Song Review: Mitchell Tenpenny, “We Got History”

You and I have a history too, Mitchell Tenpenny…and it hasn’t been pleasant.

In my lightning-round review of “Truth About You,” I declared “I really don’t see why Riser House and Columbia keep trying to make [Tenpenny] a thing in this genre,” and I stand by that statement even after the track’s semi-success (it spent roughly ten months on the airwaves just to settle for a Mediabase-only #1). Where I saw persistent mediocrity, however, Riser House and Columbia saw a potential breakthrough moment, using the song to push out an album This Is The Heavy (um…isn’t this the Heavy?) and bringing out “We Got History” as the follow-up single. Unfortunately, the song is another uninteresting stuck-in-the-past lost-love track in the mold of Sam Hunt’s “23,” and Tenpenny is nowhere near good enough as a performer to make this thing worth hearing.

The production here is a really awkward fit for this track, because they try to put an upbeat, energetic spin on a breakup that the narrator can’t get past. The tom-tom-heavy percussion calls to mind the “drum beat carries on” part of Nickelback’s “When We Stand Together,” and the spacious synth tones, serious piano, and washed-out electric guitars do their darnedest to spin the song as some sort of empowering anthem, when in reality this guy is stuck on “Memory Lane” as much as Old Dominion is. (The instruments also all run together on the choruses to create the dreaded wall of noise that no one looks forward to.) This feels like the absolute opposite of the atmosphere a song like this should be aiming for, and the lyrics have so little to say on the subject that there’s not a heck of a lot for the sound to support in the first place. This appears to be a case of the producer trying to turn a song into something completely different than the writers intended, and the results ends up confusing the audience more than interesting them.

As far as Tenpenny, he is the absolute last person you want behind the mic for a song like this. We don’t get a ton of detail from the writing about the breakup (more on that later), and with Tenpenny, a man with “absolutely no charisma or credibility,” the default assumption is that he was the problem in the relationship. His turns as a sleazy, angry dudebro still cling to him like the scent of a cheap cigar, and he brings an extra dose of smugness to the lines that reference the memory of his ex (as if he’s lording the fact that he will forever remember the good times over the other person) that turns my stomach a little. Throw in a voice that lacks power and is only slightly less raspy than Kip Moore, and you’ve got a situation where putting literally anyone else behind the mic would be an improvement (heck, even I could do a better job with this track). With so many artists in this lane, I see no reason why anyone would give Tenpenny the time of day on an unremarkable track that he absolutely fails to sell.

Speaking of that unremarkable story: The narrator here has gone through a traumatic breakup, and are left to revel in their past escapades to avoid confronting their lack of a future. The writing here is defined mostly what it lacks:

  • It lacks detail: We get very little information about either the good or bad times in the relationship, so we’re once again left to speculate about what went wrong (again, not a good thing with a lummox like Tenpenny involved) and can only assume what went right (we only know the locations: Pensacola and a Toyota Corolla).
  • It lacks maturity: Okay, so we can make some decent assumptions about what went right based on the clues we have (“Drunk and singing Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Told me, ‘Baby, don’t you stop kissing me, kissing me'”), which boils down to…alcohol and sex. It’s the sort of stuff a young kid might latch on to from a breakup, but it doesn’t strike me as a great foundation for a long-lasting relationship (and if Tenpenny is still longing for their ex at his age, he needs to grow up and move on).
  • It lacks appeal: Even we if ignore the fact that this trope has been overdone over the last few years, there’s just nothing here to hook the listener and draw them into the song. The previous two bullet points render the narrator’s fantasy land impotent and uninteresting (in a way, you kind of understand why the other person moved on), and by the second verse you’re ready to move on to the next track on the playlist.

It’s just not that enjoyable or moving of a story, and none of the other pieces here can save it.

“We Got History” is a boring song that fails to justify its own existence. The writing has too little to say, Mitchell Tenpenny proves to be the wrong person to say it, and the producer tries to save the whole mess by turning it into some awkward arena-ready power ballad. At this point, I’m pretty much done with Tenpenny: He’s had years to prove himself to be a competent, interesting artist, and he simply hasn’t done it. There are so many artists in this lane right now, and Tenpenny is easily one of the weakest of the bunch. Perhaps “We Got History,” but it’s not the kind we’ll want to reminisce about down the road.

Rating: 5/10. Zzzzz…

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