When George Jones asked “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”, I don’t think this is what he had in mind.
Say what you want about Lane (and I’ve certainly said a lot about him), but you can’t call him unpredictable: Whenever he thinks he needs a hit, he goes to the same old “hit on a girl at the bar” well he’s been drawing from since “Fix” in 2015. (To his credit, he tries to rise above this material, but he struggles to sell it whenever he does: “For Her” only made it to #10 on Billboard’s airplay chart, and “Big, Big Plans” took nearly eighteen months to top the charts.) After no new releases in 2020, Lane was in need of a another hit, and the result is as predictable as it is sad: “Fill Them Boots,” the likely second single off of Lane’s next album, and yet another guy hitting on yet another girl in yet another bar. It’s not interesting, endearing, or even fun—it’s nothing but the latest exhibit in a mounting body of evidence suggesting that Lane should have his country music membership card revoked.
Lane has tried to move beyond the slick, synthetic sound of “Fix,” but unfortunately he’s only made it to the point of sounding exactly like everyone else on the radio. The mix kicks off with a single acoustic guitar and simple mostly-stick drum line, but the chorus brings in the usual electric guitars and a drum machine, and we’re left with the same arrangement everyone else is leaning on these days. However, that isn’t to say there aren’t some improvements here: The instrument tones are brighter and the electric guitars have a bit more texture to their sound, giving the song a more optimistic and hopeful vibe (which might work if someone else were singing the song, but we’ll talk about that later). Unfortunately, these improvements aren’t enough to make the mix stand out from its peers, and the overly-positive vibes feel a little awkward in context (“how great is it that you’re going through a painful breakup, eh?”). Overall, I think Lane’s sound is trending in the right direction, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be right now, and as a result, the listener doesn’t even realize it was playing until it’s over.
Somebody needs to sit Lane down and tell him that there are more ways to become a country superstar than being a creepy dudebro (although admittedly that’s been one of the more-effective tactics over the last decade). There aren’t any technical issues here (he handles some isolated rapid-fire syllable okay, although it’s weird to here someone who was jumping into their falsetto on “Fix” stay deep within their lower range here), but there’s a serious lack of empathy on display during this conversation. The other person is going through a painful breakup, but instead of showing any compassion or sympathy for them, Lane’s attitude is more “hey girl, I’m right here; let’s party and forget about him!” He doesn’t care about the other person’s well-being—he just smells a chance to score with a hot lady on the rebound. Through this lens, the implications that there don’t have to be any strings attached sound less like giving the other person control and more like he’s just in it for the good time and doesn’t really care if anytime comes of the moment or not. Overall, despite his occasional forays into more wholesome subjects, it’s the horny, disingenuous narrator from “Fix” and “I Don’t Know About You” that shines through on this track, and we’ve got enough losers like that in Nashville already.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A guy walks into a bar, sees someone else already drinking, and decides that they are “too fine not to try” approaching and picking up. Sure, the writers try to frame in a chivalrous manner by making the other person a victim of a breakup and having the narrator be up for anything, but that’s not a terribly original angle either, and they undermine the narrator with immature lines like “what you think about a late night turn-it-up,” and the cringiest of all, “hold you like a Dixie cup.” (That “scoot on over” line is a bit too pushy for my tastes as well.) Instead of acknowledging the pain and letting the other person tell their story, the narrator immediately jumps to all the things the pair could do together to put the memory aside, treating said person not like a wounded soul but as an easy mark for a pickup line. Even worse, the suggested activities are the same drink-and-party tactics that these meatheaded bros use even when there’s not a breakup—it’s the same old song with a slightly different context, a weak hook, and no story beyond the initial setup. In other words, there’s nothing to hear here, and the listener tunes out the whole mess before the second verse.
“Fill Them Boots” winds up being an empty song, with no emotion, no substance, and no reason to pay attention. The sound is cookie-cutter, the lyrics are half-baked, and Chris Lane is absolutely terrible in the role of a sympathetic narrator that totally has the other person’s best interests at heart. At this point, I’ve had my fill of Lane’s boots and I’m tired of putting up with his shenanigans—he’s flashed some talent in the past, but if he’s going to keep creeping on people in bars and dropping stinkbombs like this track on us, I don’t want him anywhere near my stereo. There are way better artists looking for a spot in Nashville right now, so Lane needs to take a hike and not let the door hit him on the way out (and take Dustin Lynch with him when he goes).
Rating: 4/10. Next!