News flash, Jon Langston: We already knew…and we’re not impressed.
Langston is a Georgia native who became the first signee of Luke Bryan’s UMG subsidiary 32 Bridge Entertainment last September. However, even in an era where country music has built an express lane to #1 specifically for debut single, Langston’s major-label debut “When It Comes To Loving You” was mostly ignored by the radio and barely made Billboard’s airplay chart at all (it peaked at #59). Taste of Country mentions that a second single “Dance Tonight” was released earlier this year, but it got so little attention that as of today, it hadn’t even made it onto Langston’s Wikipedia article. So will the third time be the charm for Langston and his latest release “Now You Know”? I highly doubt it: This is yet another attitude-laden, far-too-serious “I’m so country!” song that makes Langston come across as an annoying Brantley Gilbert clone, and does more to justify not giving him a spot in mainstream country than anything else.
The production is in your face from the word go, hitting you with loud, hard-rock guitars that try to project an edgy, defiant attitude (and yet they lack the bite of the guitars in Rodney Atkins’s “Thank God For You”), a mixture of real and synthetic percussion (who the heck thought throwing that clap-track-sounding beat on the bridge was a good idea?), an organ in the background to add a southern rock vibe, and an overall tone that feels way too serious for the subject matter. The instrument tones seem caught in a weird place between celebratory pride and clenched-teeth irritation, as if the narrator is offended that someone can’t tell just how “country” they are. This undercurrent of seriousness isn’t really reflected in the writing, and if the producer had brightened things up a bit and sanded down the edges of the guitar line, this has the makings of a tolerable-but-forgettable track. Instead, they decided to try and stand out, and ended up succeeding for all the wrong reasons.
Calling Langston a clone of Gilbert oversells his style a bit—Langston seems more like a cheap knockoff, sitting in between Gilbert and Dylan Scott with less gravel in his voice and less charisma in his performance. His range and flow are untested by the track, but are enough to handle its technical demands. The emotional demands, however, are another matter: Where more-talented singers like Chris Young and Easton Corbin are able to lighten the mood and make the narrator feel a slight bit sympathetic (seriously, even Drew Baldridge would have done a better job here), there’s no enjoyment or happiness present in Langston’s delivery. Instead, he gives the impression that he’s kind of miffed that he has to explain himself, and he aims that frustration towards the audience. That attitude and demeanor ends up pushing the audience away instead of pulling them in (because listeners just love getting talked down to), and the overwhelming reaction to Langston’s declaration of countriness winds up being a pointed “So what?” I have no doubt that Langston has solid country credentials, but if he insists on throwing them in our faces like this, I’m just going to walk away.
And then we get to the lyrics:
I’m a cold beer drinkin’ every Friday night
Singin’ them songs ’bout the girl I love
I’m a small town, running that sun down
Till I get downtown tearin’ it up
I just go with the flow with the whiskey and Coke
If you ever wondered how I roll
Well now you know
Frankly, this is the most generic, paint-by-numbers “I’m so country!” track I’ve heard since “REDNECKER,” from the camoflauge hat to the bird dog to the truck and the buck and the “heart-stealing honey” in the truck bed. There’s not an ounce of wit or creativity to be found here: The song is just a Bro-Country wish list, and we’ve heard everything on it a million times before. (I called out the “Middle Of Nowhere Kids” writing for being lazy, but this song is even worse.) The hook is weak, the imagery is bland, and framing the song as a lecture from an aggrieved, too-proud-for-their-own-good narrator towards the audience was a really bad decision. There’s absolutely no reason for anyone to listen to this garbage, and the writers responsible for it should have their pens confiscated until they promise to put some more effort into their craft.
“Now You Know” is one of those songs that should have never seen the light of day: It’s an overdone topic presented in the most aggravating way possible, backed with generic, ill-fitting production and topped off with a subpar effort from Jon Langston himself. With so many singers clogging up the “I’m so country!” lane with better (if not great) takes on the subject, there’s absolutely no reason for you to give this track the time of day. If you were curious as to why Langston wasn’t making any noise on the charts…now you know.
Rating: 3/10. Next!