Don’t look now, but it’s time for our yearly dose of Parmalee pop-country. Just like last time, you won’t taste a thing.
As much as the Boyfriend country trend annoyed me, the members of Parmalee probably wake up every day thanking their lucky stars that it came around. After several years of embarrassing failures (“Hotdamalama,” anyone?) and complete irrelevance, the group teamed up with Blanco Brown and did their best Dan + Shay impression for “Just The Way,” a forgettable Boyfriend track that nonetheless broke the band out of their slump and put them back at #1 (even if it took nearly ten months for it to happen). With no other options or redeeming characteristics, the band has decided to ride this train to the end of the line, and thus we’re now getting “Take My Name,” a boring by-the-numbers love song that feels consciously and conspicuously crafted to be a part of every wedding playlist in 2022. The track is equals parts cheesy and synthetic, and will be quickly forgotten once the newness wears off.
I feel like analyzing the production here is a complete waste of time, because let’s be honest, you already what instruments are here and what the mix sounds like. The song is primarily piano-driven, and while there are other instruments present (some acoustic and electric guitars for background noise, some steel guitar notes for flavor, and even what sounds like a token banjo buried deep in the arrangement), they don’t add a lot to the sound, and for the most part you won’t realize they’re even there (even the electric guitar solo is so short it feels kind of sad). Still, pianos are the ultimate “serious song” indicator are at least a defensible choice for the song, I can’t say the same about the percussion, which is dominated by a slick, synthetic beat (real drums occasionally pop in, but they sound dull and canned). The beat clashes badly with the song’s subject matter: If you’re trying to create/celebrate a love that is supposedly deep and everlasting, leaning on percussion that sounds this cheap and fake really undercuts your argument (after all, these are the same beats used in all the sleazy pick-up songs we’ve gotten over the last few years). I’m also not a fan of the overall feel of the sound, with the piano sounding too dark and the minor chords being too prevalent to let the song feel happy or romantic. In other words, this whole thing feels like a series of bad decisions, and simply doesn’t establish the right vibe for the writing.
On “Just The Way,” I declared that “Brown is the only big addition to Parmalee’s bland formula,” and with him gone the group reverts back to their usual bland mediocrity. Lead singer Matt Thomas avoids any technical issues on the track, but there’s nothing compelling about him as a vocalist (or distinct either; if you told me that, say, Matt Stell was singing this song, I would believe you). I’m sure the narrator cares a whole bunch about their significant other, but Thomas fails to allow the audience to share in those feelings, and thus he can’t convince them to give two you-know-whats about their love story, and as a result the song simply bores them to tears (seriously, I would have walked away from this song after the first listen if I wasn’t reviewing it). The rest of the band is as invisible and replaceable as ever: There’s nothing distinct about their sound or their harmonies, so why does Stoney Creek bother keeping them on the payroll? This song has been done a million times before (heck, Dan + Shay have done it several times themselves, although whether they did it any better is a matter of debate), and with nothing special to catch your ear from the vocals, you’re not missing anything by missing this one.
The lyrics are…well, they’re really just an extended marriage proposal, and frankly it’s so cheesy that you could serve it with red wine. The narrator is just so smitten with their partner that they’re throwing caution to the wind and asking them to “take my name” (which is pretty weak as far as hooks go). I understand trying to be “effectively vague” to make the song applicable to as many people as possible, but the song doesn’t provide any backstory for the narrator at all: No first meeting, no first kiss, no anything for the listener to visualize and imagine. The whole thing comes across as way more ephemeral than it should—it’s as if the pair just met and the narrator immediately decided it was forever (which is both creepy and par for the course for Boyfriend country). Another issue is that the song is heavily dependent on the performer’s charisma: With the narrator being the only character that’s even partially fleshed out (they’re declared to be “the last guy anybody think might ever be talking like this”), they’re reliant on the singer having a notable footloose-and-fancy-free persona to make the song believable, and Thomas isn’t really notable on any level (although anyone who sings a song like “Hotdamalama” might well be the last person you expect to make this kind of statement). In the end, this is a run-of-the-mill, paint-by-numbers love song that barely qualifies as the framework for a story, and we’ve all got better things to do than listen to a half-written song.
“Take My Name” is the country music equivalent of a no-op: It exists, but it does nothing, says nothing, and ultimately makes you feel nothing. The production is ill-fitting and bland, the writing is vacuous and half-baked, and Parmalee demonstrates all the charm and catchiness of a bag of potatoes. At a time when even Dan + Shay appear to have lost some of their luster (“Steal My Love” is barely crawling up the charts right now), I don’t see this off-brand version of that pair gaining much traction with this track, especially with wedding season so far away. You won’t hate the song if you hear it, but you’ll hate yourself for wasting valuable time listening to it, and by the end you’ll be telling this group to keep their crummy name as you head for the door.
Rating: 5/10. Don’t bother with this one.