How do you out-Thomas Rhett Thomas Rhett? Instead of talking about your wife, let her do her own talking.
Kane Brown’s path through country music has been a fascinating one, from his Metro-Bro beginnings to his recent dalliances with more-traditional sounds. All of this appeared to culminate in his recent #1 “Like I Love Country Music,” a hat-tip to 90s country that defied the radio’s slow escalator by rocketing to the summit and spending a mere sixteen weeks on Billboard’s airplay chart. There’s almost no way to follow up a song like this, but the show must go on eventually, and Brown is now back with the third official single from Different Man, “Thank God.” While it’s got a slight odor of Boyfriend country, this track is a bit more along the lines of Chris Stapleton’s “Joy Of My Life” and Eric Church’s “Doing Life With Me,” a fact hammered home by having Brown’s wife Katelyn step in as his duet partner. I wouldn’t call it a great song, but it’s a solid effort that helps lift the genre rather than weigh it down.
Let’s start with the production, which somehow creates a soft and tender atmosphere for the song despite breaking some of the cardinal rules I’m always blathering about. Primary melody duties are passed between an acoustic and electric guitar (the former handles the verses, the latter takes the choruses), while percussion duties are covered mostly by a drum machine (it sounds like Grady Smith’s favorite snap track is back…). Outside of some synth notes and a steel guitar that’s marinated in audio effects, this is all you get, and when you factor in the lack of brightness in the instrument tones, this sounds more like a recipe for disaster than a love song. So how does the producer make it work? Part of it is that the overall volume level is relatively low, letting the song support the vocals without stepping on them. Part of it is the measured, relaxed tempo that make the song less passion-driven and ephemeral, and makes the characters feel more connected and invested in the relationship. Part of it is the overall softness of the instrument tones (especially the drum machine, which is washed-out enough to sand the edges off of what’s usually a cold, hard beat), which helps the song feel a bit warmer and more heartfelt. Whatever the reason, I have to give some reason to whoever was in the production booth: It’s not a standout sound that will stick in my brain long, but it’s a suitable sound that does its job and keeps the focus where it should be.
Honestly, my first question after hearing this was “Who the heck is Katelyn Brown, and why haven’t we heard from her before?” Apparently she’s a singer in her own right who’s been more focused on the business side of the industry lately, but she’s a credible presence and a decent vocalist behind the mic ( I hear bits and pieces of Gabby Barrett and Kelsea Ballerini in her voice), and she’s got quite of bit of vocal chemistry with her husband (which probably shouldn’t be a surprise). For his part, Brown has trended away from the deeper vocal range that got him noticed early on, but he’s still got good tone higher in his range, and his floe is as effortless as ever. He doesn’t stand out quite as much as he did initially, but he pulls off the Rhett-esque metamorphosis perfectly here, moving past his Metro-Bro roots and into the role of a dedicated partner by bringing some notable depth and charisma to the table (of course, having his wife on this track doesn’t hurt either). This is an artist that’s shown some serious growth and maturation over the years, and honestly both artists do a nice job here. So when are we getting that Katelyn Brown solo album?
The writing isn’t terrible here, but I’d still call it the weakest part of the song. This is a fairly standard song of devotion (there’s no interesting backstory as in “Doing Life With Me”), and while there are hints of a longstanding relationship here (particularly in the opening lines), I think it’s the Browns that give the song a feeling of commitment more than anything else. The reliance on spiritual language (angels, Bibles, forgiveness, and of course the “Thank God” hook, which isn’t really that strong) is also nothing new or attention-grabbing, but it does get some points for its unwavering consistency. The main selling point of the lyrics is that by leaning into the sentimentality and religiosity, it leaves a lot of hooks for a charismatic performer to elevate the song to make it feel more meaningful, which works when you’ve got a pair of capable performers behind the mic as we do here. (It also allows for the other person to deliver their own side of the story, even if it doesn’t seem like it intentionally written that way.) It’s a story that’s not terribly interesting by itself, but it allows the pieces around it to make it feel a bit more special.
“Thank God” is a decent song that’s part of a decent mini trend that offers hope that we can finally move past the Boyfriend country hookup era, and I’d call it another decent step along the career path of Kane Brown (and a huge step for Katelyn Brown—could this lead to a solo release?). There haven’t been a ton of bright spots in country music recently, but I think Brown has become one (especially when compared to other A and B-listers). He runs the risk of falling into the same trap that Rhett did by overdoing this sort of song (and admittedly this song falls far short of greatness), but I’ll take this track for now, and look forward to better things to come.
Rating: 6/10. Give this one a listen to see how it strikes you.