Yet another coin flipped in Nashville has landed on its edge.
Harvey Dent once said that “you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” but Chris “Two-Face” Janson has kicked around Music City long around to go through multiple rounds of heel and face turns. He’s a maddening artist to observe: For every moment of great artistry he produces (“Holdin’ Her,” “Drunk Girl,” “Bye Mom”), he tosses out a corresponding flaming turd (“Fix A Drink,” “Good Vibes,” “Keys To The Country”). Some of this is undoubtedly an attempt to stay relevant on the radio, but that ship sailed a while ago: Since 2019’s “Done,” that’s exactly what Janson’s career has been, as he hasn’t even managed to crack the Top 35 in his four attempts since. He returns now with a new single “All I Need Is You,” a new record label (Big Machine, in partnership with Janson’s own label), and a new hope that someway, somehow, he can finally become relevant in the country music conversation once again. Frankly, I don’t see it: This is a middle-of-the-road, cookie-cutter love song that doesn’t do enough to engage the listener, and while Nashville loves nothing more than mediocrity these days, I don’t see this one reviving Janson’s career.
From a production standpoint, the song takes a more upscale approach that Janson is used to. Yes, the guitars and drums form the foundation for this sound, but the electric guitars are noticeably slicker this time around, the drums are turned down and don’t have the raw punch you might expect, and there’s even a string section that pops up from time to time to add some background atmosphere. There are actually a fair number of moving parts in this arrangement, but the issue is that the producer doesn’t deploy them effectively (or much at all). The steel guitar mostly mimics the repetitive riff of the electric axes, the keyboard is mostly left in the background, and the string section is only really noticeable on the outro and at a random moment during the second verse. (The YouTube video doesn’t credit one, but it sure sounds like there’s a token banjo bouncing around in the mix as well.) It’s like they really wanted to do more with the sound and assembled the pieces to do it, but didn’t end up executing the plan, and we’re left with a generically positive vibe that’s a bit too weak to move the needle for the listener. There’s some energy here thanks to the faster tempo and brighter instrument tones, but it just feels like empty sonic calories that don’t help drive the message home. It’s not a bad mix, but it’s not one I’m going to remember once I finish this review.
I hear a fair bit of Eric Church in Janson’s delivery here, but I’m not sure Church’s understated approach works as well for Janson. On one hand, I like the aura of confidence and contentment he has as the narrator, and when he declares that “all I need is you,” you absolutely believe him. On the other hand, his relaxed delivery doesn’t match the energy of the production, and while he’s a charismatic performer, he struggles to connect with the audience on this track (you can tell he cares about whoever he’s singing about, but you don’t really feel his happiness yourself). I think his performance needed a little more variation to it—without a few more power spikes to catch and hold the listener’s attention, it kinds of lulls the listener to sleep and causes their attention to wander. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with what he does, but there’s not enough right to push the song beyond just another love song.
And when I say “just another love song,” I mean it: The crux of the writing is that while the narrator would like a lot of things, “all I really need is you,” which even among love song topics is a bit overused. Among the things the narrator would like are many of the usual buzzwords: Trucks, bucks, boats, name-drops…even the lotto tickets and tropical getaways aren’t exactly novel (on the bright side, there’s no alcohol here for a change, putting it a step above Janson’s previous drinking songs). Beyond that, the song really doesn’t have anything to say: We don’t get any look into the relationship (the “boys’ ball team” hints that the couple has been together for a while, but the line passes so quickly it doesn’t leave much of an impression), and we don’t know what the speaker loves the most about their partner (their laugh? Their smile? I appreciate the lack of objectifying, but they didn’t bother to replace it with anything). The whole thing just end up feeling kind of boring as a result, and makes it kind of a chore to stay engaged.
“All I Need Is You” is one of those songs that’s really hard to review: You can’t find a ton to say about it, and you’re forever getting distracted by things that are more interesting (curse you Bryce and Ria McQuaid!). From production that squanders its potential to Chris Janson’s even-keel delivery to the rare piece of writing that probably needed more songwriters to have anything useful to say, this is an unremarkable track all the way around, and doesn’t strike as the comeback song Janson needs to get off of Nashville’s D-list. He really needs to find a way to channel his inner Harvey Dent soon, or otherwise he won’t get a chance to become the hero Music City needs.
Rating: 5/10. Meh.