Gee, I can’t wait for the sequel “Love Like A Whiskey Bottle.”
Lainey Wilson is on a bit of a hot streak recently, with 2020’s “Things A Man Oughta Know” reaching both #1 and my year-end best-song list, and 2021’s Cole Swindell collab “Never Say Never” reaching #1 earlier this year. The time was ripe for a new album and some leadoff single buzz, and Wilson’s team responded with “Heart Like A Truck,” a confessional to a prospective partner about the state of the speaker’s heart. I had optimistic expectations for this single, but it ends up being equal parts cliché and uninteresting, and its ill-fitting automotive comparison does little to help the song stand out or interest the listener.
The production has a fairly placid vibe to it, but there’s a deceptive amount of activity going on here: The song starts with an acoustic guitar and a keyboard, slowly works in a drum set and an organ, turns the bridge solo over to an electric guitar (it clashes a bit with the rest of the mix, but only slightly), and even breaks out a string section for the bridge proper. The resulting sound is intended to be calm and atmospheric, staying out of the writing’s way as much as possible, and while it succeeds in this regard, it’s also incredibly bland and lethargic, encouraging the listener to tune out rather than stay engaged with the track. (Most of the song’s energy is delivered by Wilson rather than the mix.) Randy Houser’s “Note To Self” tries to do something similar, but the instrument tones on “Heart Like A Truck” aren’t as bright, the pace is a bit slower, and the writing isn’t as strong (more on that later), which means the sounds needed a bit more seasoning here to keep the listener interested. As it is, the pieces don’t quite fit together well enough to pull the song together, and as a result it isn’t as effective in delivering its message.
Between this track and “Things A Man Oughta Know,” Wilson seems to have found a comfort zone in delivering serious, mature-sounding love songs, and while the approach doesn’t seem as effective this time around, I really don’t think it’s her fault. From a technical perspective, not only are there no issues with his performance, but her closing “hearrrrt” was easily the most-impressive note I’ve heard in a song all year (she hits a power note at the upper end of her range and holds it for a good seven seconds without faltering or losing her vocal tone). She does a good job modulating her tone to match the mood, taking a somber, you’d-better-listen approach on the verses and then quickly ramping up the power on the back half of the choruses to help drive home her point. There are equal parts caution and opportunity in her delivery, and those are the primary things that come through to the listener. It’s the sort of performance that should elicit a response from the audience, and yet in the end they just…don’t. This feels like the same thing we got for “Things A Man Ought Know,” but it only lands a glancing blow this time, which I mostly attribute to other problems with the song.
Problem #1 in my book is the writing, which somehow manages to be both predictable and confounding at the same time. The narrator here is restless and commitment-averse, and tries to convey this by comparing their heart to…a pickup truck. Alcohol may be the #1 cliché in country music, but pickups are a close second, and it’s the sort of thing that makes you roll your eyes and think “Of course they used a truck.” Beyond that, however, I don’t find the comparison to be a good fit. Trucks are generally a symbol of strength and reliability, something you can depend on during tough times. Here, however, we get one line saying “it’s good as it is tough,” and most of the focus is on how the truck is an escape hatch, a way for a fickle heart to get away when the “siren song” of the highway. (On the flip side, we also don’t get any sense of how the narrator feels about the other person—they’re so focused on warning the other person that they never reveal any romantic thoughts they might have.) These aren’t game-breaking issues, connection, but they’re enough to break the listener out of the immersion and distract them from the song’s message, which keeps the song from having the intended impact.
“Heart Like A Truck” isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t a good one either, thanks to bland writing that can’t support the writing and writing that’s too unwieldy to support itself. Lainey Wilson is the only reason you might tune in to this track, and her performance isn’t enough to make the song interesting or memorable. I’ve heard enough from Wilson to conclude that she’s got a potential future in this business, but she needs to find stronger, more-cohesive material that maintains the serious posture that she’s had success with. This track, in contrast, is like a car stuck beside you at a stoplight: You’ll barely notice it when it’s there, and you’ll immediately forget about it once it’s gone.
Rating: 5/10. There are better ways to spend your time.