Have the angels on the shoulders of Florida Georgia Line finally won out over the devils?
After being the standard bearers of Bro-Country for so long, Florida Georgia Line has been stuck in the middle of an identity crisis recently. Their last few singles have bounced between their usual Metro-Bro fare (“Smooth,” “Talk You Out Of It”) and simple love songs that mimic the styles of other artists (“God, Your Mama, And Me,” “Simple”). While Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley were waffling, however, the radio made their preferences clear: The first two songs above didn’t crack the Top Ten on Billboard’s airplay chart, while the latter two both sneaked into the Top 5. It seems that the world has moved on from Bro bombast, and with “Blessings,” the third track from FGL’s Can’t Say I Ain’t Country album, suggests the pair has finally gotten the message. The song is a lightweight, wedding-ready love song, and while this ground has been plowed a million times before in the genre, this track at least has some feeling and earnestness behind it, and it’s a respectable rebound from “Talk You Out Of It.”
The difference in production is the first thing you’ll notice: It’s not the Mumford-esque nod to tradition that “Simple” was, but it’s also not the slick, synthetic sound of “Talk You Out Of It” either. The song opens with an organ and an acoustic guitar, mixes in some steel guitar and a real freaking drum set for a change, and that’s pretty much all you get (it doesn’t even bring in an electric guitar until the bridge solo!). There’s a softness to this mix that I’ve never really heard from an FGL track, and while the duo loses the distinctive sound that they’ve been known for (this is as contemporarily conventional as these two have ever sounded), I think the warmth and the mellow vibe of the arrangement here more than make up for it. (In fact, I’d say the sound adds credence to their declaration of commitment: They’re willing to change up their whole sound for the people they love!) It’s the kind of “d’awww…” sound you expect from a song like this, and having a group like FGL pull it off this well is no small feat.
As expected, Hubbard takes the leading role here, and I’m actually rather impressed by his performance this time around. Yes, there are still glimpses of his old Bro persona here (although this is mostly due to the writing), and no, the relaxed nature of the song means neither his range nor his flow are tested, but this song tests Hubbard’s charisma in a way that even the straight-shooting “Simple” didn’t do. The narrator is much more sentimental here, and the performer has to find the balance between showing enough emotion to be believed and not showing so much that it becomes sappy and saccharine. Amazingly, Hubbard actually finds that balance point, coming across as believable and emotional without laying it on so think that he invites suspicion. (Kelley is…well, present, although his harmony work is no more distinguishable than it ever was.) One wonders is the pair has been taking notes from Thomas Rhett, because FGL not only convinces the audience in their authenticity, they allow them to share in the happiness of the moment, and that’s pretty big for the people who brought you “Cruise” and “Sun Daze.”
There aren’t a lot of surprises hidden in the writing: The narrator is in love, they’ve been in love for a while, and said love has made them realize how fortunate they are (i.e., “it ain’t hard to count your blessings”). Everyone you expect to find is here: The ever-present religious imagery (angels, Amens, etc.), the “lucky man” on a “little house on a little land,” and so on. The song makes a point to explicitly point out the commitment level of the narrator (the ring, the “first year together,” the prediction of future children), which is probably needed given the reputation of the performers. Then again, just when you hear a line like “you always saw the blue skies past the rain clouds in my eyes” and think maybe FGL has turned over a new leaf, they go back to leaning on “girl” and drop a line like “we’re a lucky fam” that reminds you of who they are. It’s not a great piece of writing and it’s certainly not an original one, but it leaves enough hooks for the sound and singers to latch onto and elevate it with their own work.
“Blessings” is overall a pretty decent effort from Florida Georgia Line, one that I really wasn’t sure they were capable of pulling off. As paint-by-numbers as the lyrics are, the production is suitably sweet and the duo acquits themselves surprisingly well (well, at least Hubbard does; Kelley is just kind of there) and really make the audience believe they’re serious about what they’re saying. The Bro era that FGL ushered in forced a lot of other artists to conform or fall by the wayside, but now they’re the ones that have to do the conforming, and at least for one song, they’ve succeeded.
Rating: 6/10. Give this a spin and see how it sounds.