Song Review: Riley Green, “If It Wasn’t For Trucks”

The more I hear from Riley Green, the less I want to hear from him.

it wasn’t that long ago that I was excited about Green’s prospects in the genre: He’d rode a decent debut single “There Was This Girl” to #1, and had released a strong follow-up single “In Love By Now.” Then he unexpectedly swapped singles to the generic, unimpressive “I Wish Grandpas Never Died” (which stalled out at #12 on Billboard’s airplay chart), released an album that was surprisingly repetitive and filled with annoying filler, stuck his foot in his mouth during the Super Bowl halftime show, and basically sat out most of 2020. At this point, the man has zero buzz, zero momentum, and a lot of empty seats of his bandwagon (I gave up mine long ago), so he’s starting from square one as he makes his next foray onto the charts with his latest single, “If It Wasn’t Trucks.” Unfortunately, it appears that Green hasn’t hit bottom just yet: This is an irritating, unengaging, cookie-cutter track whose attempt to lionize the humble pickup truck is completely nonsensical.

The producer really dropped the ball of the production here: The pieces are all here to make this track stand out, and they simply didn’t use them. What they do use, however, is a deep-voiced electric guitar and a run-of-the-mill drum set, i.e. the same darn instruments everyone else relies on these days. Sure, there’s a steel guitar and even a fiddle (!) present as well, but they’re mostly left to languish in the background—you don’t even notice that they’re here until the fiddle finally gets turned loose on the bridge solo. (There might even be a mandolin in here somewhere, but if so it’s buried so deep in the mix that you can hardly hear it.) The deeper guitar tones, occasional minor chords, an overall spacious feel of the sound give the song a more-serious, almost reverent vibe, which feels a tad over-the-top given that we’re talking about an inanimate object (it’s not as bad as singing about a fake ID, but it’s not much better). In other words, it’s a generic, ill-fitting sound that does more harm than good to the song.

So what happened to all that “earnest charisma” I was gushing about during my “In Love By Now” review? The truth is that Green had pretty strong material to work with for his first two singles, and the junk he’s foisting on us now is exposing him as someone who really struggles to sell the story. The song is not technically challenging and presents no range or flow issues for Green, but as a generic song about a generic truck (we’ll talk more about the writing in a second), it puts a lot of pressure on the artist to give the lyrics meaning and convince the audience that the topic is worth caring about. In this regard, Green’s performance is way off the mark: His delivery is too clinical and matter-of-fact to feel personal, and he struggles to relate to the audience and convince them of the glory of pickups. Let this be a lesson to Green to work extra hard to find good songs to sing, because having him try to elevate mediocre material will be an uphill battle.

The lyrics depict a narrator listing all the important things we do in trucks and halfheartedly pondering how we could possibly do all the important tasks in our lives without them. Frankly, I can’t stand the writing here for several reasons:

  • First of all, the activities the narrator discusses are nothing but a stereotypical “country” laundry list: Cruising, kissing, drinking, “listening to Merle,” talking to God, chauffeuring old dogs, and so on. It’s a pair of cut-off jeans away from a generic Bro-Country song.
  • For all of the details the song provides, it’s missing some crucial information: Beyond a shortbed and bucket seat, what’s the truck actually look like? In better car songs (think Dan Seals’s “My Old Yellow Car,” Kathy Mattea’s “455 Rocket,” or even Luke Bryan’s “My Ol’ Bronco”) the vehicle feels like a fleshed-out character with a little personality to it, something that the listener can visualize and get attached to. In contrast, we don’t even know what color the stupid truck is here! It’s one of those intentionally-vague tracks that requires the listener to fill in the details with their own memories, and if you don’t, you’re left with an empty shell of a song.
  • The most irritating part of the song, however, is how the narrator talks about pickup trucks like they’re the only freaking thing on the road. You wanna know “where would I have raised all that hell” and “where…would a small town girl climb up”? I’ll tell you: In whatever decade-old bucket of rust we can afford, that’s where! Are you telling me we can’t kiss in a compact car, cry in an SUV, or raise Cain in a wood-paneled station wagon? Aside from hauling deer, none of the activities mentioned by the narrator actually require a freaking truck to do! Including so many easily-debunked claims makes the song feel completely pointless and the narrator come across as a fool, and fails to convince anyone to take this junk seriously.

“If It Wasn’t For Trucks” is a dumb, lazy song that not only fails to justify its own existence, it actively argues against it. The producer took the easy way out instead of crafting something interesting, the writing is complete garbage, and Riley Green is just another guy singing just another unimpressive song. This thing doesn’t even rise to the level of radio filler, and features none of the charm and insight that drew me to Green in the first place. He seems to be devolving into a generic Bro singer at a time when the genre is (kinda-sorta) trying to move beyond that era, and his window for country stardom already appears to be closing. Frankly, “If I Wasn’t For Trucks,” we wouldn’t have to put up with this nightmare of a track.

Rating: 4/10. Avoid this one.