Song Review: Gabby Barrett, “The Good Ones”

Dolly Parton can get away with a sappy feel-good song. Gabby Barrett, not so much.

Barrett was a revelation back in 2019, and her attitude-filled debut “I Hope” not only rocketed up the country charts to top the Billboard airplay chart in April, it peaked at #16 on the Hot 100 and racked up over 10 million weekly streams on several occassions. It’s nearly impossible not to see a relative sophomore slump when your debut song explodes like that, and that’s what we see with Barrett’s follow-up single “The Good Ones.” The song isn’t bad, but it isn’t terribly interesting either: It’s a cheesy, generic ode to a partner with only a few flashes of wit to its credit, and it forces Barrett to try to elevate the track the same way Parton did with “When Life Is Good Again,” but without Parton’s presence and emotive charisma.

There’s not a lot to the production on this track: There’s the serious, overly-dark piano to signal the narrator’s devotion, a pair of electric guitars (one high-pitched, spacious, and only used for breaks, one deeper and used mostly for periodic notes in place of the percussion early and relegated to chord work later), and a drum machine that adds some thump to the mix and little else. (An acoustic guitar is here too, but it’s barely noticeable.) Despite the constant quarter notes offered by various instruments (the guitar starts the trend, the piano takes over later), the track doesn’t generate nearly as much energy as I expected (in truth, it doesn’t generate much at all), and the slower tempo and regular minor chords keep the song from feeling truly romantic or celebratory. (Kelsea Ballerini’s recent album cut “Bragger” took the same route, but at least the quicker tempo and mischievous vibe made that track more fun to listen to.) This is yet another country song that tries to use a darker sound to signal deeper feelings, and once again the trick really doesn’t work.

Barrett remains a talented performer with an effortless delivery, solid flow, and more than enough power and range to cover this track. From an emotional perspective, however, this song is a step back from “I Hope”: While she exuded so much anger and bitterness that the listener couldn’t help but get swept up in her story, she’s doesn’t quite reach that same level here. She certainly seems smitten with the object of her affection, but the listener doesn’t feel it the same way Barrett’s frustration came through on her last single, and thus they don’t feel as invested or interested in this love story (it’s just someone bragging about their significant other). By not pushing the emotional envelope further or having a Parton-like mic presence to draw in the audience, Barrett just isn’t able to sell the story, and the response to it is mostly a shrug and a sigh.

I’m really not impressed with the writing here, as the love story sticks too closely too fluffy and familiar territory to really resonate.  The opening verse is nothing more than a checklist of random comparisons paired with a confusing refusing to the Allegheny river (I’ve never heard a river described as “solid” before, which makes me think the reference was originally going to be the Allegheny mountains before the writers realized it wouldn’t fit the rhyming scheme). Despite a few flashes of brilliance (the “you’d say he hung the moon/I’d say he hung the galaxy” line is pretty good), the song is basically a mashup of every love cliché you’ve ever heard (“love me like he should,” “like wrote the book,” and so on), right down to the “one of the good ones” hook. It just feels like a song that was hastily constructed, something that really needed a few more drafts to more beyond the cookie-cutter phrases and become something more memorable.

“The Good Ones” is actually not one of the good ones on the radio, not with production that’s this awkward and writing that’s this slipshod. Gabby Barrett remains a decent performer, but she doesn’t bring the heat the way she did on “I Hope,” and without support from anything else the song just fizzles and fades into the background. I still think she has star (and even superstar) potential in the genre, but she’s going to need stronger material than this track to make it happen.

Rating: 5/10. Don’t go out of your way to hear this one.