Song Review: Kip Moore, “She’s Mine”

Well, at least Kip Moore’s taste in fantasies is improving.

It’s been a struggle for Moore to maintain his grip on mainstream relevance for the last few years: His terrible “Last Shot” took over a year just to peak at #6 on Billboard’s airplay chart, and when he vented his anger on the equally-terrible “The Bull,” country radio slapped an unsightly #55 peak on it and stuck Moore in timeout to make him think about what he had done. Moore must have finally gotten the message, because he’s closed the door on the mediocre-to-awful Slowheart era and released “She’s Mine” as the presumed leadoff single for his next project. While I hesitate to call this a good song, it’s a huge step up both from his Slowheart work and some of the garbage I’ve been sifting through recently (*cough* “Now You Know” *cough cough* “Hell Right”).

The production is easily my favorite part of the track, as Moore goes back to working the country-rock angle that earned him some hosannas back in the Wild Ones era. The song blasts out of the gate with a rollicking, rough-edged pair of guitars (the deeper-toned axe sticks around to carry the melody with some methodical rock chording, while the higher one backs away to cover riff duty for the rest of the song) and a sharp drum set that tries to match the guitars’ intensity (it doesn’t quite get there, but it’s close). I’m really impressed by how bright this mix sounds even with a prominent lower-ranged guitar, and it does a nice job driving the song forward and creating a ton of positive energy to support the narrator’s optimism and imagination. The song is a testament to how far “just another guitar-and-drum” mix can go if organized and executed well, and shows up other mixes that do so little with this kind of arrangement.

While Moore remains one of the worst vocalists in the genre, the “hoarse caterwauling” I couldn’t stand on “The Bull” actually works well on “She’s Mine.” His range and tone are tolerable for a change, and his gravelly voice gives the narrator an added sense of world-weariness, and it makes him sound maxed-out and passionate on the choruses. Most of all, he makes good use of his charisma to pour on the sunshine and cheeriness, shrugging off the romance-seeking struggles of the past and looking forward to the love that he just knows is somewhere in his future. The result is a sympathetic, likable narrator who feels more committed than creepy, and wholets the audience share in his dream (delusional though it might be). In short, Moore has finally found some sort of comfort zone, and he should try harder in the future to stick close to it.

The lyrics have a striking similarity to those of Maren Morris’s “The Bones”: The sentiment is okay, the execution is decent, and the hook is flat-out terrible. (I’m just not comfortable with the narrator declaring “she’s mine” and asserting ownership over someone they’ve never met, and I wish he’d stuck to the bridge sentiments of “don’t worry, I’m coming!”) I really like the interesting/unexpected details within the potential partners descriptions: Dealing blackjack, working on Wall Street, being torn between devout beliefs and sinful-but-fun behavior, and so on. I’d love to hear more about the romantic failures in the narrator’s past (perhaps some self-reflection would make the search more successful), but I also appreciate the never-say-die, “next one could be the right one” attitude, as wallowing in sorrow or bitterness (such as Morgan Wallen did on “Whiskey Glasses”) would make them much defeated and less appealing (and more annoying). Overall, it’s a decent piece of work that give Moore and his producer something useful to work with.

“She’s Mine” won’t threaten my year-end “best song,” but in what’s shaping up to be a rough August for single releases (seriously, I haven’t given out anything higher than a five yet), it’s a breath of fresh air that wouldn’t move me to turn the radio off for a change. It’s light years ahead of “The Bull” and “Last Shot,” and while I need to hear more from Kip Moore before I conclude he still has a future in this league, this has the potential to start his redemption arc, and right now, that’s probably the best he can hope for.

Rating: 6/10. Give this one a spin and see what you think.

Song Review: Kip Moore, “The Bull”

Well, I guess I now know who to blame for unleashing Kip Moore on the world.

Moore’s fifteen minutes of fame came during the height of the Bro-Country era earlier this decade, and he’s been desperately trying to convince country radio to keep him around ever since. His efforts, however, haven’t borne much fruit: “More Girls Like You” took eight months just to hit #4 on Billboard’s airplay chart, “Last Shot” took over a year to reach #6 (and earned a spot of my “Worst Songs of 2017” list)…and those constitute his best showings since 2013! Now, realizing that he won’t be reaching the fabled heights of country music stardom anytime soon, he’s decided to imagine the day and savor all the crow he’ll someday make his critics eat in “The Bull,” the third single from his Slowheart album. Unfortunately, while other artists have turned this sort of rejection into a positive, optimistic call to get back on the horse and keep going (see: Brad Paisley’s “Bucked Off”), this song just feels like an unjustified rant from a bitter, unsympathetic narrator, one that I have absolutely zero interest in listening to.

There isn’t a whole lot to this song’s arrangement: It opens with a repeated acoustic guitar riff and a stick-dominated drum line and sticks to that formula for both verses, but eventually brings in some electric guitars and a few more drums for a more-conventional sound on the chorus and bridge. (There are also a couple of fake snaps thrown into the percussion line, but they’re so sparse and spaced out that they’re barely noticeable and don’t seem to serve any purpose.) The faster tempo gives the track a lot of energy and momentum, but the frequent minor chords and darker instrument tones give the mix a moody, frustrated feel that unnerves the listener a little as they hear it. There seems to be some anger bubbling just under the surface that leaks into the sound, which gives the writing an angrier edge than it needs and takes it in an unwanted direction. While I’m not sure a better and brighter sound would have saved the track from Moore’s malice, it would have at least left the listener confused instead of annoyed.

While admittedly I’d rather rub sandpaper on my ears than listen to Moore’s hoarse caterwauling, this performance feels like a step backwards even from the awful “Last Shot.” His voice has no more tone than it ever did, but at least he came across as earnest and slightly likable as the narrator in his last single. Here, his serious, aggressive delivery gives the song even more of an angry undertone, and his “thank you” choruses feel more snarky than grateful, like they’re aimed more at the people he didn’t thank than the ones he did. However, neither he nor the writing give us any justification for his bitterness, so instead of the audience standing in solidarity with him, their reaction is more like “Dude, take a freaking chill pill already.” When Buddy Jewell did this on “I Wanna Thank Everyone,” the delivery felt more lighthearted and the narrator focused on the positives of how the rejection fueled him to success. Here, all we get it anger for anger’s sake, and it leaves a bitter taste that the listener would rather not sample again.

For the most part, the lyrics actually aren’t that bad: The narrator is dreaming of the day that they finally achieve the success they’ve been searching for, and of all the people they would thank when it happened, including “the bulls that bucked me off.” Looking down from the mountaintop at all the supporters and naysayers you met along the way is nothing new (in addition to Jewell’s track, Cole Swindell had a similar album cut “The Ones That Got Me Here” on his All Of It album), so why is this song so off-putting in comparison? The song plays in safe territory for most of the track: Imagining the award-show speech, imagining how their song might ease of pain of the brokenhearted, and namechecking the usual suspects (parents, teachers, exes, doubters). The only stumble in the writing occurs on the bridge, where we get a flash of the narrator’s true feelings:

Every knock down in the dirt
Every no I ever heard
Sure feel good to laugh when I look back and flip the bull the bird…

Aside from the middle finger, you could easily put a positive spin on the whole track and make this a hopeful, motivating song with the same sort of “keep going” message that Paisley’s metaphorical bullriding expressed on “Bucked Off.” Instead, Moore and his producer decided to take this track to a dark place and emphasize the narrator’s anger and desire to stick a thumb in the eye of everyone who put him down, even though the writing offers no specifics on exactly what transpired besides the word “No.” The whole thing feels like a bitter, repressed person lusting for a power trip, and that’s not something I’m interested in hearing about.

“The Bull” is actually a great title for this song, because a giant load of bull is all that it is. The hooks left by the writing to elevate the tune are instead used to drag it down into the gutter via dark, ominous production and Kip Moore’s frustrated, unsympathetic narrator. There’s a half-decent song buried in here somewhere, but if you’re not Jason Aldean, you probably shouldn’t be injecting so much unnecessary malice into your material. Moore really should have taken a hint: “Last Shot” was really his last shot, and he needs to join Jake Owen, Jordan Davis, and Michael Ray on the next train out of Nashville.

Rating: 3/10. Next!

Song Review: Kip Moore, “Last Shot”

Love can be an awfully hard thing to verbalize sometimes, but if “Last Shot” is the best Kip Moore can do to express his feelings, he’d be better off keeping his mouth shut.

I was ambivalent about Moore’s last single “More Girls Like You,” but the track resonated enough with country radio to score a #4 airplay peak and end Moore’s four-year dry spell. Now, Moore’s team has decided to release “Last Shot” as the second single from his new Slowheart album, a song that tries to tackle the age-old question of how a man can express his love for a woman. However, both Moore and the song fail spectacularly here, and the song winds up being cringeworthy instead of romantic.

Moore’s production has generally lived on the rockier side of country, and “Last Shot” is no exception. The track pairs a spacious electric guitar with a prominent drum set (and by “prominent,” I mean “it’s basically all you hear during the verses”), and tosses an organ into the background to add some atmosphere on the chorus. The guitar tones are fairly dark here, and team up with frequent minor chords to set a serious tone that kinda-sorta fits with the writing. Unfortunately, the slow tempo and sparse mix don’t generate a lot of energy, and while the percussion does its job well, none of the other instruments bother to match the drums’ intensity. As a result, the song just plods boringly along and puts its listeners to sleep. The worst part, however, is that this is actually the best part of the song.

Brantley Gilbert may sound rough, Jon Pardi may sound nasal, and RaeLynn may sound “flat and toneless,” but Kip Moore is hands-down the worst vocalist in country music. His voice is rougher than a mile of sandpaper, and listening to him sing is like hearing someone drag a shovel across a sidewalk. It’s a crying shame, because Moore is actually pretty charismatic, and sounds honest and believable in the narrator’s role. However, being honest and believable means nothing if you leave your listeners holding their ears in pain and begging you to stop and have a throat lozenge or ten.

The lyrics tell the tale of a narrator who doesn’t consider “love” a strong enough word to describe his feelings for his partner, and instead tries to use a series of metaphors to do the job. I’ve never been a fan of songs like this (for example, I though Blake Shelton’s “Honey Bee” just sounded ridiculous), and this track takes the concept to a new low. Phrases like “If you were my last breath, I’d just wanna hold ya” or saying that inhaling them would leave you “floating round high as the Colorado sky” aren’t romantic in the slightest, and “swirl[ing] you around and around” like a “last shot of whiskey” is more “Ew.” than “Ooh.” I know that talking about love can be hard for some people, but there are much better ways to approach the topic than resorting to bizarre comparisons. (For example, Toby Keith’s “Me Too” is a much better song on every level.)  Combine this sort of writing with so-so production and a terrible vocal delivery, and you don’t have a song—you have a problem.

“Last Shot” is a track with no redeeming characteristics (aside from “it’s not Dustin Lynch”), and leaves me pining even for the mediocrity of “More Girls Like You.” I’ll be honest, Mr. Moore: If this is the best you can do when it comes to talking about romance, then as Keith Whitley might say, “you say it best when you say nothing at all.”

Rating: 3/10. No thank you.

Song Review: Kip Moore, “More Girls Like You”

If there’s one thing I would add to make Kip Moore’s “More Girls Like You” a better song, it wouldn’t be an instrument or wittier lyrics. It would be a bag of throat lozenges.

Moore’s career got off to a fast start in the early 2010s, earning three top-five singles (including the terrible-but-popular No. 1 “Somethin’ Bout A Truck”) off of his debut album Up All Night. Since then, however, Moore’s been in a sophomore slump, with a single measly top 15 to show for his four post-debut single. “More Girls Like You” is billed as the leadoff single for Moore’s untitled third album, but I don’t think this is the song that will dig him out of this rut.

Production-wise, the song has an uplifting arena-anthem vibe to it, with its spacious electric guitars and hard-hitting (real) drums. The song opens with an acoustic guitar, but it quickly gives way to the more prominent instruments by the start of the first chorus. The whole mix produces a surprisingly bright and optimistic sound, which fits the song’s subject matter pretty well.

Lyrically, the song is about a bad boy declaring that a good woman turned him into a thoughtful, responsible adult. There are two major problems with this theme: It’s been covered a lot, including by some of country’s greatest artists (therefore the bar is set pretty high), and it requires a lot of detail to make the song feel personal and powerful. “More Girls Like You,” in contrast, uses vague and generic imagery, leaving it without the punch of even a song like Chris Janson’s “Holdin’ Her.” A song like this is dependent on its performance to elevate it, which brings us to the song’s biggest flaw…

Vocally, there’s no way around it: Moore sounds awful on this track. He’s always had a raspy, Brantley Gilbert-esque voice, but on “More Girls Like You,” he sound more hoarse than Doc Rivers, especially on the chorus. Try as Moore might, his subpar delivery keeps the song from coming across as believable and sincere, and leaves the listener feeling kind of “meh” towards the whole thing.

Overall, “More Girls Like You” is a mediocre song that doesn’t really engender the emotional response Moore and the writers intended. The song fits the current trend of giving more respect to women and will fill time and space on the radio, but I don’t see it sticking on the charts or in peoples’ memories for too long.

Rating: 5/10. If you miss this one, you’re not missing much.