Dear country music: Can we please cool it with the unsexy sex jams already?
The folks over at Luke Bryan, Inc., have to be a little nervous about what they’re seeing right now. Sure, Bryan lost a Billboard airplay #1 streak that dated back to 2013 when “What Makes You Country” only peaked at #2 , but it was how the streak was broken, as despite a massive push from Capitol, the track fell prey to Luke Combs’s plan for world domination and officially made Bryan the other Luke in country music. With the What Makes You Country era over, Bryan needed a leadoff-single hype cycle to remind folks that he was still a thing, and thus his team rolled out…another unimpressive stab at a sex jam? “Knockin’ Boots” is a weak, awkward, and confusing song that tries to be both fun and sexy, but winds up feeling more boring than anything else.
When country artists talk about sex, they tend to go in one of two directions: They go all in on a sultry, steamy atmosphere (“All To Myself,” “Talk You Out Of It,” or Bryan’s own “Strip It Down”), or try to make the track as fun and playful as possible (“Make A Little,” “Let’s Lay Down And Dance”). This song, however, tries to split the difference with its production, and winds up being neither fun nor sexy at the end of the day. It’s got the slick electric guitars and snap tracks you might expect from a steamy song, but it’s also got a bright tone and a peppy tempo with some pep, giving it a surprising amount of energy and a toe-tapping feel. The problem is that these two threads seem to work against each other, keeping the song from feeling like much of anything: It’s doesn’t set enough of a mood to be sexy, but the sound feels too slick and the energy level isn’t quite high enough to reach peak positivity. The whole thing feels a bit lukewarm on both fronts, and as a result the listener is left unsure of how to feel about the whole thing.
Vocally, Bryan struggles with the same ambivalence that hampers the production. His range and flow are both suitable for the occasion, but he leaves the narrative’s motives a bit unclear. There’s a real party-vibe to his delivery, but there are also some serious sexual overtones underneath the performance, so…what exactly does this dude want, anyway? If intercourse is really the ultimate objective, he’s doing a poor job of setting the mood, because he does not come across as smooth or sexy at all. If a good time is all he wants, however, why does he lean on a bunch of PG innuendo and spend so little time talking about other stuff? (The writing shares some blame here, but it’s got its own set of problems.) While Bryan manages to keep the song from feeling too creepy and sleazy, he comes across as awkward and unconvincing instead, like he’s the loser who drops terrible pick-up lines and gets laughed instead of lucky. There’s something missing from his performance here, and he doesn’t interest me enough in the song to go looking for it.
Despite everything I’ve said thus far, I’m least impressed by the writing here, as the narrator relies on a simple, unwavering (and unmotivated) “X needs a Y” format to try to convince their partner to sleep with them. Sex/physical contact seems to be the primary objective, but there are enough (super-generic) party references to make you if that’s really true, and there’s just nothing here that sets the mood and makes someone actually want to have sex. The “knockin’ boots” hook simultaneously feels lame and tacked-on, and we’ve heard so many of the references thrown out here that they’ve lost their ability to make the audience feel anything at all. Above all, the lyrics do nothing to sell the narrator as a sexual partner or even make them sound interesting enough to spend time with, so…why are we paying attention again? Without any support from the sound or the singer, the writing’s warts are left exposed to the elements, and there’s just enough here to keep up listening.
The old football adage “if you have two quaterbacks, you don’t have any” applies to country single releases as well, as “Knockin’ Boots” just isn’t enough of anything to be moving or memorable. Capitol records seems to be banking on Luke Bryan’s square-jawed, skinny-jean sex appeal to sell this track, because with sterile production, half-baked writing, and a mediocre showing from Bryan himself, this thing isn’t strong enough to stand on it own. Bryan may have been able to get away with this sort of middling effort in the past, but there’s a new Luke in town now, and “good enough” isn’t good enough anymore.
Rating: 5/10. Whether you want playful or sensual, there are better options available than this track.