Apparently Jordan Davis hasn’t been watching the news—this is the time to be selling dirt, not buying it.
2020 was a bit of an off year for Davis (although in fairness, it was an off year for a lot of people): His single selection has improved since his atrocious debut “Singles You Up,” but his recent self-titled EP didn’t go over so well, with its leadoff single “Almost Maybes” spending over a year on Billboard’s airplay chart just to peak at #5. Davis and MCA decided to pull the plug immediately, dropping a new EP Buy Dirt almost exactly a year after Jordan Davis and releasing the title track as his next single. Unfortunately, while Davis and collaborator Luke Bryan have their hearts in the right place, the song winds up feeling uninspired and cliché, and doesn’t provide any insight that the listener didn’t already have.
The producer takes a minimalist approach to the production here, but while the tone seems appropriate, the sound is a bit too lightweight to help drive the message home. The song is primarily driven by some acoustics, with a light-touch drum set waiting until the second chorus to jump in and an electric axe relegated to bridge solo duty (along with a few notes after the first chorus). I’ve got nothing against a less-is-more approach, and this mix does put the focus on the lyrics and lets the message shine through, but the bright and breezy vibe of the sound detracts from the supposed seriousness and importance of the message. By not building to a crescendo, the song doesn’t generate any momentum and fails to impress its message onto the audience—instead, it comes across as throwaway advice offered because the speaker couldn’t think of anything more useful to say. Adding another instrument or two to add some weight to the mix would have gone a long way towards increasing the song’s impact, because as it is it just kind of goes in one ear and out the other without leaving any trace of its passing.
If there’s a trend I’m already getting tired of, it’s unnecessary that add artists that add nothing to the song beyond marketing muscle. Not only does Bryan’s vocals add nothing to the song, he makes the same mistake that Davis and the producer do, which is to take the song so lightly that he fails to convince the listener that they should be taking the offered advice. For Davis’s part, he’s done an admirable job putting some distance between himself and the insufferable narrator from “Singles You Up” and “Take It From Me,” and he at least doesn’t seem out of place in the narrator’s role, but he just doesn’t feel very invested in the story and is just passively passing along some hearsay. While the lyrics don’t have much to say anyway (more on that later), with a bit more passion or power behind their delivery, either artist could have made people stop and think “This is important; I should pay attention.” Instead, we get what amounts to glorified background noise, and the audience never realizes how useless the advice is because they tuned the song out before the drums kicked on the second chorus.
I’ll be honest: I really don’t like the writing for this track, in which an old man imparts their secret to happiness to the narrator. For one thing, no one in history has ever used the phrase “buy dirt” in this way (it’s usually “ground” or “land,” while “dirt” is the stuff you buy in 40-pound bags for your garden), and referring to it in this way feels like it’s trying to minimize its importance (after all, it’s just dirt) rather than maximizing it. For another thing, the song boils down to “buy a house and start a family,” which is the sort of generic advice that everyone in history would give you if you asked, which means there’s no reason to bothering listening to the song in the first place. For a third thing, this supposed path to happiness isn’t an option for everyone: Millennial home-ownership rates continue to lag behind previous generations, and the rough economic climate of the last decade or so has put the dream of having kids and their own house far out of reach for many people, which makes the song come across as the out-of-touch ramblings of an old man (you just want to roll your eyes and say “okay, boomer”). In other words, this song has nothing of value to add to the conversation, so what’s the point of tuning in?
“Buy Dirt” is a forgettable, uninteresting tack that fails to justify its own existence. Everything about it, from its barely-there production to its platitude-filled writing to the uninspired vocals provided by Jordan Davis and Luke Bryan, can be summed up in one word: Weaksauce. It may be better than “Singles You Up,” but it’s also a step back from even “Almost Maybes,” and it winds up feeling like a meaningless waste of three minutes that could have been better spent on a better song (for example, “Some Of It”). If Davis is really looking to become a Nashville fixture, I’ve got some advice for him: Find some stronger material with a stronger message and put some real passion behind it, because otherwise your career will wind up as forgettable as this song.
Rating: 5/10. It’s not worth your time.