Song Review: Adam Hambrick, “Forever Ain’t Long Enough”

As far as Boyfriend country goes…you know, you could do worse than this.

I labeled Adam Hambrick “just another guy” when he dropped his debut single “Rockin’ All Night Long” at the tail end of 2018, and he remains that guy after said debut wound up peaking at a lousy #45 on Billboard’s airplay chart. He appears to have laid low for much of 2019, but he’s back this year to hop upon the Boyfriend country trend with his latest release “Forever Ain’t Long Enough.” I have to admit: He and his team seem to have put their hiatus to good use, because the track is a noticeable step up from “Rockin’ All Night Long,” and is honestly one of the better Boyfriend country tracks I’ve heard. It’s a bright, bouncy ode to the narrator’s partner, with enough energy and cheer to qualify as a decaffeinated version of Russell Dickerson’s “Every Little Thing.”

The biggest difference between Hambrick’s debut single and this one is how much better the production suits the track this time around. Both songs are love songs, but “Rockin’ All Night Long” set a tone that was “so somber and meloncholic that it makes you think you’re listening to a sad song, and its lack of energy made it “plod lifelessly” from start to finish. Both of these issues have been rectified here: The slick electric guitar that opens the track features some actual life and energy, and the crisp snare drum that backs it up feels much peppier as well. The piano that covers the verses, despite only getting up into its moderate range, has the same punchy feel as the guitars from “Every Little Thing” (albeit to much lesser degree), and the whole arrangement comes together on the chorus to create a surprisingly spacious and optimistic atmosphere. This is the rare modern country love song that dumps the forced pretense of seriousness and actually feels like a love song, with the producer doing their part to accentuate the narrator happiness and broadcast it to the audience. It’s just a fun song to listen to, and we could really use more songs like this in the bizarre times we’re living in now.

Hambrick struggles a bit with the song’s faster tempo (he’s not a great enunciator, and his words all run together during the rapid-fire portions of ht lyrics), but otherwise he seems a bit more comfortable with this song’s lighter touch. His voice remains fairly distinct among country singers and his range (especially his upper register, which is where he spends most of the song) is pretty solid, and most importantly, the “weak” and “hollow” delivery I docked him for previously is nowhere to be found. Hambrick shows a lot more presence and authority behind the mic this time around, and while he genuinely seems to be having a blast spending time with his partner, there’s less of a silly-fun vibe here than on “Every Little Thing,” and more of a feeling of permanence and commitment behind the sentiment. In short, I’d call this a much better debut performance than Hambrick’s actual debut performance.

Sadly, the lyrics are about as stock as you might think: The narrator has lots of plans with their partner, and “forever ain’t lone enough” to get to all of them. You can probably guess what all these plans are: “Tasting heaven on your lips,” staying up late and “staring into your baby blues,” watching sunsets, and of course getting “tangled up in my sheets.” The repetition of the hook and the occasional time references give the song a hint of long-term seriousness, but the other activities are too ephemeral to back up that claim, and some of the more *ahem* physical activities give off more of a hookup vibe than anything else. Luckily, the lyrics do the most important thing right: They project a sense of fun and excitement that Hambrick and the producer can run with in their own performances. I’m moderately satisfied that the writing left enough hooks for the other components to latch onto and elevate the track, but it’s a shame that the lyrics aren’t really strong enough to stand on their own.

I’d never call myself a fan of Boyfriend country, but much like Bro-Country and the Metropolitan sound, it can be done right if executed well enough, and “Forever Ain’t Long Enough” comes a lot closer to doing it right than most songs in this vein. Both the production and Adam Hambrick’s performance do a good job capturing and projecting the joy found within a loving relationship, and while the writing is run-of-the-mill at best, it’s lightweight enough that the rest of the song can carry it along. Given the crowded state of the genre and the heavyweights clogging up the Boyfriend country lane, I’m not sure this is enough to make Hambrick stand out and carve out a spot for him in Music City, but it’s a step in the right direction at the very least, and maybe it will set him up to not have to another year between releases.

Rating: 6/10. Give this a listen and see what you think.

 

Song Review: Adam Hambrick, “Rockin’ All Night Long”

Ugh, don’t we have enough boring male singers in this genre already?

Adam Hambrick is an Arkansas native who credits his big break to…Justin Moore’s TV-watching habits? This chance encounter set the stage for Hambrick’s publishing deal and eventually a record deal with Capitol (where apparently he was the first new artist that label had signed in five years? Jeez, how the might have fallen). His debut single “Rockin’ All Night Long” was released back in October, but hasn’t made a whole lot of noise since, and after a few listens, it’s easy to see why: From the sound to the singer to the songwriting, there’s next to nothing here that you haven’t seen or heard before. This song is about as exciting as listening to paint dry, and you’ll be snoring long before it ever gets to the punch line.

After I first saw the title, I prepared myself to be hit with a massive wall of noise from the word go, only to find that the production was nothing more than a milquetoast Metropolitan mix that fails to stand out from its competition. The track opens with a pair of dark, amplified guitars (one acoustic, one electric) and a subdued drum machine,   through it eventually sprinkles in some real drums and a background steel guitar for flavor. The producer does their level best to make Jason Aldean proud here, as the mood they establish is so somber and meloncholic that it makes you think you’re listening to a sad song, which is the exact opposite of the picture the writing tries to paint. However, said producer forgot to add Aldean’s trademark energy to the mix, causing the song to plod lifelessly along until the listener gives up and stop paying attention. (Seriously, that bridge interlude couldn’t be more boring if it tried.) In other words, this song does everything a debut single is not supposed to do, and that’s a huge problem.

Hambrick’s voice falls somewhere between Jimmie Allen and Vince Gill, which at least gives him something to distinguish himself from the faceless young male singers crowding the genre (his upper range is particularly impressive). However, a distinctive voice is no good without some power and charisma to back it up, and Hambrick demonstrates neither on this track. I’m sure he remembers his youth fondly and loves his wife and daughter dearly, but his weak, hollow delivery doesn’t convince me to care about his story in the slightest. By the time he reaches the final verse, the audience has tuned him out completely and is already waiting for the next song to start. Again, this is not the first impression you want to make on the radio.

A wise man once told me (a lot) to “put the punch line first” when writing a story, because readers may never make it to the later chapters. Unfortunately, Hambrick and his co-writers never got the message, and instead open the track with this rubbish:

There were Chevys and levees, whiskey and rye

Friends and no end to the summertime

Gas was cheap and the radio was free

So were we on those backstreets

Chasing good times and pretty girls…

So in the first verse, the writing rips off an classic song (in this case, Don McLean’s “American Pie”)  and runs through a laundry list of Bro-Country tropes (summer, driving, cheap gas, good times, chasing girls, etc.)—in other words, it’s doing what everyone else has been doing for the last few years. The first chorus reveals the song to be a reflection on the narrator’s party-all-night, “rockin’ all night long” youthful phase, which has also been done to death in the genre recently, so…yeah. Next song, please.

…Except that the song eventually does distinguish itself from its peers by cleverly pivoting the hook to mean actual rocking, as the narrator describes how they stay up all night rocking his infant daughter to sleep. It’s a nice scene that adds a unique twist to the song…except that it’s buried in the third verse, by which point the audience has already given up on the song and has either left or fallen asleep. Listeners have a limited amount of time and patience, and if you bore them to death for two minutes before getting to the good part, don’t be surprised when they don’t stick around.

“Rockin’ All Night Long” is a forgettable snoozefest that waits far too long to justify its existence, and should be tacked to the wall of every recording studio in Nashville as an example of how not to make a debut single. The production sets the wrong mood, the writing takes forever to make its point, and Adam Hambrick winds up being just another guy singing just another song. It’s not bad, but it’s not memorable either, and in a genre that’s overflowing with artists exactly like Hambrick, that might actually be worse.

Rating: 5/10. Don’t bother with this one.