I was just thinking that Dustin Lynch hadn’t popped up to annoy me in a while…
I called Brett Young’s chart credentials into question recently, but Lynch’s bona fides are even more suspect: He’s got a few duds mixed in with his seven No. 1 songs (“I’d Be Jealous Too,” anyone?), and his latest single “Momma’s House” spent fourteen months on the airwaves and couldn’t even reach #1 on Mediabase (it stalled at #5 on Billboard’s airplay chart). I’d call Lynch a hat stand that’s just taking up space in Nashville, but even hat stands have more charisma than Lynch does, and perhaps sensing that he alone won’t be enough to get a song over the top (and perhaps to increase Lynch’s profile north of the border; “Momma’s House” only made it to #35 in Canada), Broken Bow has chosen “Thinking ‘Bout You,” a collaboration with Canadian country artist MacKenzie Porter (who last appeared on the blog in 2020 with “These Days,” a meh track that didn’t even break the top fifty in the States), as the fourth single off of Lynch’s Tullahoma album. Unfortunately, the song is yet another soundalike nostalgia track that is half-baked, uninspiring, and ultimately forgettable, which at this point is a fitting description of Lynch himself.
I’ve been begging Nashville for some arrangement diversity in their releases, but bringing different instruments into the studio is worthless if you don’t actually feature them in the final mix. Sure, there’s a steel guitar and what sounds like a dobro in the production here, but the former is buried in the background and the latter throws in a few notes but is ultimately overwhelmed by (you guessed it) a cacophony of overpolished acoustic and electric guitars and a punchless drum set. The instrument tones are surprisingly flavorless and neutral (whatever positivity and energy the mix generates comes only) from the vocals), and the vi-IV-I-V chord structure emphasizes the minor chord sections and makes the track sound far more serious than it should. The result is a mix that just kind of exists, and rather than supporting the subject matter, its sheer blandness encourages the listener to ignore it instead, and the listener is more than happy to oblige.
“Cowboys And Angels” came out all the way back in 2012, which begs the question: How have we let someone as charmless as Lynch hang around country music for this long? His performance here is passable from a technical level, but he’s terrible in the narrator’s role—there’s no excitement or emotion in his voice (especially on the verses), and his vocal tone makes him sound less like a guy happy to rekindle a relationship and more like a meatheaded dudebro hoping they can get some more sex out of an old hookup. It doesn’t help that Porter absolutely sings him under the table here (despite the fact that the key is a bit too low for her): She brings some unexpected power and feeling to her parts, and the producer has to keep her volume low so she doesn’t overwhelm Lynch’s part (it reminds me a lot of how Jordin Sparks had her volume turned way down to not drown out Thomas Rhett on “Playing With Fire”). I wouldn’t exactly her performance memorable, however, and it’s not nearly enough to elevate this song beyond mediocre, especially with a dead weight like Lynch along for the ride.
The writing puts our two narrators on either end of a random phone call some time after a relationship has cooled off and ended, and they spend the song rehashing the good times and promising to meet up again sometime in the future (a promise we’ve all made and later forgotten at some point). My main issue with the story is that there’s a giant hole in the middle of it—more specifically, if the pair had so many good times together (which are exactly what you would expect them to be: a night in the country, a weekend on the lake and “that one time in Baton Rouge when we made out in the rain”), why are they separated at the time of the call? The reason could be benign (someone left for “the big city” to chase a dream, for example) or not-so-benign (the guy was a sleazeball who didn’t treat their partner right, which tends to be the first thing you think when Lynch is involved), but you’ve got to give us more context before we can invest in the story—otherwise it’s just a phone call to reminisce about the past. The writers deserve some credit for trying to frame this song differently then, say, “Memory I Don’t Mess With” on “Everywhere But On” by trying to focus on the positive, but the truth is that this song is no different from the other generic lost-love snoozers we’ve heard over the last year, and you can’t just ignore the past without getting some questions from the audience. In other words, the story just isn’t worth paying attention too; not only is it incomplete, but it’s so boring that you won’t remember it after the song ends anyway.
“Thinking About You” is a story song minus the story, and an emotional love song minus any love or emotion. The production is ill-fitting and cookie-cutter, the writing is unengaging and unfinished, and Dustin Lynch is his usual unlikable self. As ambivalent as I was (and remain) about MacKenzie Porter, she qualifies as the high point of this song by virtue of being the only person in the room to bring some actual feeling and presence to the table. It seems that being forgettable and uninteresting is Lynch’s ceiling at this point, and at some point we can’t keep a hat stand around just because we have a place for it when we could make better use of the space it’s taking up. It’s time Nashville gave Lynch the Marie Kondo treatment, because he’s certainly not bringing anyone joy.
Rating: 5/10. It’s not worth thinking about.