Song Reviews: The Lightning Round (May 2022 Edition)

The charts are a pretty active place right now, and it’s getting hard to keep up with all the new arrivals in the Mediabase Top 50. Normally this would be a problem…except that much of what we’re getting isn’t worth keeping up with in the first place, so it’s time to once again speedrun through a few singles and see exactly why they’re so darn forgettable. We’re on the clock, so let’s get on with the proceedings and roll the tape…

Russell Dickerson ft. Jake Scott, “She Likes It”

Good grief, can Nashville just give it up with the mediocre sex jams already? While the writing here clears the bar of “not a complete train wreck” (there are some decent moments in the verses that suggest this relationship is more than a random hookup), it’s still an uninteresting foreplay narration at its core, and it gets absolutely no support from its compatriots. The production is the worst offender here: Who in the heck thought using a leaden beat, a choppy electric guitar, and nothing else was a good idea? Instead of creating a sensual atmosphere, the resulting mix feels like it barely exists and doesn’t create any vibe at all. The artists aren’t much help in this department either: Neither Dickerson nor Scott put any passion or energy behind their performances, and they fail to get anyone in the proper mood. (Also, Scott has absolutely no business being on this track. The man has zero name recognition in the genre and sounds almost identical to Dickerson, making his inclusion nothing but a painfully-obvious play for streaming numbers.) This is subpar even compared to other Nashville sex jams tire fires, and it belongs in the recycle bin.

Rating: 4/10. Nope.

Dillon Carmichael, “Son Of A”

I’m generally a Carmichael fan and I’ve been known to fanboy over obvious tearjerkers (RIP “Bye Mom”), but “Son Of A” is a bit too saccharine and cloying even for my tastes. It’s supposed to be a celebration of parenting and tough love, but it feels incomplete: The story is really slow to develop and doesn’t include enough detail to connect with the listener (for example, I spend most of the first verse wondering what the heck the kid was being punished for). The hook is underdeveloped and obvious to the point of being a little cringe, and the pivot to talking about two-parent families and “broken-home buddies” makes the song come across as unfocused, like it isn’t really sure what it should be saying. The production features some interesting pieces here, but it doesn’t really use some of them (there’s a fiddle buried here, but it’s barely noticeable), and while it does a decent job feeling reflective and building to a climax, there’s just something missing here to induce the listener to stay tuned in. Similarly, Carmichael is okay here, but his performance ultimately feels replaceable, and doesn’t do a great job selling the story. I’d be happy to see Carmichael find radio traction of any sort at this point, but I’d still be disappointed if this were the song radio embraced.

Rating: 5/10. Skip this one and stick with “Hot Beer” instead.

Caitlyn Smith, “Downtown Baby”

I know Mark Grondin at Spectrum Pulse has been hyping up Smith’s work (especially compared to labelmate Walker Hayes), but I just can’t find a reason to jump on her bandwagon. She’s certainly got some vocal talent (the phrase that comes to mind is “more-mature-sounding Sarah Buxton”), climbing the ladder here to show off some impressive range and sounding (relatively) smooth on the rapid-fire chorus, but she doesn’t do a whole lot to interest the listener in the story. Of course, this is primarily the story’s fault: It’s a late-night romp through the city checking all the usual boxes (the “K-pop karaoke” line is the only one that really catches your ear), and seems to be trying a bit too hard with clunky lines like calling the other person “a kaleidoscope of Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and John Wayne.” The production is exactly what you’d expect: A slick, synthetic guitar-and-drum mix (including Grady Smith’s favorite snap track), and while it captures the “urban” element of the song, it doesn’t capture the more-important “fun” or “romantic” elements that it needs. It’s the sort of song you’ll forget two minutes after you hear it, which it means it’s not the kind of song Smith needs at this (or perhaps any) point in her career.

Rating: 5/10. Pass.

Joe Nichols, “Good Day For Living”

Honestly, this song’s biggest sin is its timing: It focuses on the silver lining around the clouds of life, but when said clouds are this freaking thick, you can’t help but feel like the narrator is more than a little out of touch. From the whistling that opens the track to lines about things like concentrated orange juice and sleeping naked without AC, there’s a general lack of seriousness here that makes the song feel kind of pointless and unbelievable, and a line like “ain’t makin’ no worry no bigger then it is when it isn’t” feels tone deaf when the problem seems to be that we’re not making a big enough deal of what’s happening. (This is a problem I have with these songs in general: Sure, don’t let things get you down, but don’t delude yourself into complacency either.) It’s still Joe Nichols and he still sounds a good as he did twenty years ago, but even he can’t convince the listener to share in the narrator’s optimism. The sound is bright and upbeat, but perhaps a bit too much so, make the song feel fanciful and even a bit dismissive of the trouble that immediately spring to mind. We’ve already got enough songs encouraging people to live in the moment and forget about everything else; we don’t really need another, bad times or not.

Rating: 5/10. A good song for skippin’.

Kameron Marlowe, “Giving You Up”

Marlowe is a North Carolina native best known for a semi-successful run on The Voice in 2018, and he’s been riding this song for a looooong time: He released it independently back in 2019, and then released it as a radio single with Columbia last September. It’s yet another guy that’s angry at an ex over a breakup, and while it’s not as bad as others in this lane (at least it tries to justify the narrator’s feelings by indicating the ex was the one who a) ended things and b) is trying to start them up again), it’s no more compelling or interesting either. The hook here is weak and unoriginal (oh, you’re “giving you up” like smoking and drinking? Gee, I’ve never heard that one before), and Marlowe himself (who sounds like an off-brand Mitchell Tenpenny) makes the narrator feel less sympathetic by leaning on their anger instead of letting the audience share in their pain. The production is nothing to write home about, using a darker-but-generic guitar-and-drum mix to get its point across (and making a jarring transition from real drums in the intro to a drum machine on the first verse) and failing to do anything to make the song actually stand out. With this many miles on its odometer and a different song (“Steady Heart”) seemingly getting more buzz recently, don’t expect this one to stick around.

Rating: 5/10. Meh.


One thought on “Song Reviews: The Lightning Round (May 2022 Edition)

  1. God, I don’t have enough words to express how much I HATE “She Likes It”. That song is awful, yet it seems like it’s gonna be a hit for Dickerson. Sad…


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