Song Review: LANco, “Born To Love You”

Oops, wrong song:

I wasn’t completely sold on LANco’s debut single “Greatest Love Story,” but the track caught the ear of enough listeners to top the country charts last December and spur the release of the group’s Hallelujah Nights album last month. For their follow-up single “Born To Love You,” however, the group has taken a strikingly different direction with their sound, moving from their minimal, acoustic-based debut to an more-affected style that sounds more like 60s pop than anything else. While it’s a clear step up sonically from “Greatest Love Story,” the rest of the track doesn’t quite measure up.

The biggest thing that defines the production is the fuzzy, fainly-echoing filter that covers every instrument here (including the vocals), giving the song a distinctly retro feel. The eclectic instrument choices further this old-school feel: The track opens with a sitar-esque swell, fills time between verses with a vibraphone and a higher-pitched string instrument (is that a hammered dulcimer?), and backs the mix with a rhythmic, era-appropriate guitar and driving bass/snare drum combo. The only modern-sounding instrument here is a bright electric guitar that provides an intro solo and some general atmosphere. The mix does a nice job of building energy and momentum as it progresses, and its judicious use of minor chords adds just enough seriousness to the otherwise-happy track to hint at the depths the narrator had sunk to. In summary, it’s unique, it’s well-executed, and it’s surprisingly catchy.

I’m still not a huge fan of lead singer Brandon Lancaster (he’s as poor an enunciator as there is on the radio today), but his lack of vocal clarity suits the track’s low-fi vibe, and he has a knack for portraying younger, going-nowhere narrators who are saved by love. The song is not a technically-demanding one (Lancaster’s range and flow are barely tested here), but it requires someone with enough charisma to make the listener feel the narrator’s wonder and appreciation for the woman in his life. Much like Alan Jackson feels uniquely qualified to handle the role of an older, reminiscent voice, Lancaster has the necessary blend of youth and gravitas to take on the narrator’s role and declare that he’s already found his life’s calling and doesn’t need to go searching for it. (It’s also worth noting that the harmonies are pretty decent here, as they give off a slight “Lennon and McCarthy” vibe that matches the production’s retro styling.) I wouldn’t call this a great vocal performance, but it’s decent enough to do the job.

Lyrically, this song is basically “Greatest Love Story, Part 2,” albeit with less backstory and more world-building. I criticized LANco’s debut single for “using broad, bland imagery” and for not including “enough detail to really hit home for a lot of people,” and while “Born To Love You” improves a bit on that second complaint, it actually doubles down on the first issue by describing its dead-end small town in the most generic, overused terms possible (Trees! Trains! Churches! Football!). It’s not all bad, however, as the narrator tries to use the town as a foil: He doesn’t care that he’s stuck in the most boring corner of Small Town, USA, because he’s found his significant other, and by gosh, that’s all that matters! In the end, however, the writing falls into the same trap as its predecessor: It’s just not that interesting of a story, and it doesn’t stick with the listener.

When it all sugars off, I think “Born To Love You” is a better song than “Greatest Love Story,” but it’s not that much better. The production is really the only compelling thing about this track, as the vocals are just passable and the lyrics are outright sleep-inducing. I will, however, give credit to LANco for one thing: They reminded me how much I enjoyed Mark Collie back in the day.

Rating: 6/10. It’s worth a few spins to gauge your reaction.