Sorry Caroline Jones, but…wait, is this a decent song for a change?
Mailboat Records has been pushing Jones to country for several years now, and up to this point they’ve had little to show for their efforts: Of the five singles Jones has released to the radio, none of them have even cracked the top fifty on Billboard’s airplay chart (and given how mediocre “Chasin’ Me” and “All Of The Boys” were, this wasn’t much of a surprise). This year, however, Jones took a page from the female empowerment anthems that have been slowly growing in number lately, and released “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable),” setting some strict relationship boundaries while being backed by a beat with some bounce. I wasn’t expecting much going into this review, but I’m actually kind of impressed by what I’ve found here: There have been quite a few songs singing the praises of strong women recently, but very few of them have been this much fun to listen to.
It all starts with the production, which stands as an example of how to take a typical guitar-and-drum mix and turn it into something exciting. The electric guitar (which Jones handles herself, including on a solid solo) has a bright, rollicking sound, and the percussion, while perhaps a bit too reliant on Grady Smith’s favorite clap track, gives the song a lively, back-porch feel. The pair teams up with a fiddle (which sounds great during its solo turn, but honestly should be have used a lot more, at the very least as a background space-filler) to create a barnburner of a mix with tons of momentum and energy to burn. While the song places an unfairly-heavy burden on the sound (more on that later), this arrangement is more than up to the task, as it mixes the song’s strong, confident message with a fun, positive vibe that can get everyone tapping or dancing along. I’ve given Jones’s production team a fair bit of grief for having too many empty sonic calories in her sound, but this time I think they got the balance just right.
I’m still not 100% sold on Jones as a vocalist, but at least this track seems to play to her strengths. There aren’t any real technical issues (although I feel like some of the lines try to cram too many syllables into a line), but Jones doesn’t have the power or presence in her delivery to sell a heavier, more-serious approach to this topic. Playing up the ‘fun’ angle of the song, however, allows her to bring some personality and attitude to the table, making the narrator feel more three-dimensional while earning the audience’s respect and empathy. Jones may not a big-voice balladeer like Carrie Underwood or Mickey Guyton, but her narrator is in total control of this situation, and when she declares that nothing is happening here without her approval, you believe her. After struggling with more sensual or emotional performances on previous singles, I think Jones may have found a niche as a Miranda Lambert-type artist who brings some serious confidence to the table, and while she lacks Lambert’s sharper edge in her delivery, she’s more than capable of getting her message across here.
As far as the lyrics go, I think the writers had the “write” idea (this is what you get when you start watching DashieXP videos while writing a review), but the song feels surprisingly unfinished to me. The narrator strikes a confident tone with the hook, declaring that they won’t be pushed around and that “I wouldn’t want to be you when I want you gone,” and the “park your truck facing out” line is a nice touch. (There’s also some unexpectedly rough and direct language here; I like how they use this to amplify the narrator’s attitude, but I’m kind of surprised to see a buttoned-down format like country radio let a line like “you ain’t getting in my pants” onto the airwaves.) The issue is that the lyrics get repetitive quickly: The opening “come in, but don’t make yourself comfortable” block used up getting used three times, the other verses only vary the wording slightly, we get what passes for a chorus repeated twice, and that’s all. The “whoa-oh” part is a complete waste of time, and the instrumental breaks run a bit longer than they ought to, making it feel like the writers gave up about halfway through the track and tossed in a bunch of filler to stretch the song to three minutes. The problem with loading up your song with attitude is that it puts the focus squarely on the writing, and when it’s this undercooked, it makes it seem like you really didn’t have that much to say. It’s a good thing that the other pieces of this song are so strong, because the writing left a lot to be desired despite its good intentions.
Despite its shortcomings, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” turns out to be an enjoyable,and while its messaging is held back a bit by the incomplete writing, the solid efforts from both Caroline Jones and her producer more than make up for it. Listening to mainstream country music this year has been a bland and rarely-enjoyable exercise, so it was nice to hear a song that created a fun, upbeat atmosphere while avoiding the nihilistic, devil-may-care trap that got us stuck in the Cobronavirus era to begin with. Whether or not the radio will embrace this track is still to be determined, but much like Lainey Wilson did with “Things A Man Oughta Know,” this song gives Jones the chance to re-introduce herself to the world on better terms, and perhaps find a more-permanent home on the radio and in the genre.
Rating: 6/10. Give this one a chance and see what you think.