Mark McGwire didn’t talk about the past, but Ryan Hurd is a little too eager to do so.
When last we heard Hurd, he was limping to a mediocre #22 airplay peak with “To a T,” earning a dishonorable mention on my 2019 half-year worst-song list in the process. Hurd and RCA Nashville have sat out much of 2020 looking for the perfect moment to reintroduce the artist to the world, and apparently the success of Matt Stell’s “Everywhere But On” has convinced them that now is the time to bring out Hurd’s next single “Every Other Memory.” It’s a similar song covering a similar subject, but I would call this one the weaker of the two tracks: Not only is it equally uninteresting, but it also doesn’t convince the audience that the relationship is worth lamenting in the first place. Hurd still doesn’t do enough to distinguish himself here, and given the reaction so far (this appears to have been released back in May, but is only breaking into the Mediabase Top 50 now), this doesn’t appear to be the song that will his get his career unstuck from neutral.
The production is only distinguished by being indistinguishable: It’s a conventional guitar-and-drum mix infused with an extra dose of lethargy for good measure. The electric guitars are slick but punchless, the drums have a bit more presence but the same lack of energy (and they’re so methodical that the producer might as well have used a Garageband drum loop), and everything else here (some background keyboards and guitar riffs) is little more than white noise floating around in the background. The instrument tones are kinda-sorta dark, but the overall vibe is surprisingly neutral (it just doesn’t feel all that sad despite the lost love), and instead of adding energy to the song, the plodding tempo and simple mix construction actively drains it away, leaving the listener unengaged and waiting for the next song to come on the radio. You can’t be this boring when you’re trying to make a name for yourself, and the producer does Hurd no favors in that department.
I compared Hurd’s voice to Devin Dawson in my last review, but since no one remembers what Dawson sounds like anymore (he hasn’t released a single since 2018, and he’s barely noticeable on HARDY’s “One Beer”), he comes across as a watered-down version of Morgan Wallen now (which isn’t exactly high praise). Unlike the production, Hurd at least seems to be trying to inject some emotion and feeling into the song, but unfortunately “trying” and “succeeding” are two different things. He’s competent enough from a technical perspective and song doesn’t test his range or flow much, but he lacks the presence and charisma to draw folks to her performance, and he gets drowned out by the bland sameness of the production. I said last time that “there’s just nothing interesting or distinct about his delivery that would make me stand up and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to hear more from this guy!’,” and that still holds true today—in fact, he makes me sad thinking about all the better vocalists he’s taking airtime away from. He simply fails to give the listener a reason to pay attention, and until he does, he’s not going to find much success on the radio.
The lyrics tell the sad (but not terribly novel) tale of a narrator who can’t get the memory of a past relationship out of their lab (it comes up in “every other memory”). I’m not a big fan of songs like this in general: I get that the narrator is sad and all, but spending all your time moping around about a relationship that doesn’t appear to be returning (especially when the narrator is whining about the situation rather than doing something about it) isn’t terrible productive or sympathetic—they need to put the past behind them and move on already. What’s worse, however, is that the description of the relationship makes is sound like little more than an ephemeral summer fling: The narrator claims that “every other memory is you and me wrapped up in the summer,” it references the Fourth of July, concerts, and beach sunsets, and the memories are mostly limited to boilerplate activities like partying, making out, and driving down back roads. Despite the explicit reference to October, the song makes the pairing feel more like an extended hookup than a serious relationship. (It also doesn’t talk about why the relationship ended, leaving it up to your imagination—did someone do something to cause the pair to separate, or did the fall simply cool off a hot summer romance?). I hate to break it to this guy, but summer relationships fall apart all the time, and the writers do nothing to convince the audience to waste their time caring about this one.
“Every Other Memory” is just another ho-hum retrospective on a relationship that only matters in the narrator’s mind, featuring checked-out production, flimsy writing, and a vocalist in Ryan Hurd who just isn’t strong enough to put his stamp on the track and attract any attention. It’s a lateral move at best from “To A T,” and leaves Hurd without a persuasive case for making room for him in a genre that’s already littered with faceless young male singers. Hurd and his team need to find both some stronger material and a way to distinguish his music from the rest of the field—otherwise he’ll never be Hurd from again.
Rating: 5/10. *yawn*