Song Review: Russell Dickerson, “Blue Tacoma”

Let this song be a lesson to all you young singers out there: Choose your producer carefully, because they can destroy you as quickly as anything else.

I actually didn’t mind Russell Dickerson’s debut single “Yours,” and apparently radio felt the same way, as the song wound up topping Billboard’s airplay chart back in January. Lately, however, it’s been the second single that determines whether an artist has staying power or not, and if Dickerson’s follow-up track “Blue Tacoma” is any indication, he’s in for a major sophomore slump. The song is yet another drum-machine-heavy “driving around with a girl” song that feels so run-of-the-mill and generic that it just rolls off listeners’ ears like water off a duck’s back, and can’t seem to hold my attention for more than about twenty seconds.

Most of what goes wrong with this track can be credited to poor production choices. I’ve heard enough Bro-toned songs like this that I can pretty much tell what’s coming that minute I hear the opening beat: An in-your-face drum machine that’s turned up way too loud for the mix, a token banjo that’s forced to carry the melody on the verses, and select electric guitar stabs on the chorus that give way to a bright-but-nondescript guitar solo. Even amongst similar songs, this mix feels exceptionally commonplace and even boring, to the point where it doesn’t even to generate the energy and momentum you’d expect from such a celebratory, uptempo track. Maybe these sorts of party-vibe song have finally reached a critical mass for me, but “Blue Tacoma” didn’t register for me all, and I found myself ignoring it in favor of scrolling through my other web browser tabs before the first verse had finished.

To his credit, Dickerson isn’t the problem here: He’s a strong technical singer (good range, solid flow) with an easy, earnest delivery, and he has enough charisma to sell the track and convince me that he’s found heaven on Earth with his partner. Unfortunately, where a veteran performer like Darius Rucker can take an unremarkable song and make it at least a little compelling, Dickerson seems to lack that extra something to make me care about a song on such an overdone topic. Whatever emotion he brings to bear is pretty much overruled by the subpar production, which keeps him from leaving his mark on the song. It’s yet another example of a promising singer getting derailed by bad production decisions (and very reminiscent of what happened to Carly Pearce on “Hide The Wine”), and something that could very well cost Dickerson all of his “Yours” momentum.

The song’s premise is pretty simple: The narrator is driving around California in a “Blue Tacoma” with the object of his affection, declaring that “if heaven is anywhere,” it’s right here. I’d throw the track into the same “Bro-Lite” category as Chris Young’s “Hangin’ On,” as the usual tropes are present but toned down: The narrator is drinking Sunkist rather than Crown Royal, the pair is driving in the daytime rather than the nighttime, the name-dropped song is by Shania Twain rather than the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, etc. Even so, however, on paper the lyrics feel like they should have enough emotion and personality to move the listener by themselves. The problem is that they as overwhelmed by the production as Dickerson himself, and are further hampered by the song’s structure (the rapid-fire sections keep the words from getting the time and space they need to let their emotional content sink in to the listener’s mind.) As it is, the lyrics flow in on ear and out the other without leaving a trace, instead serving as a prime example of the destructive power of a drum machine.

I’m not sure “Blue Tacoma” could have been a great (or even good) song, but it could have easily been a lot more memorable or interesting had the producer not decided to dress it up like a Florida Georgia Line track.  How costly a decision this turns out to be for Russell Dickerson remains to be seen, but it makes him blend in more than stand out, and that’s a major problem for a newer artist.

Rating: 5/10. Why bother? You won’t remember hearing it anyway.