Sorry Caroline Jones, but you’re not making many friends with this song.
When last we saw Jones, she was trying to break through the country radio blockade with the mediocre “Chasin’ Me,” which was like trying to cut through steel with a butterknife (and it was just about as effective too, with the song peaking at a cringe-inducing #51 on Billboard’s airplay chart). For some artists/labels, this might suggest a change in strategy, maybe a slight change in sound or subject matter to see if it catches the audience’s attention. Jones and Mailboat Records, however, are flipping the bird to the definition of insanity and tossing out the same “sonic equivalent of cotton candy” that they did before, this time in the form of “All Of The Boys.” The result is no more interesting than it was the first time, and doesn’t bode well for Jones’s chances of success in the genre.
The production here veers a bit more towards pop-rock territory than “Chasin’ Me”: The guitars that dominate the mix have a meatier tone, the synth tones are mostly left in the background, and and the drums have (slightly) more punch this time around. (A token banjo also pops up during the bridge solo, and the background vocals have morphed from “spacious” to “robotically auto-tuned.”)Despite its bright, cheerful feel, this arrangement strikes me as a watered-down version of Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles’s “Do What You Can”: The guitars aren’t as forceful, the pace isn’t as quick, and the overall vibe doesn’t really match the sensual vibe the lyrics seem to be shooting for. In particular, the background vocals give the track an extra-saccharine vibe that succeeds in distinguishing the sound from a generic guitar-and-drum mix, but fails to add anything of substance to it, and as a result the listener has pretty much tuned it out by the end of the song. (Also, the decision to leave which amounts to a bunch of dead space before the bridge solo is just baffling.) It’s a very “meh” mix, and that’s not good when you’re still trying to make a name for yourself in the business.
Jones herself is a competent-enough vocalist that handles the technical challenges of the song without much trouble, but she lacks the vocal power and charisma to bend the track to her will. She isn’t pushed quite as deep into her soprano range as “Chasin’ Me” did, but she’s generally stuck in her upper register once again, and she handles it admirably, maintaining her tone and flow while showcasing a bit more range than before. She does, however, try to add a sensual flair to her delivery (especially to the second verse, which opens with an emphatic “uhhhh”), but it falls flat in the face of the move-it-along production and never gets to take root. Beyond that, she isn’t able to dig the narrator out of the hole the lyrics put them in (more on this later), sounding just as vapid and shallow as any Bro-Country singer and failing to more them feel empathetic and likeable. She’s not the problem here, but she isn’t really part of the solution either.
However, The terrible writing is the problem here. Not only are the lyrics incredibly repetitive (the “I make friends with all of the boys, I make love to you” hook makes up literally half of the song), but they come across as superficial and sophomoric, framing the narrator in an unflattering (and borderline-demeaning) light. The attraction here is completely framed around sex, making the pairing feel more like a hookup than a long-lasting relationship, and the constant insistence that the narrator is just “friends with all of the boys” makes them more suspicious than an Among Us imposter (“the lady doth protest too much, methinks”). In a year where we’ve seen a number of empowering songs from female artists, this one feels strangely disempowering, as the narrator spends most of their time minimizing themselves and detailing their own flaws (they barely mention their partner and what makes them so awesome). It’s about as poorly-framed as a song like this could be, and the audience has had more than enough of it by the time it’s over.
“All Of The Boys” is nothing but poorly-timed radio filler (seriously, where was this song three months ago when the season was more suitable for it?) that still fails to make a good case for Caroline Jones within the genre. The production is reheated rock with a thin layer of sugar on top, the lyrics only fill half a song and needed more details and less innuendo, and Jones lacks the vocal presence to command and elevate the song to respectability. It’s no better than the Cobronavirus junk that’s been cluttering up the airwaves the last few months, but perhaps there’s a silver lining here: Maybe going 0-for-2 will push Jones and Mailboat to finally try a different approach that better suits Jones’s style. For their sake, they’d better find a new formula sooner rather than later.
Rating: 5/10. Nothing to see here, folks.