I’ve had enough of reviewing junk songs. Let’s check out something good for a change.
Drake Milligan is a Texas native who’s been taking an unorthodox approach to achieving notoriety: He won the role of Elvis Presley in a 2017 CMT TV series, had a brief stint on American Idol a year later, and then going on America’s Got Talent this year (and placing 3rd) despite signing a record deal with BBR the year before (don’t you go on TV to get the record deal in the first place?). Outside of a holiday single last year, “Sounds Like Something I’d Do” is Milligan’s first foray onto mainstream radio, and holy cow this thing is giving me Daryle Singletary vibes like you wouldn’t believe. Of all the attempts to recreate the feel of 90s country, this is the closest anyone has come all year, and is a nice change of pace after the drivel I’ve had to deal with lately.
As Travis Tritt might say, the production here has some drive to it, pushing the song forward in a way I haven’t heard since…dang, maybe Dierks Bentley’s “What Was I Thinking” nearly twenty years ago. I already mentioned how well it captured the neotraditional feel of the 1990s, but it’s not quite the classical mix you might think: Sure, the fiddle and steel guitar and present, but they’re mostly left in the background and not given a ton of screen time (the pedal steel has a moment on the bridge solo, and that’s pretty much it). Instead, it’s the guitars and drums that really define that mix, and while lately that’s been a recipe for disaster more often than not, this time the electric axes have the same classic tone and rollicking feel that make them seem like they were brought back from 1993 via a time machine. The tempo plays a massive role here as well: This mix is lightning fast, and while it makes it hard to keep up with the story, there’s an energy to this sound that just sweeps you off your feet and takes you along for the ride. The general brightness of the instruments and the overall positive vibe of the mix makes it seem like the script has been flipped on its head: Instead of supporting the writing, the sound has become the main attraction and the writing has been pushed into a support role. For all the words I’ve wasted here, the bottom line is that this sound is fun beyond belief, making what is admittedly a fairly short song fly by even faster than you think, and leaving you wanting much more when it’s over.
Milligan doesn’t have a particularly deep voice, but I get some serious Josh Turner vibes from his vocal performance on this song. This is not the easiest song to pull off with the blazing tempo (especially the rapid-fire portion at the end of the chorus), but he breezes through the whole thing without losing his tone or composure (or his vocal clarity! He needs to give Morgan Wallen some voice lessons). In truth, this isn’t an easy song to pull off on an emotional level either: The artist has to strike a balance being the up-for-anything life of the party and someone who’s capable of a deep-enough connection to make them step away from their fun-loving lifestyle. Mulligan accomplishes this by simply never taking his foot off of his gas: His declaration of his potential for devotion is delivered with no less passion and intensity than his love of partying and fishing (in fact, it’s declared a hair bit more forcefully on the chorus). He brings plenty of charisma to the table to convincingly sell the narrator’s all-in approach to life and love, which bodes well for his future single releases. Overall, I’m impressed by what I’m hearing here, and I’m very interested in hearing more.
The writing here isn’t too much to write home about, but at least it provides enough handholds for the other pieces of the song to elevate it. The narrator here is a typical “country” individual who sticks close to the mainstream meta and enjoys stereotypically-country things (drinking, partying, fishing, driving fast, etc.), but it does deviate slightly from the usual script (the “tie one on” line is the only allusion to drinking in the whole song, and there are more lines that focus on the narrator’s free spirit than you get from the “I’m so country!” crowd (“Keepin’ one eye on the next horizon,” “I ain’t the kind to settle down and let myself get wrapped around somebody’s finger,” etc.). There’s an inherent contradiction between the narrator’s current state and their interest in the other person, but beyond the hook (which is decent, thought not earth-shattering) the writing really doesn’t address that, instead leaving it to the artist and the producer to convince the audience of the speaker’s sincerity. It’s a song that thinks it has something to say and tries its darnedest to convince you of that, but in its current form it’s mostly meant to sweep you off your feet and move you physically rather than emotionally (I certainly wouldn’t call this a romantic song), and frankly, as well as it does its job, that’s all it really needs to accomplish.
“Sounds Like Something I’d Do” sounds like one of the best songs of the year to me. It’s got just enough of a story to feel plausible, and then it hits you with the one-two punch of a throwback, energetic sound and a charming vocal performance from Drake Milligan himself. As much as I’ve bashed Music City for botching their new artist rollouts, they hit this one out of the park: This is an artist that I’m actually excited to hear more from, and while I’m not ready to compare him to Bentley just yet, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this song explode the way “What Was I Thinkin'” did back in the day. Yes, he could also crash and burn in this radio climate, but in as bleak a year as Nashville has had thus far, I will cling to any shred of hope I can find.
Rating: 7/10. Don’t miss this one.