The short version: While Kane Brown has some work to do in improving his lyrical content, ‘Experiment’ is an improvement in nearly every area for the young artist.
The long version: Declaring that Kane Brown is the future of country music is no longer an opinion. The only new artist out there currently acting as his rival is Luke Combs.
And you know, that might not be the worst thing ever. I stand by my opinion that his 2016 debut album was a hurried, unfocused listen, but Brown has at least shown a knack for good melodies and catchy hooks. If anything, he was looking to improve in those other areas too, as the pre-release songs to his new album, Experiment, weren’t bad in the slightest. “Lose It” was the kind of amped-up country-rock number that Jason Aldean used to excel at back in the day, and other tracks like “Homesick” and “Short Skirt Weather” at least showed some unique flavor.
On that note, it should be said that Experiment is an improvement for Brown in nearly every area. The instrumentation and production is miles better, Brown sounds more confident as a singer, and the writing … well, it might be the one element holding him back, but still, Experiment just might be the game-changer Brown is after.
Now, does that mean this is good? I’m hesitant to say that or that it’s great, but it is a fairly decent listen bolstered by a strong first half. “Baby Come Back To Me” nods to the influence “Lost It” showed off by being a swampy, country-rock/soul hybrid that smolders by its end. The instrumentation and production is Experiment‘s greatest asset, with this track in particular featuring huge, booming drums and a background choir to give it more sizzle.
It’s what makes even some of the lighter, fluffier tracks here go down a little smoother. Unlike most of his contemporaries filling in their songs with walls of sound, Brown is filling in his songs with actual instrumentation such as acoustic guitar, banjo and dobro to give them more warmth. The electric guitar and fiddle combination help give “Lose It” that extra crunch, and “Short Skirt Weather” brings in barroom piano to liven the song. It’s little details like that which make the tracks catchier and more memorable.
Still, there’s a few tracks where it feels like the mix is off. “Good As You” feels like it’s missing something. You can almost hear how a nice horn section could have fit in to give the song more flavor. On the other hand, “Weekend” brings in this lush arrangement and horns at the beginning only to have them fade away and enter in a song that’s … well, about nothing, really.
That speaks to the lyrical content though, the one element that hasn’t gotten much better. Most of these tracks feel like nothing special when referencing this specific department. It’s most notable in the weaker second half, with “Work” operating as a sappy, generic motivational relationship track. “One Night Only” touts Brown as a hero because he wants to spend the rest of his life with his lover rather than just sleep with her. Much like Chris Janson’s “Drunk Girl,” the intent is good, but all it does is reveal that these men are supposed to act this way naturally, not get rewarded for it.
Even for as much as I enjoy “Short Skirt Weather,” it’s yet another country song objectifying a woman. Still, Brown does find a bright spot every now and then. “It Ain’t You It’s Me” is a clever take on the age-old phrase regarding the end of a relationship, and “Homesick” is another example of Brown writing an excellent hook. “My Where I Come From” almost crosses the line by starting out as a generic small-town pride anthem, but it shifts perspective to focus on Brown midway through, giving the listener more of an interesting view into who he is. Even “American Bad Dream” can be commended for approaching the idea even if Brown lacks the nuance to really pull it off.
Vocally, Brown delivers sincere performances on the love ballads, and he’s also adept at handling heartbreak on “It Ain’t You It’s Me” and “Homesick.” If anything though, I’d like to hear Brown explore his vocal range a little more. Considering he’s currently got one of the more unique voices in the genre, it would be nice to hear him use that to his advantage. The closest we get is the final chorus of “Short Skirt Weather” where he lets his baritone rumble.
Regardless of that though, Experiment is loaded with hits, so like it or not, Brown is here to stay in the genre. Thankfully, the album overall is a step forward for Brown, but there’s also improvements to be made in the songwriting before the quality matches his stardom. Is this album a groundbreaking project for country music? No, but it’s unique when compared to what most other male artists are putting out there right now, and Brown just may have raised that bar a little higher for the rest of them.
- Favorite tracks: “It Ain’t You It’s Me,” “Baby Come Back To Me,” “Lose It,” “Homesick”
- Least favorite track: “One Night Only”