The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox is a weekly feature in which we review one single – either a standalone entity or one from an upcoming album that interests us – as well as anything new to Billboard’s Country Airplay top 40, and a throwback single (currently exploring No. 1 country singles of the ‘90s). Also, on a personal note from me, Zack, be sure to follow my playlist of favorite new country songs, updated frequently!
I didn’t have a clear idea of who or what single I was going to discuss for the first section of this feature until just yesterday, so I’m thankful for the power of discovery. Anyway, onward!
Sacha, “We Did” (written by Ben Stennis and Brad Rempel)
For the sake of transparency, this will eventually look like a cross-post to the alternative Country Universe single review roundup feature I contribute toward, because I owe this week’s discovery to colleague Jonathan Keefe. Sacha is a Canadian country act who released an EP in February that I’m just now catching up with, and as the lead single for said EP, I love the blast of country-pop euphoria that is “We Did.”
Granted, the obvious vocal comparisons to Jo Dee Messina are hard to escape, but between Sacha’s terrific grasp of lyrical flow and a more atmospheric swell backing this song’s groove, there’s enough distinctive detail to call that comparison an influence rather than an imitation. And while it is, ultimately, a simple and straightforward love song, I like that it owns it in every way possible. These types of young love-based songs usually come with an ending in which both partners go their own separate ways and are just reminiscing on what could have been. Here, though, that love sticks, and it’s why I called this a blast of euphoria earlier, because between that gigantic chorus and hook, there’s a wonderful sense of urgency to everything here, especially in the overall progression and Sacha’s delivery. In a just world this would be the country radio staple of 2022, but for now, what a great discovery. It just hits my hook-driven, melodic pop-country sweet spot so well. Boom.
We actually have two new entries to this week’s top 40, but sitting at No. 39 for this week is Morgan Wade’s “Wilder Days,” a song I’ve discussed numerous times already (here, here, and here, to be exact). So while I won’t rehash my thoughts, I am thrilled to see it take off, because if it climbs much higher, it’ll be a lock for my favorite hit song of the year.
No. 25 – Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story” (written by David Garcia, Hillary Lindsey, and Josh Kear)
Carrie Underwood’s return to the solo spotlight should feel much bigger than it does, but then I remember how much Cry Pretty underperformed, and suddenly I’m lost with where to set my expectations. Granted, I had heard some pretty bad buzz for new single “Ghost Story” before I had even heard the song itself, and while I don’t think it’s terrible, I’m not all that impressed by it. I like that she’s leaning back into the more glossy atmospheric swell of her Blown Away days and away from the overblown compression of her most recent work, but the percussion and guitar mastering here sounds really tinny overall. And for a song that’s supposedly trying to be threatening in its promise to be this ex-partner’s ghost story, the execution is very limp.
And the thing is, Underwood knows how to convey a good story. You want a ghost story? “Blown Away,” “Two Black Cadillacs,” and “Church Bells.” There you go. This is just surprisingly bland as a whole, never really digging into the deeper details of this relationship, why it failed, or why Underwood’s character is worth remembering at all. In other words, if this is really how she’s making her big return, I wish her all the best. But I don’t think this haunting is worth getting spooked over.
And now, this week’s throwback review:
Randy Travis, “Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart” (written by Hugh Prestwood)
Randy Travis is one of those artists I can always count on for a good comfort listen – easy to return to at any time and substantive, at that. It’s always a bit of a shame that his ‘80s work tends to overshadow his ‘90s work, so let us try and rectify that as we move forward with this section. Then again, going back to those early classics, I can see why they’ve endured. “Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart” has always felt like the spiritual successor to “On the Other Hand” for me, where despite his good intentions, his cheating has been discovered and he’s just begging for that second chance he doesn’t deserve. But leave it to a likable presence like Travis to not only make listeners sympathize with his plea, but also to possibly see his partner as the villain for not hearing him out. He’s sneakily good. But heck, even if he wasn’t convincing, that hook is too golden to ignore. This has always been a quiet favorite of mine, and now it’s going to be stuck in my head all day. Boom.