Song Review: Scotty McCreery, “This Is It”

It’s an appropriate title, but I wish this song was more “This is it!” and less “this is it?”

With the 24-second clock about to expire on his career, Scotty McCreery threw up a desperation three hoping to get just “Five More Minutes.” The shot hit nothing but net, and McCreery earned himself a No. 1 hit, a new album (Seasons Change), and a new record deal with Triple Tigers Records. Now, he’s returning to the radio with “This Is It,” and while it’s a decent track as it is, it’s also a very safe play, and it feels like McCreery’s team missed an opportunity to capitalize on his momentum and take this song to the next level.

In terms of the production, there isn’t a whole lot to talk about, regardless of what you’re referring to. After the opening (out of place) siren synth, the mix boils down to a pair of guitars (a bright electric carrying the melody and an acoustic filling it the gaps behind it) and a restrained drum set. Energy and momentum seem to be in short supply as well, and while the mix does a nice job establishing a relaxed, positive atmosphere that supports the writing well enough, there isn’t enough power or emotion here to drive the point home. When the lyrics raise the stakes and transition from a mountain view to wedding bells, the production doesn’t rise up to meet the challenge, and makes what could have been a poignant moment feel “meh” instead. It’s a good effort that carries some emotional weight and keeps the focus on the writing and the characters, but I can’t help but feel like a great effort would have really pushed this song over the top.

Similarly, McCreery’s biggest sin here is that he just makes it look so darn easy. He’s got great tone, great range, and a ton of charm, but his delivery is so smooth and consistent that as the story progresses and moves towards the climax, he doesn’t bring enough power and emotion to the table to keep up. As a result, he sounds like he’s on auto-pilot through the second half of the track, and the song doesn’t feel as sincere as it should. I’ve heard enough from McCreery to know he has the skill and ability to deliver what’s missing from this performance, but just like Chris Young did on “Losin’ Sleep,” McCreery obediently sticks to the same substandard tone as the production, turning what could have been a moving performance into one that’s just okay.

The lyrics start by sort of setting the scene for a mountaintop wedding proposal, and talk about how the moment the narrator and their partner have both been waiting for is now upon them. (I say “sort of setting” because the lyrics make the bizarre decision to explicitly not describe the view, which is fine for someone who’s standing there and can just open their eyes, but not so much for someone who’s listening to the song on the freeway and really needs the narrator to provide more details.) It’s not a terribly novel tale, but it’s got a fair amount of charm and cuteness to it, even when the song makes the sudden, jarring transition to the couple’s wedding day at the end. Of the song’s three major components, the writing is the only one that tries to ramp up the energy and emotion by providing some context for the scene and talk about the buildup that’s been happening by the scenes. By relying on emotion rather than novelty or cleverness, however, the lyrics needs to have the other players step up to the plate and set the proper mood so that the lyrics can push through and really move its audience to feel something. Here, however, the production and vocals only make a halfhearted effort to keep up, and the listener is only kinda-sorta moved as a result.

“This Is It” gives off a strong odor of wasted potential to me. It’s a decent song as it is, and people will probably enjoy it, but it would have been much more moving and impactful (and could have been a no-brainer wedding-playlist song) if the production and vocals had done more to keep up with the lyrics. It’s a slight regression from “Five More Minutes,” and Scotty McCreery has learned the hard way that you’re only as good as your last single. If this is really it, I’ll guess I’ll take it, but man, this could’ve been so much more.

Rating: 6/10. Even in its current state, it’s worth a spin or two.

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Song Review: Maddie & Tae, “Friends Don’t”

Of all the artists Maddie & Tae could have taken a cue from, why did it have to be Jason Aldean?

Madison Marlow and Taylor Dye exploded onto the country scene in 2014, riding a Bro-Country backlash all the way to No. 1 with “Girl In A Country Song.” Since then, however, their career has resembled a balloon with a slow leak: “Fly” made it to #9, “Shut Up And Fish” petered out at #23, and “Sierra” barely made it inside the top fifty. Now, with the climate of country radio seemingly turning in their favor, the duo is back with “Friends Don’t,” the leadoff single for their upcoming second album. Unfortunately, it tries a little too hard to blend in with the rest of country radio, and it sets a bizarrely-dark tone that leaves the listener with the exact opposite impression that the song intended.

The instruments here are surprisingly conventional for M&T: An spry acoustic guitar carrying the melody, a real drum set, a few siren stabs from electric and steel guitars, and…yeah, that’s about it. (The YouTube video claims there’s a mandolin, piano, and organ here too, but they’re either really quiet or indistinguishable from the other instruments. There does, however, seem to be a token banjo rolling in the background.) The biggest problem, however, is the mood the song sets: “Friends Don’t” leans heavily on darker tones and minor chords, creating an atmosphere that’s unsettling and borderline creepy, which doesn’t suit the writing at all. Instead, it makes you question the healthiness of the relationship, and gives you the impression the narrator is confronting a stalker or something. In other words, it’s a far cry from the neotraditional vibe I got from Maddie & Tae’s prior work, and it’s frankly a step in the wrong direction.

I’ve been hammering Jason Aldean for singing songs too seriously for a while now, but the disease has been spreading to more and more artists, and Maddie Marlow appears to be the blight’s latest victim. Technically, the vocals are pretty darn solid: Marlow sounds comfortable in both her upper and lower range, her flow is smooth and easy, and Dye complements her with mostly on-point harmony work (that said, there are times when Dye seems to be singing a second melody part, and her timing on the “there’s somethin'” bridge echo is off by a mile). The problem is that Marlow delivers her lines so forcefully and seriously that the song feels more like a hostile confrontation than an invitation to move out of the friend zone. In turn, this makes Marlow sound completely unconvincing when she professes her love for the other party on the bridge (for someone who’s supposedly madly in love, she sure doesn’t sound like it). It’s not a bad performance, but it’s a bad fit for the subject matter.

As for said subject matter, “Friends Don’t” is basically “The Difference” from a different angle: The narrator is explaining to their “friend” that the actions being performed (and it’s never clear who’s actually performing them—is it the narrator or the other person?) are not those of a friend, but of a romantic partner. It’s the sort of song that feels like it should be a happy one: “Hey, we don’t like each other, we love each other! Huzzah!” Instead, the serious, almost sinister tone of the vocals and production make the imagery feel more creepy than cute:”Call you in the middle of the night”? “Playing with their keys/Finding reasons not to leave”? Accidental touches? This sound less like love, and more like grounds for a restraining order. (In truth, though, these scenes are commonplace in recent country songs, making them not only feel sleazy, but also unoriginal.) Ultimately, the writing is to weak to stand on its own, and the ill-advised seriousness of the track sends them down a path that is much less pleasant than the one they intended to travel.

“Friends Don’t” is a poorly-executed song that manages to take a love song and make it feel as unromantic as possible. Not only is it a major step backwards for Maddie & Tae, but much like Craig Campbell’s “See You Try,” it’s a signal that the pair is already in survival mode, desperately trend-hopping to keep what’s left of their career afloat. What made M&T great, however, was that they didn’t sound like everyone else, and if they’re just going to roll out the same stuff as the rest of Nashville (and do it this poorly to boot), then I’ve no longer got a reason to pay attention.

Rating: 4/10. Pass.

Song Review: Tyler Rich, “The Difference”

It’s ironic that a song called “The Difference” sounds no different than everything else on the radio.

Tyler Rich is a California native who signed on with Valory Music late last year and officially released his debut single “The Difference” to radio last month. It’s a little surprising that Valory—the home of Thomas Rhett—is the team backing Rich, because he’s basically a clone of Rhett, right down to his production and writing (Rhett’s father is even a co-writer on the track!). While the song does a decent job highlighting Rich’s strengths as a performer, it’s too generic to make the splash required of a debut single, and I’m not sure there’s room for yet another artist in the pop-country lane.

If you’ll all pull out your standard pop-country checklists, you’ll find that this song checks all the boxes: An acoustic guitar on melody duties, some slick-but-sparingly-used electric guitars layered on top, and a mixture of real and synthetic percussion forming the foundation (I actually prefer the unobtrusive fake drums here, as the real drums are way too loud and in-your-face during the chourses). Aside from a rough-edge rock guitar providing some spacious power chords on the chorus, that’s all you get: No token steel guitar or banjo, no piano or organ for added atmosphere, nothing. Even given the seriousness with which the writing approaches the subject matter, the song feels a bit too dark for the subject matter, with minor chords playing a prominent role and the darker guitar tones clashing with the bouncy, upbeat percussion. Stop me if you’ve heard this line before: The mix isn’t bad, but it’s not interesting either.

Vocally, Rich’s tone sits somewhere between Rhett and Keith Urban, with a heavy influence from the former: The rasp in the lower range, the smooth flow, the easy and sincere feel of the delivery, etc. Unfortunately, Rich doesn’t bring anything special to the table that makes you sit up and pay attention, and if “The Difference” were performed by Rhett or any other pop-country singer, you wouldn’t notice much of a difference at all. Despite his earnestness and technical abilities, with so many singers mining this particular corner of the genre (Rhett, Chris Young, Brett Young, Brett Eldredge, Russell Dickerson, etc.), Rich gets lost in the crowd, and his run-of-the-mill performance doesn’t do enough to distinguish him from the field.

The lyrics here attempt to explain “The Difference” between being in the friend zone and being in a serious relationship. For the most part, the writing does a nice job highlighting the subtle differences in language between the two states, and the “I wanna be the difference” hook is tolerable if not overly clever. While the narrator mostly comes across as sincere, the song has one major misstep: The “hottie riding shottie” line in the first verse is beyond awful, and it taints the listener’s impression of the rest of the song and make them question the narrator’s true intentions. (It’s a testament to Rich and the quality of the choruses that the song doesn’t turn into an absolute train wreck.) Outside of that atrocious line, there’s nothing else here that is particularly memorable, and the song simply fails to stick in the minds of its audience.

Simply put, “The Difference” is just another nothing-to-see-here song, which makes it a terrible debut single—in fact, it might end up being the difference between Tyler Rich having a long career and being “Tyler who?” The production is uninspiring, Rich is unmemorable, and the lyrics are unable to move the listener beyond “Oh, that’s kind of cute.” If he’s going to step out of the shadow of the current pop-country titans, Rich will need to step up his game.

Rating: 5/10. Don’t go out of your way to hear this one.

Song Review: Dustin Lynch, “Good Girl”

This song is boring and forgettable. For Dustin Lynch, this constitutes progress.

Jordin Davis may have had the worst song of 2017, but with two songs in my bottom five, I’d argue that Dustin Lynch was the big loser of 2017. His production was unimaginative Bro-based garbage, his lyrics were lazy and tone-deaf, and his vocals embodied all the creepiness and of the Metro-Bro era. He easily replaced Michael Ray as the artist I had the least respect for in country music, and after radio surprised everyone by delivering a righteous smack-down on “I’d Be Jealous Too” (even Thomas Rhett’s “Vacation” scored better than the #34 peak “Jealous” got!), I hoped that we’d finally seen the last of Lynch, of at least this awful version of him.

It seems that my wish was half-granted: Lynch and his team responded to this humbling by abandoning his Current Mood album, going back to the studio, and returning to the radio with “Good Girl,” a lightweight track that celebrates the woman that has entered his life. The song may still feature some questionable production choices and blatantly steal some ideas from “Take Back Home Girl,” but I can listen to this song without grinding my teeth or switching the station in disgust, and that’s more than I expected.

The production opens with the awkward pairing of a dobro and a drum machine (harkening back to Florida Georgia Line’s “Smooth”), with a slick, barely-there electric guitar trying (and failing) to carry the melody. A few other acoustic instruments are sprinkled in later—token banjo, background steel guitar stabs, a brief acoustic guitar portion—but the percussion is the most prominent piece of the mix (even the guitar solo is choppy and inconsequential). Like every Dustin Lynch single, it leans on an unnecessarily-large number of minor chords that don’t match the song’s happy vibe, and Lynch’s addition of “waddup!” to the end of a few (more-serious) lines is completely nonsensical and out of place. There’s enough here to establish a breezy, celebratory atmosphere while avoiding the swampiness of “Smooth,” but it’s nothing to write home about.

I’ve talked in the past about artists elevating questionable material, but I think the opposite is true here: Lynch sounds like the same unrepentant Bro we all know and despise, but the lyrics are high-minded enough to make him seem a bit more sympathetic this time around. That said, he’s made some microscopic improvements in his delivery this time around; While he still sound far too serious for the subject matter, he emotes a tiny bit more here than on past singles, and at least gives the slight impression that there’s a decent probability that he might possibly be having a little fun (maybe). The song also feels a chord or two low for his voice, but he handles it just well enough to keep it from being a distraction. It may not be a good or memorable, but it does feel like a step in the right direction.

The lyrics, despite their shallow depth, get most of the credit for elevating the song as much as they do. Rather than lording his partner over outside observers or wasting time talking about himself, the narrator simply celebrates how great his partner is and how much better his life is now that they’re together. It’s not novel, and I’d hesitate to call it enlightened (the “girl” counter clocks in at a disappointing fourteen), but it at least keeps the focus on the woman without objectifying or demeaning them. The bit about “take you home to Mama, take you to the church” feels like an obvious ripoff of Chris Lane and Tori Kelly’s “Take Back Home Girl,” but when combined with thoughts like being together for 55 years, it adds a layer of maturity and sympathy to the narrator, things that have been in short supply in Lynch’s earlier material. It lacks that extra something that could make the song more memorable or impactful (and it doesn’t get any help at all from the singer or the sound), but it’s easily the best part of the track.

Is “Good Girl” a good song? No, but it’s not an unqualified train wreck either, and that counts for something (albeit very little). The writing adds a bit more respectability than you’d expect from a Dustin Lynch song, and the production and vocal performance don’t do as much damage as you might expect. I won’t remember this song existed in a week, but it also won’t make my year-end worst list, and if Lynch wants to regain his chart momentum, he’s got to start somewhere.

Rating: 5/10. Being forgotten is better than being remembered for the wrong reasons.

Song Review: Miranda Lambert, “Keeper Of The Flame”

If songs like this represent the flame Miranda Lambert’s been keeping, she’s free to put it out at anytime.

Seriously, what the heck happened to Lambert? While other artists like Cole Swindell and Thomas Rhett have taken steps to course-correct their careers in recent years, Lambert seems bound and determined to run hers straight into the ground. Where once she released clever, thoughtful, attitude-laden tracks that produced critical and commercial acclaim, in the last few years she’s oscillated between boring, uninteresting snoozefests (“Smokin’ And Drinkin’,” “Tin Man”) and vacuous, over-the-top tire fires (“Little Red Wagon,” “We Should Be Friends”). Her latest single “Keeper Of The Flame” falls squarely into the former category, as it’s a plodding snoozefest that pays little homage to the forebearers she claims to represent.

The production here, like the rest of Lambert’s Weight Of These Wings singles, is sparse and restrained, driven mostly by an acoustic guitar and a basic drum set, neither of which sound terribly motivated. An organ and some electric guitars jump in to add some volume and atmosphere on the choruses, but they don’t address the biggest issue: An utter lack of energy that makes the track bore rather than inspire its listeners. The chord structure is also a huge problem here, as the relative lack of chord changes in the verses makes the song feel repetitive and monotonous, and the prevalence of minor chords makes the song feel more serious and bitter than it should.

My biggest issue with the sound, however, is how it fails to follow the singer’s lead and pays no respect to the artists who started the flame Lambert claims to keep. Where’s Hank Sr.’s steel guitar? Where are the string from the Countrypolitan era? Where are the rough edges of the Outlaw movement, the nifty leads of the Bakersfield sound, or the rollicking guitars of the neotraditional era? Sure, the basic approach to this mix stands in stark contrast to the busy bombast of the Bro-Country/Metropolitan era, but Lambert’s claim of keeping a flame alive rings hollow when that flame isn’t actually reflected in her song.

If I could sum up Lambert’s vocal performance in a word, it would be tired, suggesting that her role as flamekeeper is really starting to wear her down. It’s tolerable on a technical level, but the song’s key forces her to go a bit below her comfort zone on the verses, further accentuating the weariness in her delivery. Much like on “Tin Man,” Lambert lacks the power and passion to really sell the song and make it believable, and she’s unable to push back against the aggressive blandness of the percussion. (The only thing that kinda-sorta makes this work is Lambert’s past history as a traditionalist champion. If this were any other singer, even Carrie Underwood, I wouldn’t buy this argument at all.) It makes me wonder if in her quest to keep the flame of tradition alive, she let her own personal fire go out along the way.

The lyrics, where the narrator claims to be walking the path of their musical ancestors and keeping their traditions alive, feels run-of-the-mill and generic, and lacks the combative defiance that Lambert hung her hat on back on the day. Instead, the writing focuses on the toll the narrator’s struggle has taken, with lines like with lines like “I’m bent, but I’m not broken” and being “burned out to ashes.” Outside of the clever “pilot lights” line, however, the fire imagery is nothing you haven’t heard a million times before, and while there’s a strong meta thread running through the tune (Lambert is considered a traditional torch-bearer in the face of a Bro onslaught, and lines like “Waiting for a wind to…start a fire again” indicate that she’s waiting out the storm until the old sounds reemerge), it doesn’t make the song feel any more inspired or interesting. It’s a disappointing stance, given that other artists are taking more proactive approaches and incorporating their influences more overtly into their work (Midland, Jon Pardi, etc.)

I’m not ready to add Miranda Lambert to my list of artists who need to be tossed out of country music, but I do think she needs to take a sabbatical and rediscover her creativity and passion. “Keeper Of The Flame” is an uninspired, disappointing performance that only pays shallow lip service to the job of keeping tradition alive, and its bland production, blasé writing and weary vocal performance add up to a wholly forgettable track. Lambert is capable of much better, and I’d prefer to hear from her when she’s rested and recharged.

Rating: 4/10. It’s not worth your time.

Song Review: Devin Dawson, “Asking For A Friend”

It’s not “The Chair,” but considering the depths we’re coming from, it’s not bad.

Country music is always looking for the next big thing the next generic young male artist, and Devin Dawson fit that bill perfectly when he debuted with “All On Me” last year. The song got some polite applause and a #2 ranking on Billboard’s airplay chart, but it was a forgettable effort that offered nothing in terms of Dawson’s long-term viability in the genre. Now, Dawson has returned with “Asking For A Friend,” the second single from his debut album Dark Horse, and frankly, after hearing it a few times, I still don’t have any idea if he has a future in this league. It’s a slightly better tune than “All On Me” and won’t offend anyone’s sensibilities, but it won’t leave much of an impression on its audience either.

The production is a standard guitar-and-drum mixture, albeit with a bit more restraint and natural texture that I expected. While your basic strummed acoustic guitar handles the rhythm duties, another axe (which I would describe as “amplified” rather than “electric”) provides some spacious atmospheric noise, and the percussion (“effected” rather than “synthetic”) keeps time in the background. (Some random stabs from traditional country instruments—dobros, steel guitars—are also tossed in for flavor.) Outside of the drums getting cranked up at the start of the chorus, the mood is surprisingly chill and relaxed, and this vibe remains oddly consistent even as the tone of the writing starts to shift (more on this later). Despite the fact that the track obeys the usual serious-song rules (darker guitar tones, frequent minor chords, etc.) and the atmospheric noise fades away as the song reaches its climax, it never feels like the sad song it tries to become. Overall, the production falls into the mushy middle of the genre: Not bad enough to offend the listener, but not good enough to interest them either.

In my “All On Me” review, I declared that “while Dawson’s voice comes across as nondescript and slightly nasal, his delivery is sincere and believable enough to keep the song from feeling creepy.” The same is true for “Asking For A Friend”: Same old middle-of-the-road, nothing-to-write-home-about voice, same old lack of technical difficulty (the song shows off little of Dawson’s range or flow), and the same old just-believable-enough performance to make the narrator feel sincere and sympathetic. (He’s not George Strait smooth, but he’s not Morgan Evans pushy either.) In truth, Dawson’s delivery is a hair better the second time around, as his tone is more consistent and his delivery is less flashy (there are no unnecessary jumps into his falsetto, for example). It’s a decent showing, but he still feels like an off-brand Brett Young who can’t quite connect with listeners on the same level.

The lyrics are centered around the tired, not-clever-at-all “asking for a friend” joke, where the narrator asks about getting into the good graces of a woman on behalf of someone else (and who eventually reveals themselves to be said woman’s old flame). It’s about as lame of a hook that you could think of, and while the song tries to execute a head fake by not revealing the truth behind the relationship until halfway through the song, it’s completely predictable and winds up being not much of a surprise. That said, the writing does a nice job of keeping the story moving (the narrator’s play-it-cool attitude slowly transforms into a desperate plea for forgiveness), and the structure helps keep the narrator feeling sincere rather than sleazy. You won’t be crying into your adult beverage, but you will feel bad for the guy, even if you’ll only remember the song for about three minutes.

“Asking For A Friend” is a slightly better song than “All On Me,” but as a follow-up single I’m not sure it will have the same impact. Still, Devin Dawson shows off some moderate depth and decent charisma here, and given the low bar the genre is setting right now, that’s enough to extend his grace period a little bit longer.

Rating: 6/10. You won’t mind hearing this song and you might even enjoy it, but in a few months you won’t remember it ever existed.

Song Review: Rodney Atkins ft. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, “Caught Up In The Country”

Remember when Thomas Rhett floated the idea of his dad Rhett making a comeback on Life Changes? Suddenly, that idea doesn’t seem so farfetched.

The latest trend in country music appears to be the comeback, as a whole bunch of older, mostly-forgotten artists have suddenly reappeared to try to reestablish their relevance and popularity, with varying degrees of success. In the last year or so, we’ve seen Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson, David Lee Murphy, Sugarland, and even Taylor Swift come out of mothballs to release new singles and remind folks that they still exist. While this behavior is not new or necessarily bad (Jackson and Nelson, for example, released some of the best singles I’ve heard this year), these songs tend to fall flat when an artist tries to update their classic style to make them sound trendy and hip (see: Twain and Murphy). The latest offender is Rodney Atkins, an artist who had a brief run of success in the late 2000s, but who hadn’t really been heard from in the last six or seven years. He resurfaced recently to team up with the historic Fisk Jubilee Singers to release “Caught Up In The Country,” and ugh, this might be the worst of the bunch. It’s a poorly-written, poorly-executed, awkward-sounding mess that is neither interesting nor meaningful.

Things go off the rails from the word go, as the song opens with a boring synthetic beat and a melody-carrying guitar that sounds more like a MIDI instrument than a real one. Some piano and steel guitar stabs are tossed randomly into the background (eventually a token banjo shows up too), and the choruses add more drums and volume so suddenly (a brief beat drop followed by a wall of noise) that the track starts to sound like a Chainsmokers album cut reject. I can’t stress enough just how synthetic this song sounds (nothing irritates me more than a song that claims to celebrate “country” with a mix this urban and synthetic), the frequent minor chords nullify whatever positive vibes the song tries to generate, and it doesn’t even try to complement the writing. The atmosphere is best described as incoherent and inconsistent, as the song bounces from kinda-generic country song to rave-ready dance track to church choir clap-along for no real reason. It’s nothing more than empty sonic calories,  and whoever produced this monstrosity should never be allowed to touch a mixing board ever again.

Atkins proved himself to be a capable, charismatic performer on songs like “Watching You” and “Cleaning This Gun,” and there are a few things to like about his delivery here. For example, his flow is decent (and a lot better than I would have predicted), and he does a tolerable job maintaining a consistent delivery across the inconsistent production. Three things, however, prove to be his undoing here:

  • The key is way too low for his voice, making him sound raspy and toneless during parts of the verses.
  • The second verse opens with talk-singing (because of course there’s freaking talk-singing here), which compounds the low-key issue and makes my ears hurt whenever I hear it.
  • The slick, synthetic percussion make Atkins’s claims of being a tried-and-true country boy sound hollow and unconvincing. After all, nothing screams “caught up in the country” like an uptempo EDM beat, right?)

As much as Atkins wants to show you he’s a by-gosh country boy, the only thing he looks like here is a trend-hopping sell-out. (As for the Fisk Jubilee Singers, they sound indistinguishable from a generic studio choir and add nothing of interest to the track.)

And then we have the lyrics…good grief, where do I even begin with these? Let’s start with the opening lines, which you can also find in the dictionary under the term “laundry list”:

Square bales, flatbeds
Clotheslines, sunsets
Sky blue, barn red
Wind chimes, front porch
Good dogs, wood floors
Work boots, open doors

It doesn’t get any better from here, as the imagery is beyond generic (Creek bends! Fields of gold! John Deere green!) and the song never progresses beyond the narrator making vague “I love the country!” statements. (Did it really require three songwriters to write this drivel?) It’s not clever, it’s not interesting, and compared to other fluffy summer tracks like “Winnebago” and “Outta Style,” it’s not even fun. It’s just a lousy excuse for a country song.

How bad is “Caught Up In The Country”? It’s “worst song I’ve heard this year” bad. It’s “I’d rather listen to LoCash or Jake Owen” bad. It’s “most visceral reaction I’ve had to a song since Dustin Lynch’s last single” bad. With its awkward and aimless production, lazy songwriting, and Rodney Atkins’s subpar vocal performance, this song has earned its place alongside Owen, Lynch, and Jordin Davis in my Hall of Infamy.

Rating: 2/10. Yuck.