There’s a reason Darius Rucker has lasted this long in the music industry, and it’s his ability to make lemonade out of generic lemons like this one.
It’s been 27 years since Cracked Rear View hit store shelves, but Rucker remains a staple of the music industry and of country music in particular, even if he’s become more of a trend-hopper over the last few years. Material selection has been my main gripe with Rucker ever since I started this blog: While both “For The First Time” and “Beers And Sunshine” reached #1 on Billboard’s airplay chart, the former had a slight Bro-Country odor and the latter was a late, blatant attempt to ride the Cobronavirus trend. The difference, however, is that unlike most of his contemporaries, Rucker has the talent and charm to elevate less-than-stellar material into something that catches the listener’s ear and invites you to listen in. That’s the case with Rucker’s latest single “My Masterpiece”: It’s a cheesy love song that sits on the very edge of Boyfriend country, but Rucker brings enough emotion and charm to the table to make it feel deeper and more genuine, giving the song a noticeable edge over its competition.
Rucker isn’t the only standout on this track: I’ve called out a lot of producers for relying on the same tired guitar-and-drum arrangement, but I have to give props to the producer here for bringing in more and different pieces to add some flavor to the mix. The track opens with a piano (serious song alert!) and a drum machine at its core, but we get some steel guitar riffs and some bouzouki (!) chords right off the bat, and as the song progresses it continues to add instruments like a dobro and Hammond organ along with the acoustic/electric guitars and real drums you expect. Despite the piano and the periodic minor chords, the overall vibe of the mix is happy and optimistic thanks to the bright instrument tones that dominate the sound, and the producer wisely avoids the trap of trying to turn a song into a sex jam by keeping the feel lighter and generally romantic (actually, I’d argue that that avoiding the slick, sleazy of most country sex jams actually makes increases the sensuality of this mix). It’s a solid all-around effort that provides adequate support for the subject matter, and takes some needed steps to help it stand out among its peers.
The writing itself is probably the weakest part of the entire track, as the love story is a paint-by-numbers affair: Our narrator is a simple, unremarkable individual who will never produce works of art like Michelangelo or Ray Charles, so they aim for their greatest creation to be the their love for their partner (“I hope they say my masterpiece is lovin’ you”). It’s a fairly common and nondescript sentiment in the genre, and while the references aren’t usually this explicit (Charles and the Sistene Chapel are name-dropped here, which is at least a step up from the usual Strait/Jackson callouts), they don’t really make the song any more interesting by themselves. Some of the wordplay here feels a bit forced as well: The “Georgia On My Mind” reference comes across as clunky and awkward, and the “Picasso never had that color in his wheel” tries to cram one too many syllables onto a line. (I’m also not a fan of the bridge, which is the one place the song gets a little too close to sleazy sex-jam territory for my tastes.) As a love song, it’s just not all that compelling by itself, with its main redeeming feature being it leaves plenty of room for the performer to infuse the writing with the emotion necessary to allow them to forge a connection with the audience.
An love song this vague is the kind of track that an artist like Dustin Lynch would drive right into the ground with their nonexistent charm and insufferable attitude, and for the majority of the faceless young white male artists off the Nashville assembly line, pulling this off would be a coin flip at best. Thankfully, Rucker is a longtime veteran with charm and charisma to burn, and he knows exactly how to pull off a song like this. His performance here is equal parts relaxed and heartfelt, and while he falls a bit behind the beat with his cadence, he delivers his lines with such warmth and gratefulness that you can practically hear the smile on his face as he sings. There’s an honesty in Rucker’s voice that convinces that audience that the narrator is deeply and truly committed to what they’re saying, filling the void left by the writing’s lack of detail and causing the potential implications of the bridge to barely register in their mind. It’s a great performance that elevates the track and make it worth hearing, and with all respect to the production, Rucker is the main reason for checking out this track.
“My Masterpiece” isn’t a masterpiece itself, but it’s a solid offering that demonstrates why Darius Rucker is still a part of the mainstream country conversation. The writing may be a bit “meh” by itself, by Rucker and the producer combine to create a positive, believable song that convinces the audience that the love on display here is deep and long-lasting. While it makes you wonder how good Rucker would sound if he had some better writing behind him, given the doldrums the radio are in right now, I will absolutely take this song, and while Rucker was part of the problem in 2020 with “Beers And Sunshine,” I’m hopeful that he can part of the solution in 2021.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth giving a few spins on the turntable to see what you think.