More like “Hell Meh,” if you ask me.
I’ve called Little Big Town the ultimate boom-or-bust band a few times, but they’ve been nothing but busts since “Better Man” hit #1 in 2016. Their previous album Nightfall was a complete bust, as none of the singles even managed to crack the top thirty on Billboard’s airplay chart, and the only award “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” won was my Worst Song of the Year award in 2020. The group avoided country radio in 2021, and is only now coming back with a new single “Hell Yeah.” While this is much better than their last single (which isn’t saying much), I wouldn’t call it terribly inspired or interesting either, and with its ill-fitting pieces and disinterested tone, I doubt it’s going to break the group’s current losing streak.
I really don’t like the production choices here, as there are too many instruments working against the desired tone of the writing. From the percussion mix of sticks, shakers, and Grady Smith’s favorite snap track to the pairing of a spring acoustic guitar and a slick, soulful electric one to the prominence of the retro-sounding organ, the vibe of the sound is incredibly chill and relaxed, which is the exact opposite of the song’s message. The narrator claims that the party-hardy act is just that, and that they’re actually still torn up over a failed relationship, but the light, smooth instrument tones indicate that the narrator is doing just fine and doesn’t give two snap tracks about their ex. It drains the speaker of the credibility and believability, and instead pushes the listener to care as little about the story as the producer does. Yes, there are some minor chords that try to reveal the pain behind the mask, but they’re buried in all the positivity, and the audience simply doesn’t know whose lead to follow. Using a contradictory mix like this can work in some instances, but this isn’t one of them.
The lead singing duties are given to Phillip Sweet this time around, and while he doesn’t sound terrible or have any technical issues with the song, he comes across as a little too relaxed for his own good, especially on the choruses. He declares that he’s still feeling down over his recent breakdown, but he puts no passion or feeling behind his delivery for most of the song (heck, he doesn’t even bother to apply any power or jump up in his range until the third chorus), and as such he’s only believable during the first verse when he’s putting up the front and claiming that he doesn’t actually care. I’m also not a big fan of the harmony vocals here: Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman are a bit too loud and over-echoey, the group’s voices don’t blend together as well as they usually do, and nobody brings enough emotion to the table for us to buy what the speaker is saying. It’s a performance that furthers the song’s contradicts and honestly feels a bit mailed-in, and the only reason the listener isn’t confused over how to feel is that they don’t care enough to be confused.
The song opens with a few head-fake lines where the narrator proclaims that they don’t care about their lost love, but they change their tune so quickly that it makes you wonder why they protested the idea in the first place. Sure, it was to help fit the “hell no/hell yes” wordplay, but honestly the hook isn’t strong enough to go to such a length for, and other than that there’s nothing here to distinguish the song from the tens of thousands of booze-soaked lost-love songs in this lane. There aren’t any outbursts of emotion or vivid scenery or razor-sharp lines to catch the listener’s ear; the dude is just partying his eyeballs out in a undisclosed/undescribed location while halfheartedly claiming they’re heartbroken. (I’m starting to wonder if the reason old people don’t like new music is because they’ve heard it all before, so only newer listeners are wowed by its “novelty.”) You’ve got to bring more to the writer’s table to stand out in a well-trodden lane like this one, and exactly zero of the parties involved in this project did so.
“Hell Yeah” is one of those songs that takes forever to review because it’s so nondescript and uninspired that you keep getting distracted by things that are more interesting, like folding laundry or watching paint dry. The writers put in the minimum required effort to say how much they missed somebody, the producer inexplicably tried to turn it into a nihilistic feel-good experience, and Little Big Town just collectively shrugged and read whatever was in front of them. I pretty much declared LBT’s career over three years ago, and neither this song nor anything else I’ve seen since then have convinced me otherwise. If they want to prove me wrong, they’d better hurry up, because they’re running out of time.
Rating: 5/10. *yawn*