To paraphrase Brett Eldredge, “I’m just trying to get through”…this boring review.
You could be forgiven if you heard this song and thought “Brett who?” The man has been basically invisible since “Love Someone” fell off the charts off after a #2 peak midway through 2019 (my closing line “You won’t hate it, but you won’t remember it either” was right; I completely forgot that song existed). His 2020 album Sunday Drive was a complete flop, with “Gabrielle” peaking in the high twenties and “Good Day” generating so little buzz that I never bothered to review it because I didn’t realize it was a single. If there was ever a time to drop an attention-grabbing, remind-the-world-I’m-still here track, it’s now…and unfortunately, “Songs About You,” the leadoff single and title track to his next album, isn’t one. (Although in truth, “Somethin’ I’m Good At” was one of those kinds of songs, and that didn’t go anywhere at the time either.) It’s a bland, run-of-the-mill breakup song that fails to convince the listener to tune in, and its prospects for reminding the world that Elderedge exists don’t look good.
The production fails on two fronts: It doesn’t feature any interesting pieces or sounds that make it stand out, and its vibe doesn’t quite fit the mood of the track. In terms of the arrangement, not only is this the same old guitar-and-drum mix that everyone leans on these days, but the instrument tones feel incredibly generic and unimaginative as well. There are a lot of parallels between this mix and what Chris Stapleton already hit us with earlier this week on “Joy Of My Life”: The slick, soulful electric guitar (although there’s no acoustic guitar on Eldredge’s song, so the electric axe has to pick up the slack), the light-touch percussion, the retro keyboard…it ends up creating the same chill vibe in both instances, but while it supports Stapleton’s efforts, it works against Eldredge’s aims: Even with the regular minor chords, the sound is too relaxed and neutral, making it seem that contrary to what the lyrics are saying, the narrator isn’t all that bothered by the breakup and it handling their business quite well. When a sound doesn’t distinguish itself and doesn’t really support the writing, it would normally call the producer’s decision-making into question…but the truth is that the audience isn’t interested enough in the song to question it. This is background noise, plain and simple, and does nothing to sell the story to the audience.
For his part, Eldredge’s sales job leaves a lot to be desired as well. He might have one of the best voices in the business, but the song does nothing to show it off, keeping him in a narrow range band and keeping him from applying any sort of power. As a result, Eldredge can sound disinterested at time, especially on the verses (he may be “just trying to get through these songs about you,” but he sounds like he barely gets through this song without yawning), and really doesn’t come across as someone who’s struggling with an old flame. By not being able to share his pain with the audience, they instead take their cues from his tone (and the sound), and don’t see any reason to care about the story being told. Eldredge has more than enough charm, charisma, and vocal prowess to connect with his audience, so the decision to restrain him in this way was a bad decision, as without his backing the song get exposed for the mediocre tale that it is.
The writing here tells the story of a narrator who’s doing their level best to move on from a failed relationship, but is struggling with the memories tied to songs the pair shared together. I think the biggest issue is that there’s just not enough of anything here to help immerse the listener in the song: For example, we get a little bit of detail with the “Wrigleyville bar” in Chicago early on, but beyond that there’s nothing to help the listener imagine and visualize the scene. The scenarios are fairly boilerplate (the bar, the store, the date), and even the rock anthems that are name-dropped don’t feel like great choices for a country audience (I’ll be 100% honest: I had never heard of “Dancing In The Dark” or “I Cant Make You Love Me” before looking them up for this review). The narrator’s reactions are mixed at well: He admits that some songs “make me dance,” which don’t seem like the behavior of someone bothered by the memory of their ex (maybe if they were drinking, but in a surprise move the initial bar and “a bottle” are the only alcohol references here). There’s just not enough here to make the song worth listening to, and without support from the sound and the singer, it gets ignored entirely.
“Songs About You” isn’t the kind of song that will inspire any memories in those who hear it. From its ill-fitting, soundalike sound to its unremarkable writing to a dull performance from Brett Eldredge, this is just another song by just another singer, and to apply this label to someone like Eldredge is an absolute travesty. I didn’t need another reason to be frustrated with mainstream Nashville, but with its inability to maximize Eldredge’s gifts (and the fact that they don’t get rewarded when they do), Eldredge has gone from a potential star to a victim of the current meta, desperately hanging on to whatever relevance he’s got left. It’s especially galling when you think about just how deep a rut Music City is in these days, and someone like Eldredge could be just the guy to inject some life back into the genre. I’d say “better luck next time,” but at this point I’m not sure there will be one.
Rating: 5/10. You won’t remember this song, and you may not remember Eldredge before too long.