Word to the wise, Maren Morris: There is such a thing as stretching a joke too far.
After two singles and one Grammy award, Morris finally broke through the radio blockade and scored her first No. 1 hit with “I Could Use A Love Song,” a song that pared back her usual pop-tinged production and took a more serious approach than “My Church” or “80s Mercedes.” However, Morris has now decided to go back to the formula that made radio so hesitant to embrace her in the first place, releasing “Rich” as the fourth (and likely final) single off of her debut album HERO. It’s a one-trick, sleazy-sounding mess of a track that tries to stretch the tired old “if I had a dollar for…” phrase over a three-and-a-half minute track, and winds up being no fun to listen to at all.
For the amount of noise this mix generates, the production here is surprisingly sparse: A couple of hard-rock guitars provide some background noise, a piano repeats the same quarter note over and over on the chorus, and above all, a real drum set that’s so loud and prominent that it drowns everything else out and forces Morris to carry the melody herself. The resulting sound is about as bad a fit for the subject matter as you could imagine: The pace is too slow to generate any energy, the primary guitar is too dark and heavy to make the track feel fun or interesting, and the overall vibe feels far more raunchy and sleazy than it should be. The whole thing leaves the listener confused about how to feel: Should they be laughing with the narrator, or commiserating with them? In the end, they just feel annoyed for wasting their time.
My biggest complaint about Morris as a vocalist is that she’s forever hiding behind a slew of unnecessary (and not always flattering) vocal effects and harmonies, even though she’s a decent singer in her own right. These effects were smartly dialed back on “I Could Use A Love Song,” but “Rich” brings them back with a vengeance (though they don’t quite reach “My Church” levels), reducing both her vocal clarity and her believability. Frankly, I’m not sure what Morris wants us to think here: Is this song an over-the-top statement about the narrator’s love life, or is there some genuine sadness behind it? In the end, her motives are as unclear as her delivery, and the track floats in one ear and out the other without leaving a trace.
The lyrics are a mixed bag: They try their best to offer some clarity as to how the song should be interpreted, but they do so in the most ham-fisted, unoriginal manner possible. The narrator plays the old “if I had a dollar…” card to convey how untrustworthy her partner is and how stuck she remains on him regardless, and then paints the most ostentatious picture (Prada, Mercedes, “drippin’ diamonds like Marilyn”) to emphasize her point. It holds water through maybe the first chorus, after which the listener just shakes their head and says “Okay, okay, I get it already!” There are a few slivers of wit buried in the writing (“I wouldn’t be covered in all your IOU’s/Every promise you made me would have some real value”), but for each one there’s a matching moment of boneheaded laziness (“If I had a dime every time that you crossed my mind/Well I’d basically be sitting on a big a** pile of dimes?” That’s the best you can do?) It’s a step up from “Parked Out By The Lake,” but not by much, and certainly not enough to make the track interesting or memorable.
In short, “Rich” was a poor single choice by Maren Morris and her team, squandering whatever momentum “I Could Use A Love Song” gave them and leaving listeners confused enough to question the song’s meaning to not interested enough to dig deeper. Fourth album singles often set the tone for an artist’s next release, but if this confusing, unremarkable track is an indication of Morris’s future sound, I’m seeing a major sophomore slump on the horizon.
Rating: 4/10. No thanks.