Song Review: Jon Pardi: “Night Shift”

I’m starting to think Aaron Watson might have ruined all future country sex jams for me.

I’m a little confused by what Jon Pardi and Capitol Nashville are doing here.  California Sunrise was released over two years ago, and while the album had a good run and produced three No. 1 singles, the mediocre showing of single #4 “She Ain’t In It” (it missed the Top 20 despite being my favorite of his singles thus far) indicate that the public have moved on and was ready for some fresh new music. Instead, Pardi and co. have released a rare fifth single from the album “Night Shift,” and while it’s a perfectly tolerable track, it runs up against the same wall that Blake Shelton’s “Turnin’ Me On” did: It’s completely shown up by Watson’s “Run Wild Horses,” and after hearing it, Pardi’s attempted sex jam does absolutely nothing for me.

On the surface, the production here is very similar to “Run Wild Horses”: They have similar guitar-driven melodies, the same traditional components (Pardi throws a steel guitar in with the fiddle for good measure), the same hard-hitting percussion, and similar dark tones. The problem is that while the two songs feature many of the same components, Pardi’s track just seems to has less of everything across the board. The guitars here are slicker and have less bite than Watson’s, the energy level is lower and makes the song feel a bit too slow, and the major-chord-dominated progression detracts from the desired sexy atmosphere, making whatever passion is present feel methodical and controlled instead of raw and unstable. (Even the extended outro, which finally turns the electric guitar loose, pales in comparison to the minute-plus jam that closes “Run Wild Horses.”) The result is a mix that just doesn’t have the power or emotion it needs to hook the listener, and after hearing Watson thrown down the gauntlet with authority two months ago, this song just makes me yawn and shrug.

Unlike Shelton, at least Pardi steps up and puts some feeling into his performance, especially on the choruses. Unfortunately, Pardi is the same annoyingly-nasal vocalist that he’s always been, and while he seems to have a bit more tone to his voice this time around, his flow is too stiff for the subject material, making the song feel downright awkward at points instead of sultry (although this is partially the writing’s fault as well). He shows off enough charisma to convince the listener that he’s passionate about the other person, but not enough to be able to share that passion with the listener, leaving them feeling more “Oh,” than “Oh my…”. It’s a passable performance overall, but when looked at through the lens of “Run Wild Horses,” it just doesn’t measure up.

Lyrically, the song takes the classic comparison between work (a job the narrator does not like) and love (a job the narrator does) and tries to package it as a steamy sex jam. It’s an interesting twist on an old topic (Clay Walker went for a fun vibe on “If I Could Make A Living,” while Ronnie Milsap didn’t push the sexy angle this much on “Daydreams About Night Things”), but it’s done in the most boring, uninteresting way possible (the second verse is just a list of vague and/or overused concepts), and the “night shift” hook isn’t cleverly used at all (in fact, outside of the “racking up the overtime” line, it’s barely connected to the song’s theme). The early focus on the narrator’s real job tries to tie the work/love metaphor together, but it ends up detracting from the song’s emotion by taking its focus away from the passionate portions. The lyrics, in a word, feel clumsy, and paired with Pardi’s awkward delivery and the lukewarm production, it’s not the sort of song I’m interested in hearing twice.

“Night Shift” is yet another sex jam without much sexiness to it, and it wilts in the face of serious competition. While Jon Pardi and his team use the same recipe that made “Run Wild Horses” so successful, they fail to get the ingredient levels right and wind up with a track that doesn’t make the listener feel much of anything. If nothing else, it shows that the sun has set on California Sunrise, and Pardi’s crew should focus on their next steps instead of leaning on their past ones.

Rating: 5/10. You’ve got better songs to listen to instead.

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Song Review: Jake Owen, “Down To The Honkytonk”

So Jake Owen has a new single…and like Justin Moore, I “Kinda Don’t Care.”

Dustin Lynch and Jordan Davis might draw the most complaints from me, but Jake Owen isn’t far behind them on my disgust scale: I’ve reviewed three singles from him thus far, and none of them have scored higher than a 4/10. Unfortunately, country radio doesn’t really care what I think, and after back-to-back flops with “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” and “Good Company,” his awful Mellencamp ripoff “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” soared up to be become his seventh #1 single and first since his generically-boring “American Country Love Song.” Buoyed by his uncreative rebirth, Owen now returns to the charts with “Down To The Honkytonk,” a song that tries way too hard to push the narrator’s country credentials and not hard enough at actually making me care about the story. In the end, it comes off as an half-baked, uninteresting wall of noise that should come with an FDA warning about operating heavy machinery under its influence.

The production opens with an awkward mix of retro and modern elements, tossing a 70s-era electric guitar on top of a synthetic hand-clap percussion line to give the sound a swampy feel similar to Florida Georgia Line’s “Smooth” (which isn’t a surprise given that FGL’s longtime producer Joey Moi also produced this song). However, instead of going full-on Bro-Country and cranking up the volume and guitars, the mix here is more measured and leans on classical country instruments (steel guitar, real drums, even an organ in the background). While the hand claps are a reoccurring (and annoying) theme, the mix does a nice job establishing a positive, carefree atmosphere that suits the song’s message, while also generating just enough energy to keep things moving along. It’s easily the best part of the track, but it lacks that special something that really hooks the listener and makes them pay attention, which ends up being a big problem when the singer and writing end up dropping the ball.

Technically, Owen delivers a decent performance here: He shows off much more range than I expected (his lower range is particular impressive), and his flow is untested but smooth and easy. However, it’s the artist’s charisma that makes or breaks this song, and while this is usually Owen’s strong suit and he does enough to feel believable in the artist’s shoes, he can’t get the next level and actually make me care about the narrator’s life. Although he admittedly doesn’t have a lot to work with here (more on this later), the best artists can sing the phone book and get the listeners invested in the song, and Owen just doesn’t make it happen here. Looking back, it’s a bit ironic to see Owen’s charisma put him in a deeper hole when playing creepy, annoying narrators, but absolutely desert him when he tries to play a more-conventional role.

And then we get to the lyrics, which are basically a watered-down version of those chest-thumping “I’m so country” songs that are forever plaguing the genre. The writing is incredibly weak on the whole, especially on the boring laundry lists that are the verses:

I got a house, down a backroad
I got a flag on the front porch
I got a dog named Waylon
I got a driveway that needs paving
I got a boat with a two stroke
A couple guaranteed to make you laugh jokes
I got friends in low places
Yeah, life is what you make it

…Okay, so you have a dog, a driveway, and a Garth Brooks tape. That’s…good for you?

The chorus reveals the ultimate irony about this song: The narrator declares that they will never be noteworthy or memorable, but they’re going to have a good time…except that the listener does not have a good thing because the song isn’t noteworthy or memorable! The narrator is as flat and boring as a piece of paper, and song does absolutely nothing to interest the listener in their story. (And don’t even get me started on the song’ other issues, like the repetitiveness of the bridge or limp lines like “I got a job that gets the job done.”) Even if we consider that the narrator is trying to take an everyman approach to reaching their audience (“hey, I’m just as boring as you are!”), it’s just not a terribly convincing ploy, and there are other artists currently on the charts (Brooks, anyone?) who are doing this is more interesting and successful ways. The only things this song moves listeners to do is yawn and wonder when the darn thing is going to end.

“Back To The Honkytonk” is a bland, boring, forgettable track, and while it’s still an improvement over Jake Owen’s most-recent material, it’s not a song or a story that I’m interested in revisiting or remembering once this review is posted. Owen needs to skip the honkytonk and go back to the drawing board, because after two years of putting up with his baloney, I’m ready to revoke his recording studio privileges and give them to someone (say, Rachel Wammack?) that actually has a story to tell.

Rating: 4/10. No.

Song Review: Rachel Wammack, “Damage”

Wait…since when has Adele starting sending singles to country radio?

Rachel Wammack is an Alabama native who signed with Sony Music Nashville in Feburary and released a debut EP in April, but didn’t release her debut single “Damage” to radio until late last month. I’m surprised it took Sony this long to unleash their new artist, because outside of Carrie Underwood no one else is running in this “country power balladeer” lane, and Wammack seems to have all the tools to fill that role. It’s a restrained but moving look at how love can cut both ways during/after a relationship, and features a strong combination of sound, singer, and songwriter. It’s the kind of song that deserves a chance to do some “Damage” on the radio, but likely won’t get it.

If it’s a serious song in Nashville, you can bet it’s centered on a somber piano, and this song is no exception. However, the piano isn’t at prominent as you might expect, as it sharing time with an acoustic guitar at the start of the song and slips into the background as more instruments (drum set, steel guitar, and eventually an entire string section) are tossed into the mix. In truth, the piano functions more as the backbone of the song than the percussion, combining with the strings to create a warm, intimate atmosphere that fits the evening barroom setting perfectly. The tones here are a nice mixture of light and darkness, mirroring love’s creative and destructive power and highlighting both the pain and the recovery of those in the story. All in all, it’s a nice mix that helped the song form a bond with a listener and draws them into the story.

The Adele comparison is actually Rolling Stone’s, not mine (the first person that jumped into my mind was Underwood), and while I don’t think Wammach quite reaches their level in terms of sheer power (in fact, I think “Damage” tries to hold her back with its understated approach), her strong, bright vocal tone suggests she could really blow the windows out of the place if she wanted. (In fact, her vocals inject more light into the track than the instruments do!) While the song’s shackles causes her to sound a bit breathy at times, they don’t impact her earnestness at all, and Wammack demonstrates enough charisma to own the narrator’s role and forge a connection with the listener. A song like this places a huge burden on the artist to come across as believable, but Wammack succeeds here without even breaking a sweat.

The writing, in which a bartender reflects on their observations of love as both a source of joy and source of pain, is not the most novel topic in the world, regardless if we consider the perspective of the patron (Michael Peterson’s “When The Bartender Cries,” Kenny Chesney’s “The Good Stuff”) or the bartender (George Jones’s “Bartender’s Blues”). Still, the lyrics here stand out by being exceptionally sharp and observant, especially in the opening verse:

I’m a bartender
Best friend pretender
I make drinks to help forget and help remember
Beautiful humans
I am a student
And I’ve seen it from all sides winning and losing

We don’t get a ton of details about the bar patrons in later persons, but there’s enough here to paint a picture in the listener’s mind and make them reflect on the pain in these peoples’ lives (and perhaps their own as well). (Also, there’s certainly more depth here than most of the other barroom tracks I’ve heard recently, such as Garth Brooks’s latest single.) It’s a nice reminder that bars aren’t just places where people go to party, and that some serious issues often lie underneath the alcoholic veneer. I’m not entirely sure the song would stand up in the hands of a lesser singer, but when paired with Wammack’s emotional vocals and the production’s perfect atmosphere, the whole thing (especially the narrator’s self-reflective turn at the very end) becomes something special.

“Damage” is a quality song and Rachel Wammack sounds like a quality singer, which makes it even more frustrating when you consider the song’s likely fate: A wall of radio ambivalence, a cameo in the Top 50 if the powers that be are feeling generous, and an undeserved trip to the dustbin of history. If I were Sony, I’d open up the vaults and do whatever I could to get Wammack some airplay, because this song indicates that she’s got some serious potential.

Rating: 7/10. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.

Song Review: Brandon Lay, “Yada Yada Yada”

Wait, wrong video:

Okay, now can we admit Nashville is out of good song ideas?

I was underwhelmed by Brandon Lay’s debut single “Speakers, Bleachers And Preachers,” and apparently so was country radio, as I can find absolutely no record of it ever appearing on Billboard’s airplay chart (the best I can find a Pulse Music Board thread saying it didn’t even crack the Mediabase Top 40). Undeterred, Lay and his team have pushed forward with his second single “Yada Yada Yada,” immediately leaping into the discussion of the worst song title in history. While the song is admittedly better than you might imagine from its title, it’s still a far cry from being any good, and “yada yada yada” ends up being a fitting description of its content.

The production here feels way too dark and moody for a song teasing what should be a fun night in. It’s actually a pretty sparse arrangement, with an electric guitar borrowed from Cole Swindell’s “Middle Of A Memory” driving the melody and a clean, modern-sounding drum set providing the foundation. (There’s an organ floating around deep in the background, but after the intro it’s basically impossible to hear.) The drums do a decent job of injecting some energy into the track as it progresses, but the darker instrument tones and regular minor chords create this super-serious atmosphere that does not mesh with the lyrics at all. Whereas my last review talked about how some songs (try to) use this sort of darker sound to inject some danger and sensuality, this song is in full-on Aldean mode, adding darkness just for the sake of darkness and draining all the fun out of the mix in the process. It’s not catchy, it’s not interesting, and it’s not something I’m terribly interested in listening to.

I’m going to change things up today and talk about the lyrics first, which I would describe as a solid idea done really, really poorly. The story here involves the narrator telling their partner that they don’t need to go out and party with their friends, and can stay in and hang out together instead. (The “yada yada” hook refers to the fact that all the trappings and descriptions of such a night are just a wall of noise when the couple is together, and yes, it’s as weak as it sounds.) On paper, it’s a solid attempt to co-opt the language of clichéd genre activities (going out to drink and party), repudiating these activities while still including them in the song. When executed well, this technique can broaden a song’s appeal by playing to groups that both enjoy and can’t stand the activities in question (think Easton Corbin’s “A Girl Like You” or Kelsea Ballerini’s “I Hate Love Songs”). Unfortunately, it’s not well executed here for several reasons, including the repetitiveness of the writing (rehashing the verse on the bridge, awkwardly repeating lines in the second verse, rhyming “tunnel vision” with…itself?), the use of the hook to obscure events at the subdivision (“yada-yadaing” over the private get-together means the clichés are all we really get to see), and most of all Lay’s limitations as an artist (we’ll get to that). Although there might be larger reasons for the song’s inability to connect with its audience, the writing deserves its fair share of the blame.

If you’re going to attempt the language co-opting technique, you need an artist with solid delivery and a large reservoir of charisma to draw from. Corbin and Ballerini have both, but sadly Lay has neither. Even within the range restrictions of the song, Lay’s voice comes across as weak and raspy, especially in his lower range (without the woman harmonizing behind him, he’d be in serious trouble). His flow over the faster portions of the song is tolerable, but when the song needs him to deliver some impassioned lines on the chorus, his performance is flat, monotonic, and completely unbelievable. (He kinda-sorta shows some fire on the verses, so why he doesn’t on the chourses is beyond me.) Much like Jason Aldean, Lay’s performance is dominated by unwarranted seriousness, and despite the promise of an exciting night in with the person he loves, he doesn’t sound like he’s enjoying any part of it. If his night was as uninteresting as he makes it sound, I wish he’d have “yada-yada’d” over the whole song and not forced me to listen to it.

“Yada Yada Yada” is exactly that: A story that you’re better off skipping over. Both Brandon Lay and his production ruin the mood with their dour performances, and there’s not enough in the writing to entice the audience to keep listening. After the disaster that was “Speakers, Bleachers and Preachers,” Lay had better step up his game, or three years from now we’ll be “yada yadaing” over his entire career.

Rating: 4/10. No thank you.

Song Review: Blake Shelton, “Turnin’ Me On”

Remember when Spectrum Pulse labeled Tim McGraw’s work as “auditory Xanax”? That’s about what Blake Shelton’s discography has devolved to.

As talented as I consider Blake Shelton, I’ve been mostly unimpressed by his work in the 2010s. While his songs are rarely bad (“Boys ‘Round Here” being the biggest exception to this), they’re never terribly good either, as Shelton seems content to pump out safe, trend-riding songs that sit squarely in the mushy mediocre middle of the genre. “Turnin’ Me On,” the third single from his Texoma Shore album, continues this disappointing pattern: A dark, “dangerous” love song that plods lifelessly from beginning to end and fails to move (or even engage) the listener. I might have let this slide a few months ago, but in a world where “Run Wild Horses” exists, a limp track like this one just doesn’t cut the mustard.

The production here at least tries to differentiate itself from its peers, complementing what would be a run-of-the-mill guitar-and-drum mix with a Wurlitzer piano stolen from Ronnie Milsap that gives the song a distinct retro vibe. Unfortunately, that’s about the only interesting part of the mix: The dark instrument tones and frequent minor chords attempt to infuse the song with a sense of danger and foreboding, but the guitars and drums don’t have the power or feeling behind them to make it stick, and I’m not sure the writing really warrants this tone anyway. (Honestly, if the producer had gone in the complete opposite direction and made this a bright, playful song, it would have been a much more interesting and enjoyable.) Moreover, the lack of musical energy weighs on the tempo as well, making the song feel like it’s plodding along lifelessly despite the fact that it’s actually faster than “Run Wild Horses”! (The comparison gets even worse for “Turnin’ Me On” on the extended outro, as Watson’s sizzling guitar walks all over Shelton’s milquetoast fadeout.) It’s not a terrible mix by any means, but its shortcomings become very apparent when placed next to Watson’s incredible performance.

I’m actually impressed that Shelton sounds as good as he does here, because he mails in this performance so blatantly that he should have stuck a stamp on his forehead. This is supposed to be a visceral song full of passion and danger, but Shelton’s delivery is so flat and even-keel that he might as well be reading a freaking grocery list. (If it weren’t for the few emphatic “turnin’ me on” lines at the very end, I’d question whether the narrator even had a pulse.) Additionally, there aren’t any range-testing or tongue-busting portions to inject some energy into the track, making Shelton’s flat performance all the more glaring. His natural charm and charisma shine through enough to keep the track from going completely off the rails, but once again, when pared next to Watson’s inspired delivery on “Run Wild Horses,” Shelton’s performance feels forgettable at best and half-hearted at worst.

The lyrics here have their moments, but there’s so much unoriginality here that they just can’t cover all of the song’s aforementioned problems. Even the premise isn’t exactly novel, as the narrator finds his senses and emotions being toyed with by their partner because they find it fun (picture a less-hazardous version of Easton Corbin’s “All Over The Road,” or the opening lines of Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down”). Most of what you’ll find here is stuff you’ll find anywhere: whiskey-flavored kisses, starting metaphorical fires, exciting people with a single phone call, etc. There are a couple of interesting images, but they feel a little awkward in context (calling someone “the needle on the vinyl of a midnight song” doesn’t seem particularly sexy, and while I get what they were going for with the neon light reference, it still feels out of place). Outside of the “Revlon red” reference (which doesn’t feel like an coincidence given Gwen Stefani’s association with the brand), none of the verbal punches really land, and the steamy, sensual mood the song tries to set ends up falling flat and leaving the listener unmoved.

To be honest, had Aaron Watson not thrown down the gauntlet so forcefully on “Run Wild Horses,” I would probably judge “Turnin’ Me On” a bit less harshly. Still, as one of the biggest stars in country music right now, Blake Shelton should know better than to drop a single that’s going to get upstaged this badly on the radio from day one. It feels like he’s coasting right now, confident that his immense popularity will carry even mediocre material like this to the top of the charts. The trick may work for a song or two, but country radio is nothing if not fickle, and for an 15+ year vet, even one as popular as Shelton, the end can happen in a hurry.

Rating: 4/10. With better material on the charts right now, there’s no reason to give this song the time of day.

Song Review: Brett Eldredge, “Love Someone”

With a voice like Brett Eldredge’s, he should never sound this boring.

For such a powerful vocalist, Eldredge’s hold on country music stardom feels a lot more tenuous than it should be. The “Somethin’ I’m Good At” experiment (despite being a great song) fell flat on the radio and didn’t crack Billboard’s Top 20, and while “The Long Way” earned a respectable #3 peak, it generated neither the sales nor the buzz of his Bring You Back and Illinois singles (five #1’s and a #2 from 2012 to 2016). Now, Eldredge has returned with “Love Someone,” the third single from his self-titled album, and while it’s got an distinct-enough sound to pique your interest, it  minimizes its best asset (Eldredge himself) so much that it ends up coming across as just another run-of-the-mill love song.

The production starts off fairly strong, using an electric guitar (whose sound falls somewhere in between a mandolin and a sitar) to establish a relaxing atmosphere that borders on psychedelic, with some real drums thrown in for flavor. However, as the song continues and more instruments are tossed in (acoustic guitars, steel guitar stabs, and synthetic hand claps get tossed in), the mix begins to feel crowded, and its unique sound is replaced with something that feels a lot more generic and uninteresting. To its credit, the song at least maintains its bright tone for the duration, propping up a celebratory vibe that complements the writing well. Still, that vague sense of happiness is about the only thing the listener gets out of the track, as its gradual fade to bland mediocrity really blunts whatever impact it hoped to have.

The most damning this I can say about this song is that you could stick just about anyone behind the microphone and it would sound about the same. When you have a singer as talented and powerful as Brett Eldredge at your disposal, this should never happen. Eldredge is the best vocalist in the genre today (yes, I’d even rank him above Chris Stapleton) with range, power, and charisma to spare, and frankly, only the last of the three is on display here. Eldredge certainly sounds believable and earnest in the narrrator’s role, but if his team wants to maximize his potential, he needs material that will stretch and challenge his voice à la “Somethin’ I’m Good At” (even if that song was too far out-of-the-box for radio). “Love Someone,” unfortunately, is not that kind of song, keeping Eldredge’s range surprisingly constrained and forcing him to dial back his delivery (making him sound like a mere mortal in the process). In the hands of someone with equal charisma but less vocal power (Thomas Rhett comes to mind), this would have been a suitable song, but here, it just feels like a waste of Eldredge’s time.

There’s still enough here for some clever lyrics to elevate the track to a memorable level, but sadly they’re as bland as everything else here:

When I wake up in the middle of the night
You’re holding me so tight
Good Lord, I mean, my oh my
Sure feels good to love someone
When you laugh at the way I dance
When you smile when you hold my hand
I look at you and I understand
Sure feels good to love someone

There’s nothing here that you haven’t heard a million times before in a million other love songs, and even the small twists on old ideas (“You put the weak there in my knees”) feel more “meh” than witty. On top on that, the whole “love someone” hook feels awkwardly distant: The narrator spends the entire verse and chorus fawning over what sounds like a specific individual, and then suddenly steps back and hits you with a broad generalization? Put it all together, and you’ve got a shrug-inducing track that just doesn’t connect with its audience the way it should.

“Love Someone” is an average song with an average sound and an average vocal performance, which makes it an affront to Brett Eldredge fans everywhere. Sharpen up the writing, pare down the production, and remove Eldredge’s reins, and this song could have been something special. As it is, however, it’s nothing more than six months worth of radio filler, and with his stardom not looking as shiny as it once did, Eldredge can’t afford to waste this kind of time.

Rating: 5/10. You won’t hate it, but you won’t remember it either.

Song Review: Riley Green, “There Was This Girl”

Dear Carlton Anderson: This is the sort of song I wanted from you.

Riley Green is an Alabama native who inked a deal with the Big Machine label group earlier this year, and he finally made the leap from social media curiosity to radio airplay contender by releasing “There Was This Girl” on…wait, this thing isn’t officially out for another week? It’s the first untested artist I’ve seen get noticeable airplay since Midland, and after a few listens, I think I see what people are excited about. Despite the fact that nothing’s particularly new here (it’s essentially a more traditional, less wild-and-crazy version of Chris Cagle’s “Chicks Dig It”), the pieces fit together so well that they become more than the sum of their parts, and Green demonstrates just enough talent to interest me in hearing more.

The production caught me a bit off guard, as it gives off a rollicking neotraditional vibe (similar to Luke Combs’s “When It Rains It Pours”) despite completely eschewing the two instruments—i.e, the fiddle and steel guitar—that are most associated with that sound. (There’s a mandolin floating around in the mix, but they don’t really do a whole lot with it.) Most of the credit for this feat goes to the electric guitar driving the melody, which uses its bright tones and lively feel to create a lot of energy and really push the song forward. The drums have some kick and the acoustic guitar helps fill in some gaps on the verses, but mostly it’s the electric axe that sets a positive tone and gives the song a toe-tapping groove. Whoever put this thing together deserves a lot of credit for taking what could have been just another guitar-and-drum mix and really making it stand out and shine.

To be honest, Green sounds pretty nondescript vocally—I’d compare his voice to Morgan Wallen (who’s already a Tyler Hubbard clone), and neither his range or flow are shown off much here. However, his saving grace here (and it may stem from sounding similar to devil-may-care party types like Wallen and Hubbard) is his earnestness: His plays the part of the narrator perfectly, injecting just the right amount of wonder/disbelief when speaking for others and taking a simple “you know how it is” approach when questioned.  Unlike his soundalikes, though, Green doesn’t go full-on Bro here, and keeps things classy instead of sleazy (and most importantly, selling that stance to the listener). If only Wallen and Hubbard could transmit so much emotional depth in their own songs…

The lyrics essentially mash several songs together into one piece: It starts with the time-honored trope of “guys will do anything for a woman,” but instead of taking the idea to the extreme as Cagle did in “Chicks Dig It,” the song pivots to address the narrator’s musical beginnings similar to Luke Combs’s “She Got The Best Of Me,” and then takes a more-traditional turn towards the time-honored trope of marrying the woman at the end of the song. Given the Bro-Country influence that doesn’t seem to be fading very fast, it was actually kind of nice to see the song give us a head fake with its “girl in a truck” setup and then pivot all the way to buying an engagement ring. Even though nothing here was really novel and the imagery felt so boilerplate, I liked how the song kept defying the listener’s expectations and gave us something that actually resembled story progression (the narrator goes from generic Bro to devoted fiancé). It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s a positive tale with a positive sound and a passable singer, and right now, I’ll take it.

I’d stop short of calling “There Was This Girl” a great song and Riley Green a great singer, but it’s a decent combination of artist and material that I wouldn’t mind hearing more on the radio. It’s a testament to how quality material can help or hinder an artist: Although Carlton Anderson comes across as a much better vocalist, I’d listen to Green’s debut tune ten times before I’d put up with “Drop Everything.” I’m a little unsure about whether or not Green has a future in the genre, but at least he’s being put in the best possible position to succeed.

Rating: 6/10. Give this a try and see how it suits your ears.