Florida Georgia Line return … with a tepid attempt to recapture their former glory.
Timing is everything.
Around this time last year, country music fans were arguing over the country qualifications of “Old Town Road” and watching Florida Georgia Line defend their country music credentials, and those, sadly, are now the “good ol’ days.”
For Florida Georgia Line specifically, the Can’t Say I Ain’t Country era seemed to end before it really even began, with “Talk You Out Of It” underperforming and “Blessings” outright becoming their lowest charting hit. Even “Simple,” the album’s only real hit, sounded more like early Mumford & Sons than it did, you know, Florida Georgia Line.
And that’s the weird part about their legacy – “Cruise” will forever define it, even if the duo have managed to score huge hits by playing to different styles (think “H.O.L.Y.” or “Dirt”). But their debut album also defined a style and sound for them that dominated the rest of the country music industry in the 2010s, and even if they still have success elsewhere, they haven’t really been able to prove they’re anything much beyond bro-country party dudes. They’ve certainly tried, and that creates a weird paradox; they’ve spent their time since then trying to answer their criticisms rather than let that evolution come naturally, which, considering those early hits don’t really offer much in the way of “artistic” discussions, means that the duo have been a bit all over the place since the “Cruise” days.
Beyond the technical analysis, though, there’s no denying the Can’t Say I Ain’t Country era was a bust for an act of their stature, which is why it wasn’t surprising to hear a quick turnaround with a new single and that they switched management and producers. It is surprising that they’re doing all of this in the middle of a pandemic, but, given that their new single is called “I Love My Country,” there was a slight chance it could inspire hope in a dark time.
Of course, it doesn’t do that, and what we’re left with is a song that tries to recapture the duo’s early sound while rehashing their argument for their place in country music from their last album era, and the overall result is a mess that sounds uninspired and not worth anyone’s time, even with all of the time in the world right now.
On a positive note, the difference in production is fairly noticeable to a degree; the electric guitars have a meatier presence against the real drums … at least until the token banjo and drum machines make their way in not long into the first verse, for whatever reason. The production mix is still a busy one, and even if there’s a decently noticeable groove here, all it does is ramp up the energy and swagger for a song that doesn’t play well to those strengths, but more on that later. At any rate, given that Corey Crowder is handling production duties here, I can’t be the only person to notice the striking resemblance to Chris Young’s “Raised On Country,” enough to where those positive elements start to sound uninspired and copying an only slightly better song.
That brings us to the lyrical content, which won’t take long to dissect – our character here loves his country home and his country lifestyle and fiddles and steel guitars and beer and George Strait and country music and … wait, I think that’s everything. Granted, there’s room for that sort of appreciation, but Tom T. Hall’s “I Love” this most certainly is not. As always, what hurts these songs is the intent and framing; our characters love those aforementioned items, but they have to let the listener just how much they do, and that their lifestyle is probably better than yours or mine. It’s the same tired old bit from their last project, and given how hard they’re trying to denounce their critics, I’m starting to wonder if we don’t finally have country music’s Eminem right here.
It also doesn’t help that Tyler Hubbard’s performance is over the top and ridiculous enough to feign sincerity in a song that both does and doesn’t benefit from it. Brian Kelley does next-to-nothing here, and that may have honestly been the better role to play here.
Again, Florida Georgia Line may have already secured an odd legacy, but “I Love My Country” is an absolutely lazy attempt at keeping that momentum alive, especially now.
(Light to decent 3/10)
Written by Ernest K. Smith, Charlie Handsome and Corey Crowder