Album Review: Brett Young – ‘Ticket To L.A.’

Ticket To L.A. cover

The short version: ‘Ticket To L.A.’ is likable but unmemorable. 

The long version: Brett Young and his team just may be milking the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” a little too much.

Granted, while Young is hardly discernible from a slew of other male artists in the scene right now, it’s not surprising to see why he’s garnered so much success so far. He’s not a strong singer, but he’s got a likable personality. His songs aren’t masterpieces, but they’re just sweet enough to connect with an audience. As such, the safe lead single, “Here Tonight” wasn’t much of a surprise. It was meant to simply usher in the next era, and considering that song hasn’t really connected with anyone thus far, the only question remaining was whether Ticket To L.A. was a sophomore hit or slump.

Fans of Young’s self-titled debut album will enjoy this album because, in a nutshell, it’s the exact same album. The production has gotten noticeably better overall, but Ticket To L.A. sees Young trying to create carbon copies of past hits in order to strike twice with lightning. What this means is that while Ticket To L.A. is generally likable, it’s also fairly unmemorable as a whole.

To Young’s credit, the production is fairly better as a whole on his new set of songs. Except for a few moments, sonically, it’s pop-country done right, with a usual formula of interweaving acoustic and electric guitar lines bolstered by lighter, airy banjo, dobro and steel guitar. This lighter mix compliments the looser, happier songs on the album. The title track is one such example, with an airport hook-up centered around the mystery of finding out who this woman is. It’s an admittedly cute track that ends on a cheery note of valuing the time spent even if he missed his flight because of it.

“The Ship and The Bottle” is another winner in the production and lyrical department, with the same warm instrumental mix coming across as something from the early 2010s. Like the title track, the framing of this track once again portrays Young as a fairly likable protagonist in these situations. He comes to the realization that he and his lover are better off alone rather than trying to make something work that won’t. It’s this kind of mature perspective that at least gives Young somewhat of an edge over his contemporaries.

But again, those are the interesting moments. Elsewhere, much of Ticket To L.A. fails to connect either way. “Let It Be Mine” and “Change Your Name” will definitely be singles since they’re literally copying Young’s own, “In Case You Didn’t Know” from last year. Whereas that song at least had the somewhat clever hook, these songs just lack that flavor and come across as more generic.

Of course, maybe it’s good that Young has a formula, because the moments he tries to do something “different” end up usually falling flat. “Where You Want It” tries to be somewhat darker and mysterious to create a sexy atmosphere, but Young isn’t convincing in this overserious role. “Catch” and “Used To Missing You” try to be the edgier cuts on the record, but they both have their fair share of problems. The hook for “Catch” isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks it is, and the song also finds Young painfully struggling to hit some higher notes during the chorus (and we’re not even talking falsetto here – just basic high notes). The chintzier production with the fake percussion also doesn’t help, but neither does Young saying he’s trying to “catch some feelings” later on in the track.

“Used To Missing You” is just oddly mismatched all around. The brighter, upbeat mix clashes with Young singing about how he can’t get used to being alone, a rather gloomy topic. It’s hard to tell exactly what they were going for with this song.

On the flip side, “Chapters” brings in Gavin DeGraw for a surprisingly decent song. The production is mawkish and overblown (this track really didn’t need a gospel choir) and DeGraw contributes very little to the track overall. It’s actually the lyricism that saves it, with Young getting personal as he sings about his failed baseball career and how he’s happy with his place in life and the music business now. On paper, this isn’t bad at all.

Elsewhere, “Reason To Stay” has a decent enough groove to it even if it, like many other tracks here, is uninteresting lyrically. As mentioned before though, this album is a carbon copy of Young’s self-titled album, and that statement extends toward the album structure too. Whereas Brett Young ended with a piano ballad called “Mercy,” Ticket To L.A. takes that piano ballad’s name and changes it to “Don’t Wanna Write This Song.” Young isn’t a good vocalist on a technical level, but he’s able to pour out a good amount of emotion, and that statement extends toward this track, especially when it’s revealed later on that the woman he’s missing is dead rather than simply away.

Still, at the end of the day, Ticket To L.A. finds Young playing it safe for better or worse. His third album will likely be the true test for his placement in the genre. For now, Ticket To L.A. is a bloated listen with several tracks no one will remember in a week that still manages to find its footing in a few highlights.

(Light 06/10)

  • Favorite tracks: “Ticket To L.A.,” “The Ship And The Bottle,” “Don’t Wanna Write This Song”
  • Least favorite track: “Catch”

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