bring out “Long Live” as their latest single. On one level, this is a rehash of every Bro-Country song you’ve ever heard with zero added creativity or inspiration. On another level, however, this song is a metaphor for just how played out this trend is, because it lacks the one thing Bro-Country could always be counted on for (besides misogyny): Energy and good-time vibes.
If I had to sum up the production for this track in a word, it would be tired. Sure, all the original crew members show up for the reunion: The hard rock guitars, the deliberate cadence, the token banjo, the hard-hitting drum set and skittery drum machine, etc. So what’s missing? In short, there’s absolutely no punch to this mix: The instruments are quieter and no longer in your face (heck, the drum machine is barely noticeable), the tone is noticeably darker (thanks mostly to the regular minor chords), and the energy levels are practically negative. There’s no party vibe to this sound at all—it just plods lifelessly along with a weary and bizarrely nostalgic feel, as if even it realizes that Bro-Country has jumped the shark. (Something that used to make people angry only generates pity and sadness now, much like the way other nations view America these days.) It’s a surprisingly limp effort that has listeners looking at their watches and waiting for the next song to come save them from being bored to death.
The vocals suffer from a similar problem: There’s just no feeling behind them. Lead singer Tyler Hubbard covers his technical bases (his range and flow are more than enough to handle the track’s minimal demands), but the energy and attitude you could usually count on from Florida Georgia Line is missing in action. (Amazingly, even Mr. Invisible himself takes a step back here: Brian Kelley’s harmonies make Hubbard sound even more tired and world-weary than he does alone.) Neither artist seems to be enjoying themselves on this track, and they make it feel like more of a lament than a celebration of the backwoods party life. However, I’ll give the pair some credit some credit for believability: This song feels like a tacit acknowledgement that nine months and 191,000 COVID-19 deaths into 2020, no one really feels like partying anymore (and even if they did, such gatherings are a huge no-no right now). That said, Hubbard and Kelley don’t do anything to make this song unique or interesting, and the audience winds up tuning out halfway through it.
And then *sigh* we get to the lyrics:
Yeah it’s a Friday night, we circled up
It’s going down ’round these pickup trucks
Yeah, it’s cold cans and Dixie cups
Just out here doing what we’ve always done
That last line isn’t just for show—this track is nothing more than a laundry list of Bro-Country’s greatest hits: Trucks, longneck bottles, dirt roads, classic artist name-drops, Friday-night all-night parties, and even “country girls, long legs in cut up jeans,” despite that sort of objectification falling out of style years ago. (Everything that isn’t called out by name is heavily implied: There are no bonfires or brand-name liquors mentioned, but you know they’re at the scene of the crime.) There’s absolutely no wit or cleverness to be found, and the hook is absolutely terrible: Sure, “long live ____” is a celebration of ____, but it’s also usually preceded by “____ is dead” and leaves open the possibility that these things are gone forever, which I don’t think was the writers’ intention here. These might be the most lazy, mindless, cut-and-paste lyrics I’ve heard all year, and whoever is responsible for this drivel needs to go retake their high school English classes.
“Long Live” is a bad, uninteresting song that only works as a eulogy for the trend it tries to represent. With reheated leftover production, uninspired vocals from Florida Georgia Line, and absolutely garbage writing, this is a poor example of a poorer subgenre, and hopefully it serves as the last page in the Bro-Country book we’ve been forced to read over the last decade. (Tellingly, this still constitutes an upgrade over the atrocious “I Love My Country.”) A wise man once said that “Time Marches On,” and Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley no longer appear to have the stamina to keep up. They’re stuck trying to sell us yesterday’s reality, and after everything the world’s been through this year, no one’s interested in buying it.
Turn out the lights, FGL. “The Party’s Over.”
Rating: 3/10. Next!