The short version: Even without “Bitches,” Mitchell Tenpenny still offers almost nothing worthwhile on ‘Telling All My Secrets,’ even going so far as to adopt the same unlikable personality on a few tracks.
The long version: Mitchell Tenpenny obviously started off on the wrong foot with country music critics. Granted, the song that inspired his initial controversy, “Bitches” didn’t even make its way onto his debut album. Even beyond that song though, Tenpenny offered very little that was interesting or new on the flimsy, “Drunk Me.” Plus, despite *that* song not making its way onto the album, it still came in the form of a code for those who bought the album.
Still, it’s important to maintain objectivity for any artist, and without that song, maybe Telling All My Secrets would show a different, more likable side to Tenpenny.
Well that didn’t happen, as Telling All My Secrets often shows Tenpenny in an unlikable light with mediocre production and horrible vocals, at best.
Tenpenny’s thin vocals often have him turn in hushed, restrained performances, making for an unpleasant listen, especially with his lack of range. Even the best song here, “Walk Like Him,” is marred by that. Granted, there’s no individually bad moments that stick out because of this, save for his stab at falsetto on “Alcohol You Later,” but let’s hope he doesn’t help usher in a new era of “karaoke singer” country.
The production can be fairly hit or miss with this project. To his credit, Tenpenny is able to hit a decent mix and groove every once in awhile. “Goner,” with its dreamier production, complete with minor chords and darker sounding mandolin and acoustics, isn’t half bad even if it’s still shallow lyrically. “Walk Like Him” may be the most “restrained” this album gets, but it’s not a bad track all around. Even for as dumb as “Truck I Drove In High School” is, it doesn’t have the worst melodic foundation.
But there’s only so long we can beat around the bush before we get to what makes this album often so irritating – the lyrical content. The second half admittedly isn’t quite so terrible, but the front half is loaded with tracks that range from stupid to infuriating. “Truck I Drove In High School” tries to be clever by taking the old “I miss my high school flame” concept and framing it around … his truck. It makes the concept of “ain’t nothing like the first time” and “I wonder where she is now” not translate quite as well and sound stupidly creepy. Even bro-country at its worst rarely made a love affair with a truck the entire concept for a song. More than this though, the remembrance is littered with machismo instead of a sentiment or memory that actually feels worth remembering.
Then again, it’s better that Tenpenny sing about his truck rather than an actual woman. “Alcohol You Later,” stupid hook aside, tries to glorify a one-night stand with the fact that he’ll call, sorry, “alcohol” her later. It’s obnoxious, douchey framing brought down even further by an egotistical sentiment that this plan will work anyway. “All On You” finds him throwing his hands up in the air being thankful a relationship didn’t work out because she apparently prevented him from hangin’ with the boys (as they’d likely call it). Sorry, but if Tenpenny expects any listener to feel sympathetic for having to – God forbid – actually care about a relationship and an actual person, then “Bitches” just may not even be the worst he had in store for us anyway.
It’s this same kind of pouty, arrogant attitude that plagues “I Get The Picture,” a track where Tenpenny is frustrated at his ex-lover because she … moved on and found happiness. It’s petty and bitter without justification. Feeling hurt is understandable, but finding anger or blame in her moving on just because you wanted her all for yourself is horribly childish.
The second half of the album is “better,” but only because most of the tracks are saccharine love ballads with chintzy production. The title track tries to go for an R&B edge, but as ever with mainstream country these days, the production lacks any edge to feel sexy or appealing.
“Walk Like Him” is admittedly one track here that’s decent in every area. As a tribute to his father, it’s admittedly well-written, with the final verse actually managing to hit on a pretty powerful level. It also continues the trend of mainstream country albums featuring the best, and often times, only good, song for last.
Overall, Telling All My Secrets feels like a good representation of where mainstream country is at right now split into two parts. The second half represents the boring, generic side (save for “Walk Like Him”) while the front half features a unique, but strongly unlikable personality representative of the worst of the genre. With only one good song and one other decent track, this just leaves Telling All My Secrets feeling like a waste of time.
- Favorite tracks: “Walk Like Him,” “Goner”
- Least favorite tracks:
“Bitches”“All On You,” “Alcohol You Later,” “Truck I Drove In High School”
(Decent to strong 03/10)