2020 may finally be history, but will 2021 be any better? Let’s find out…
Russell Dickerson’s record up to this point has been mixed: Technically he’s 4-for-4 with No. #1 singles since 2017, but they’ve oscillated between forgettable and slightly-above-average, and they’ve all taken forever to climb the charts. (His albums haven’t inspired much confidence either, with his current project Southern Symphony thus far peaking at a cringe-inducing #14.) Still, he seems to have found a niche as an inoffensive Boyfriend country singer that specializes in over-the-top love songs, and that’s pretty much what we get with his latest radio single “Home Sweet.” It’s essentially a clone of Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani’s “Happy Anywhere,” with a couple of irritating decisions that keep me from calling it a truly good song.
The production, like Dickerson’s track record, is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the arrangement features a bit more instrument diversity than your typical guitar-and-drum mix: We’ve got a mandolin-like instrument that opens the song along with Grady Smith’s favorite clap track, a “diet piano” that’s used to brighten the song rather than add weight and seriousness, and a rolling banjo that actually feels like a meaningful piece rather than a token addition. The result is a light, springy sound with some decent energy and momentum as establishes a happy, borderline-euphoric atmosphere that does a decent job supporting the song. The problem, however, is that the producer went way overboard with the echoey effects on this thing, and while this doesn’t cause much trouble on the sparser verses, the whole mess turns into a wall of noise when the guitars and drum set try to pump up the volume on the chorus, so much so that it starts to drown out Dickerson’s vocals as well. All in all, the sound does it job, but it’s like using bubble sort in production code: There has to be a more efficient solution than this.
If you’ve heard one Dickerson song, you’ve pretty much heard them all: The man seems to do release nothing but love songs that try to stay on the sunny side of life, and he’s got a good handle on how to sell them. The song doesn’t present any real technical challenges (despite the brisk tempo, the lyrics never approach rapid-fire territory), but it does require a narrator to project a classic young-love attitude and and the unbridled optimism that defines it, which is exactly what Dickerson specializes in. With a bit of help from the spacious production (when it’s not overwhelming his voice, that is), Dickerson’s charisma allows the audience to get a sense of the narrator’s unfiltered joy, which is more than a lot of artists could pull off (including Dickerson himself) in the last twelve months. Dickerson’s performance makes the speaker a more sympathetic and likeable character, and for a song like this, that’s about all you can ask for.
Lyrically, the narrator declares that home is just a mental construct defined by the love between themselves and their partner, and thus could be anywhere as long as they’re together. I have to admit, the “home sweet” hook sounds really stupid to me—the second “home” was basically just chopped off to make the phrase fit/rhyme, and thus it always comes across as awkward and incomplete. What I do appreciate, however, are the vivid details provided for each scene, allowing the listener to visualize the honeymoon trip and the newly-purchased home full of cardboard boxes. Providing vivid yet varied descriptions of “home” while consistently trumpeting the narrator’s newlywed optimism really drives home the song’s message and makes it feel more earnest and believable, despite the terrible hook. It’s a pretty straightforward tune that knows exactly what it need to do, and does it relatively well.
In the end, “Home Sweet” is a pretty okay song, mostly thanks to its upbeat nature and the way the sound, singer, and songwriters work together to project a positive outlook that feels believable (albeit a bit naive). It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s better than some of the bland tracks clogging up the radio right now. I have to admit, however, than I’m slightly concerned for Russell Dickerson’s future in the genre: He’s been a one-trick pony for the last couple of years, and I’d like to see him break out of his comfort zone and cover topics other than just how simple love songs. I’ll take this for now, but I’d like to see a bit more variety from him going forward.
Rating: 6/10. It’s a worth a few spins before the New Year’s optimism wears off.