Because the phrase isn’t “when you love someone, you should try to sleep with them immediately.”
Logan Mize is a Kansas native who has been kicking around Nashville since 2010, but hasn’t managed to break through the radio blockade and find a place on the airwaves. We’re only now getting “Better Off Gone,” the second single from his Come Back Road album, after “Ain’t Always Pretty,” barely cracked the Top 40 on Billboard’s airplay chart three years ago. Timing is everything, however, and by waiting until the genre’s Bro-Country and Metropolitan fevers had broken, Mize may have found the right moment to step back into the spotlight. Unlike the meatheaded “gotta have her right this second” tracks that have littered country music for years, “Better Off Gone” has the awareness that a relationship must work for both parties, and that sometimes love means putting another’s well-being above your own.
On some level, this is the guitar-and-drum you hear on most every track on the radio, but there are a couple of differences to note here. For one, the guitars are mostly acoustic (an electric axe does pop up before the bridge for some moody notes, but that’s it), and they a nice job driving the melody with some energy and tempo (even though it’s nice really a fast song). The drum set seems to be snare-less, and the bass-heavy percussion gives the mix a nice punch to go with the guitar. I like how the sparseness of the arrangement keeps the focus on the lyrics (in fact, I wish it had been more sparse: The piano on the bridge is fine, but the stomp and clap lines on the final chorus felt unnecessary), and how the minor chords and somewhat-darker tones of the acoustic guitar underscore the narrator’s inner turmoil: He knows that letting his partner go is the right thing to do, but that doesn’t make it any easier or less painful. Overall, it’s a nice mix that keeps things simple and fits the song well.
I hear a little bit of Rodney Atkins and John Michael Montgomery in Mize’s voice, and he seems to have the same sort of earnest charisma that Atkins surprised us with back in the early 2000s. While Mize’s flow isn’t tested much here, he demonstrates the range to smoothly handle the lower verses and climb the ladder to apply some power on the choruses. He reminds me a bit of Aaron Watson because of the way he makes you feel like he’s really straining to drive his point home, yet he hits every note in the end. Most importantly, he’s able to capture the narrator’s conflicting emotions over doing the right thing and knowing how painful it will end up being. In doing so, he makes himself a likable and sympathetic character to the audience, and and deepens the impressions he leaves on them after the song is over. Yes, we have far too many young male artists like this in the genre today, but at least Mize’s skill and charm keep him out of the lower tier.
The lyrics here stand in stark contrast to most of the songs I’ve covered over the past couple of years. Relationship songs these days seem to focus on either getting into the backseat or bedroom as fast as possible (“I Don’t Know About You,” “Make Me Want To,” etc.) or getting as much pleasure out of a doomed relationship while it lasts (“One That Gone Away,” “Just A Phase,” etc.), but “Better Off Gone” features a relationship where one partner has their eyes on something big over the horizon, and instead of holding on too tightly for their own benefit, the narrator selflessly steps aside and lets their partner leave, noting that they are “better off gone.” (Think of it as a prequel to Eric Church’s “Round Here Buzz.”) I like the use of detail here, both the novel (country stations fading out) and the not-so-novel (all that clothing the other person took? They’re taking it off and giving it back), and I really like the narrator’s perspective on the whole situation: If you really love someone, you want to help them achieve whatever dreams they have, even if you yourself lose out in the end. Too many artists look at love as something to milk for all the fun that it’s worth, so to see someone turn away from that because it was the right thing to do (and more importantly, frame its so the audience believes them) is a refreshing sight.
“Better Off Gone” is not a great song, but it’s a pretty decent one, something that might earn Logan Mize the breakthrough he’s been looking for. The production is solid and suitable, the writing’s sentiment is laudable, and Mize himself does a great job selling the story and convincing a jaded audience that yes, he truly want what’s best for his soon-to-be-ex partner. I know there’s no shortage of artists like Mize coming off Nashville’s assembly line, but at least this particular artist showcases enough talent to warrant sticking around.
Rating: 6/10. Give it a listen and see what you think.