Quick Draw Single Reviews is a recurring feature where I cover multiple new country airplay singles and standalone songs in a gauntlet style format, in order from best to worst.
This edition features reviews for new singles from Morgan Wallen, Lady Antebellum, Kane Brown and Walker Hayes.
Morgan Wallen – “More Than My Hometown” (written by Morgan Wallen, Ryan Vojtesak, Ernest Keith Smith and Michael Hardy)
For whatever reason, this is my first time discussing Morgan Wallen on this blog. Perhaps it’s fitting, though, as while he comes across well in interviews and has good artistic instincts, I haven’t liked any of his singles thus far. Unfortunately, new single “More Than My Hometown” isn’t doing much to change my mind, either. Wallen’s grittier vocals and Joey Moi’s production just don’t match. For one, Wallen isn’t Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard; he’s trying to achieve a deeper emotional complexity and actually has a good knack for subtlety. But that doesn’t translate well when the guitars sound as blubbery as they do here, with no real tonal heft present whatsoever. Plus, for as much as Wallen is trying to sell this with some vestige of regret, the writing never digs into a deeper reasoning for why he’s choosing to stay in his hometown rather than chase his girlfriend’s dreams with her. Sure, there’s some vague comparisons of their relationship to football and other clichéd small town subjects, but it mostly devolves into a checklist of excuses before turning it around on the hook. There’s a good idea present, but the song itself is a hodgepodge of ideas that never fluctuates into anything meaningful. (Strong 5/10)
Lady Antebellum – “Champagne Night” (written by Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, Patricia Conroy, Ester Dean, Andrew DeRoberts, Shane McAnally, Madeline Merlo, Tina Parol, Ryan Tedder and Dave Thomson)
I mean, I guess I saw this coming. “What I’m Leavin’ For” never really took off at radio coming off their other ballad “What If I Never Get Over You,” and if there’s a song that doesn’t fit the current times, it’s that one. But while new single “Champagne Night” isn’t so much a pivot as it is a needed shot of rejuvenation for any momentum the band has left – the song was written for NBC’s Songland, after all – it’s still disappointing given how much artistic progress they made with their latest album. And yes, “Champagne Night” is emblematic of every element of what made this band bland and forgettable last decade: a sterilized guitar and drum combination that, while organic, lacks any sense of punch or groove; a lack of real interplay between Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott; and writing that shows why they’ve never been good at being “cool” (they mention being “lit,” to give you an idea). “You Look Good” was also a mess, but at least it attempted to be edgy. Most of all, though, I don’t buy this band as the kind of hell-raisers that would “drink beer on a champagne night” in the country, as the hook implies (if anything, it seems like it would be the other way around). Again, it’s an isolated, fairly harmless moment and doesn’t necessarily suggest this band’s future artistic direction, but it’s a weak song nonetheless. (Very light 5/10)
Kane Brown – “Cool Again” (written by Kane Brown, Matt McGinn, Josh Hoge and Lindsay Rimes)
It’d be unfair to say Kane Brown has faded from the general mainstream country conversation, but I wouldn’t say he’s competing with Luke Combs anymore for a slot in country music’s A-list like he was a few years ago. Certain other songs from Experiment (as well as standalone songs like “For My Daughter”) seemed to garner more attention than the actual singles, and I’m not sure it was the defining album era he needed. With “Cool Again” I’m even less convinced of that, where Kane Brown’s messy (attempt of a) fusion of traditional country and slicker R&B elements clashes on one of his worst singles yet. The song is about wanting to recreate a relationship and its memories, but Brown wants the reward without the actual work. There’s no reflection of what went wrong or any promise to not make the same mistakes, and Brown’s general mood is sulky without being all that likable. Of course, it doesn’t help that the song’s main mix consists of an oily, tropical-sounding guitar and drum loop that sounds incredibly out of place for its sentiment, especially with the added reliance on dobro and minor chords; the robotic backing vocalists don’t help, either. It’s otherwise bland and the hook isn’t even memorable, but the poor writing and ill-fitting production are what really bring this down. (Decent 4/10)
Walker Hayes – “Trash My Heart” (written by Walker Hayes, Matt Jenkins, Josh Jenkins, Josh Osborne and Jimmy Robbins)
Mainstream country music may currently be littered with mediocre “boyfriend country,” but at least it survived Walker Hayes.
Really, I’m as equally confused by Walker Hayes’ failed radio singles as I am by the fact that “You Broke Up With Me” actually became a hit. He started out being an agreeable pop-country hit-maker in the early 2010s but came back later on in the decade to deliver his best Sam Hunt impressions, with boom. comfortably being the worst album ever released in the country music genre. He hasn’t even remotely improved since then, and new single “Trash My Heart” is – unsurprisingly – a new low even for him. I can’t even discern everything going on with the production, though I can say the stuttered guitar pickups and snap percussion chop any semblance of groove this song might have had. To be fair, Hayes certainly throws himself into his performances … but that’s not a positive element. He’s completely overdoing his attempt at half-talking, half-singing the track, and his stabs at falsetto on the chorus are even more ear-splitting. As for the lyrics, however, Ashley McBryde attempted this theme of one-night stands with much more class and nuance last year on “One Night Standards,” highlighting the genuine pain and loneliness that comes with giving in to these sordid affairs. Hayes, though, is so “Holiday Inn” to his girl – which, in the context of the song, is one of the worst sexual innuendos since the pink umbrella line from Florida Georgia Line’s “Sun Daze” – and says his girl can “steal his kisses like it’s free shampoo.”
To his credit, Hayes ends the song by repeating the word “trash,” and that may be the best way to summarize this anyway. (1/10)