Song Review: Billy Currington, “Wake Me Up”

Yawn. Do me a solid and “Wake Me Up” when this song is over, would you?

Billy Currington is one of those mid-tier artists that has been forced to ride the trendy waves washing over the country genre in order to survive, and while he’s proven to be a pretty good surfer (his last single “Do I Make You Wanna” became his seventh No. 1 hit of the decade and eleventh of his career), it’s left him without much of a musical legacy. (I can only name two or three songs of his off the top of my head, none of which were released after 2009.) His latest single “Wake Me Up,” the fifth release off of his Summer Forever album, does nothing to help his cause, as it’s a generic, forgettable track that’s basically Luke Bryan’s “Light It Up” without (almost) all of the phone references.

The production here is a bit more restrained than Bryan’s song: The melody here is passed between acoustic and electric guitars instead of being exclusively electric-driven, and the percussion (both real and synthetic) are not as hard-hitting or in-your-face as much here. (Heck, there are even some random steel guitar stabs tossed into the background.) However, the riffs here don’t stand out as much as they do on Bryan’s track, and despite the reliance on minor chords, this song’s tone never rises above general seriousness, and is nowhere near as unsettling or haunting as Bryan’s was. (Even the guitar solo on Currington’s song seems bland by comparison.) In short, the mix here feels like a diluted, less-impactful version of “Light Me Up” that gives the listener nothing to grab hold of and remember.

Currington is a decent enough singer, and he’s certainly got enough charisma to come across as believable in the role of a pining narrator, but something feels a bit off in the vocals tracks. Most of this seems to stem from the harmony vocals: They don’t blend very well with Currington’s delivery, and make him sound a bit washed-out on the choruses. His range is fine and his flow on the faster sections is surprisingly good, but beyond that…meh. It’s okay, but it lacks that something extra that it needs to catch the listener’s attention.

The lyrics here describe a narrator pleading with a lost love, begging them to reach out to him anytime without worrying if they will interfere with his life (he’s already waiting, so a call won’t “wake [him] up”). Again, while it’s not as explicitly phone-centered as “Light It Up,” the two are essentially the same song, and neither one is terribly interesting. The imagery here is pretty boilerplate stuff (night driving, drinking at a bar…heck, even blowing up phones is blasé now), and there aren’t any clever turns of phrase to hook the listener. To be fair, there’s nothing offensive or misogynistic about the writing, but that’s because there’s nothing here period. To be honest, I would call “Light It Up” a better song than “Wake Me Up” on all counts, as the former at least had decent production and used the sheer brute force of repetition to stick in peoples’ heads (even if what stuck was “why won’t this guy stop talking about his stupid phone already?”) Currington’s song, on the other hand, just flows in one ear and out the other without leaving a trace.

Overall, “Wake Me Up” is a lightweight song that can’t even measure up to its mediocre competition. It’s a step back from “Do I Make You Wanna,” and at best it’s generic radio filler that will take up space until something more interesting comes along. If it’s all the same to Mr. Currington, I’d rather stay sleep until then.

Rating: 5/10. It’s not worth your time.


Song Review: Billy Currington, “Do I Make You Wanna”

Before we dig into this review, I have to ask: What’s it going to take for Billy Currington to get a little respect in country music?

Going by the numbers, Currington has carved out a pretty solid career in the genre, with ten No. 1 hits since 2003 (including four out of his last five singles). His debut single (“Walk A Little Straighter”) was a surprise hit, he’s had several songs (“Good Directions,” “People Are Crazy”) that could be considered ‘career’ singles,  and he even has a Grammy nomination on his resume! Yet for some reason, Currington remains a B/C-list artist with a single award win to his credit (and does winning “Hottest Video of the Year” really count?), and is regularly overshadowed by the Bryans, Sheltons, Aldeans, and even Sam Hunts of the world. Could Currington’s new single “Do I Make You Wanna” change this? Well…I doubt it.

Production-wise, the song is driven primarily by drums and electric guitars, but does a nice job of incorporating some acoustic guitar and other quieter elements into the mix. The melody itself is a strange blend of lighter and darker tones, with minor keys setting a dark foundation for the song and brighter guitar riffs overlaid on top to give it a more positive spin. It’s unexpected, but it actually comes together nicely.

The lyrics themselves borrow heavily from the Bro-Country playbook: The object of the narrator’s affection is either “girl” or “baby,” and some of the usual tropes are present: Staying up all night, riding around in trucks, skinny-dipping, etc. There are also some lines that are completely nonsensical here, such as when Currington asks about “blow[ing] all our money on some sugar at the truckstop.” Is he planning on buying out the place’s homemade donuts? Also, the line about playing truth or dare seems a little out of place (unless the narrator is actually a twelve-year-old, in which case he’s going to have a hard time paying for the Vegas flight he mentions later on.)

What sets this song apart, however, is that the entire song is framed around what the woman wants: The narrator may be making some strong suggestions about what they should do, but the implication is that nothing happens without the woman’s consent. There’s also no mention of the woman’s appearance—in fact, the only part of the woman the singer calls “beautiful” is (gasp) her mind! I didn’t think this was allowed in country music anymore, but it’s certainly a refreshing take coming off of the Bro-Country era.

Overall, “Do I Make You Wanna” is a decent song with some nice sentiment and some bizarre lyrics. I wouldn’t call it a great song, and it likely won’t change Currington’s status as the Rodney Dangerfield of country music, but it’s a nice addition to the radio regardless.

Rating: 6/10. It’s definitely worth a listen, and if you like it, check out the rest of Currington’s discography too!