If Luke Bryan is looking to put Ambien out of business, he’s got the perfect song to do it.
On some level, I feel bad for Bryan: Where once he stood atop the genre as one of the unquestioned kings of the Metro-Bro movement, these days he’s not even the best Luke in country music thanks to the rise of Thanos. It’s forced Bryan to go all-in on trend-hopping to maintain his influence, bouncing from Boyfriend country (“What She Wants Tonight”) to the Cobronavirus movement (“One Margarita”) to bringing back the “classic” Metropolitan sound (“Down To One”). Now, with country music seemingly stuck in neutral and unsure of its next move, Bryan is going back to the Boyfriend well with “Waves,” a song that may literally be the most boring track I’ve heard in the last twelve months. It’s a bland, uninteresting, unengaging snoozefest, a song so sterile that I had to look up the lyrics simply because the song couldn’t hold my interest long enough for me to hear them all.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The production here consists of…some electric guitars, a few spacious synths, and a mixture of real and synthetic percussion. How original! The major issue is that the producer seems to have gotten mixed up and put all the background instruments in the foreground: The louder guitars and real drums provide some occasional frantic energy bursts from them, but the bland background synths end up overwhelming everything else and cause everything to bleed together into an indistinguishable wall of noise. The tempo feels a lot slower than it actually is, and the neutral instrument tones and simple I-iii-IV chord progression cause the song to plod lifelessly from start to finish without building any momentum. There’s just nothing distinct or interesting here for the listener’s ear to grab onto, and ultimately it just kind of passes through unobtrusively without anyone realizing that it’s there.
Bryan is generally an emotive and charismatic artist, but he’s never been great with romantic tales (instead we get stuff like “Play It Again” and *gag* “Strip It Down”), and the axiom continues to hold here—something feels off, and it keeps him from truly connecting with the audience here. The issue is similar to what we heard with the guitars and drums earlier: There aren’t any technical issues with Bryan’s delivery, but it’s incredibly relaxed and much weaker than what we’re used to, which causes it to be overshadowed by the producer’s wall of noise. It makes Bryan come across as a bit dispassionate and not as emotionally invested as he should be (he just kind of glides over words and moments that are just begging for extra emphasis), which hurts his believability and prevents him from sharing the love with the listener. It’s a performance that should feel romantic but really doesn’t, and instead of making someone swoon, it puts them to sleep before the second chorus is complete.
The lyrics here tell the story of a narrator lying on a beach with someone, talking about how everything seems to be made for the moment and that the pair should take advantage of it. It’s basically Bro-Country on the beach: The trucks are traded for a “surf shop” and the drinking is limited to a metaphorical “margarita saltwater sunburned sip,” but otherwise it’s two people on a blanket under the stars about to get it on, with a couple of random references to flip-flops and tan lines thrown in. The “keep on coming in waves” hook feels surprisingly weak because the beach backdrop isn’t emphasized all that much (stick this pair in the middle of a cornfield, and the song barely needs to change), and for a song that focuses on a single moment, we don’t get a sense of the scenery because everything is focused on the narrator’s feelings (which are criminally undersung by Bryan and overridden by the production). The biggest issue is that the writing provides no hooks to draw the audience in: It’s just two people in a makeout session, and frankly a) nobody wants to watch someone else make out, and b) if they need a song to make out to, there are a million more options that are more sensual and less sterile than this track. Forget sex—this thing will put you to sleep long before then.
My “Blandemic” label never stuck the way Cobronavirus did, but we seem to be stuck in a very boring, uninspiring rut in country music right now, and “Waves” is emblematic of that trend. The production is a cacophony of nothingness, the writing fails to convince us that we should pay attention, and Luke Bryan doesn’t bring enough feeling or passion to his performance to make it work. This isn’t just background noise—it’s so sleep inducing that it’s dangerous for people to listen to it while driving. I’ve personally had it up to here with radio filler like this, and a veteran artists like Bryan should know better than to foist such drivel on the public. Songs like this won’t just keep him in the role of “the other Luke,” they may turn Thanos into the only Luke in country music if this Luke isn’t careful.
Rating: 4/10. Next!