The short version: While the sentiment is nice, “Break It In” suffers from clichéd writing and bland production.
- Writers: Benjy Davis, Brandon Day, Daniel Ross, Michael Whitworth
- Rating: 5/10
The long version: The Eli Young Band are a bit of an enigma these days.
For starters, they’re managed to make something very few other modern country acts haven’t – a comeback. Granted, there likely aren’t many people keeping a spreadsheet handy to track which country acts are casualties from both the bro-country and Metropolitan eras, but the number is actually fairly startling.
To be fair, the band got caught in the latter, less impactful trend. And one could even argue that poor single choices were to blame most of all. I may not enjoy “Love Ain’t” all that much, but I can see its appeal and why it launched their comeback.
The thing is, “Love Ain’t” also found the band playing things safe in an era where, despite benefiting from short term factors as the genre sorts through its current state of affairs, it might not bring them much more long term success. And if there’s any evidence of that, it’s their new single, “Break It In.”
In terms of the production, there’s very little differentiating this song from “Love Ain’t,” or the rest of mainstream country music, for that matter. Sure, it might forgo some of the most obnoxious elements we’ve heard in the genre as of late, but if you were to turn on your radio right now, chances are the song you’d hear would sound similar to this. The song starts with the predictable mix of a monotone, recurring electric guitar riff and a synthetic drum pattern that’s as boring as can be. The song may adopt real drums as the song progresses, but this is still a mix that coasts more on being pure noise than adding anything close to energy or texture into the mix. And it’s not like the actual “band” of the Eli Young Band actually stand out in any fashion.
On that note, front man Mike Eli has always been the kind of singer who’s best described as “serviceable,” and this song doesn’t challenge that assertion in the slightest. His flow is smooth, and he’s in a comfortable range, but there’s very little character to his performance. For a song that’s dependent most upon the lyrical sentiment resonating, that’s not good.
And on that note, the lyrical content is probably the best element of “Break It In,” but it’s not exactly stellar either. On one hand, the sentiment of valuing what we have and appreciating those diamonds in the rough is easy to appreciate. But like most mainstream country singles these days, it adopts so many perspectives to try and tell that story, and the result is that there’s really no story being told. There’s a verse about a kid and a baseball glove, a truck, a guitar, first love … at some point you have to even question the continuity here. It’s as if the song goes for so many different perspectives to get its point across that it ends up being generically broad instead of inspirational.
Overall, “Break It In” might not carry the smug obnoxiousness of “Love Ain’t,” but at least that song had a pulse to it. With this song, however, while the intent of the lyricism is nice, it’s not executed all that well. And when the mix is this bland and forgettable, “Break It In” might not be the song to continue the band’s hot streak.