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).
It seems that the deluge of new album release announcements has dwindled for now, meaning that my backlog is going to take the spotlight of this feature for the time being. Anyway, onward!
Michaela Anne, “Does It Ever Break Your Heart?” (written by Michaela Anne)
Michaela Anne’s Desert Dove was one of my favorite albums of 2019, so I had been meaning to discuss her single releases ahead of her newest album for this feature. To be honest, though, neither of the first two really gripped me that much, so I’m glad that the third time is the charm, especially when this is the sort of sweeping pop-country she just nails excellently. And in finding that sweet spot between dreamy atmosphere and grounded texture, she just may have made one of her best tracks yet.
Granted, this does provide a nice continuation of the main theme explored on Desert Dove – exuding a passion for love and wanting so desperately to find it only to find something more fleeting that comes without a deeper sense of satisfaction, instead. And this particular song treads a careful line between that, knowing full well that this hook-up between two strangers won’t last and that they’re both in it for their own short-term, selfish reasons (also, “Does it ever break your heart to think how we hurt each other without empathy?” is a great line), where Anne’s character chooses to trust her better judgment and walk away, in the end. Between it and the gorgeous minor melody anchored in a fantastic slow-burning melancholy against those gorgeous-sounding strings, this is just a beautiful song. Boom.
And now, our newest arrivals to this week’s top 40:
No. 25 – Kane Brown
(feat. Brooks & Dunn), “Like I Love Country Music” (written by Jordan Schmidt, Kane Brown, Matt McGinn, and Taylor Phillips)
Oh man, this will be a divisive one, huh?
Kane Brown is one of those artists I’ve always wanted to like more than I do, but I’ve been slowly coming around on him as of late. It helps that he’s leaning more toward an oddly neo-neo-traditional sound – at least with his solo country releases – and that those singles have been fairly decent (“One Mississippi” even managed to grow on me quite a bit). And with his latest single … he basically performs a Shania Twain-sounding ditty that’s so glaringly stupid but also kind of harmless and fun? I think? And yet I’m still miffed we got this over “Whiskey Sour” as his next single?
I really don’t know what to make of this one. It’s a cross between the country artist name-drop trend and boyfriend country that should immediately raise all sorts of red flags, and yet it’s all played almost as a self-aware goof. Part of this is attributed to the aforementioned Twain-esque production that balances dance-ready electric guitars with some surprising grit to them with prominent fiddle and steel guitar that’s all balanced out to be bouncy and rollicking. And part of it is because the references used feel perfunctory and more just used for goofy fun – especially when he references Brooks & Dunn and they actually show up for a surprise cameo appearance. I mean, it’s really stupid as a whole, but I also don’t think it’s meant to be taken seriously, and this is certainly the liveliest Brown has sounded on record in some time. I can’t hate it and could see it growing on me, but man, it’s a weird little song for now. Boom/Bust (?)
No. 40 – Russell Dickerson feat. Jake Scott, “She Likes It” (written by Jake Scott, Josh Kerr, and Russell Dickerson)
I had a bad feeling walking into this when I saw that this song charted on the Hot 100 before it did the country charts. What’s baffling, though, is why it did. Jake Scott is a pop singer who was most active in the 2010s, so it’s not like the name recognition is the immediate selling point, especially when Russell Dickerson is just another name on Music Row with No. 1 singles and little actual buzz behind his name to match them. Listening to this song now … well, it’s not beyond awful, but it’s pretty lousy, and for pretty predictable reasons. That electric guitar loop is mildly catchy in the moment, but the song doesn’t really have anything in the low end to give it any sense of groove; it just feels oddly hollow and clunky, as a result. And that’s a pretty appropriate way to describe the writing, as well – a laundry list of things both Dickerson and Scott’s partners like that, to be fair, doesn’t come across as sleazy and mostly feels sincere as a relationship song. It’s just painfully boring as a concept, especially when this is your by-the-numbers boyfriend country song that doesn’t have a lot going for it. Bust.
And now, this week’s throwback review:
Clint Black, “Walkin’ Away” (written by Clint Black, Dick Gay, and Hayden Nicholas)
I do believe this is the first repeat trip we’ve had from an artist for this particular section of this feature, and how fitting that Clint Black is our first repeat guest, given that he was the bigger superstar out of the gate compared to Garth Brooks. It says a lot, too, that even though “Walkin’ Away” isn’t the classic song folks immediately think of with Black – compared to “Killin’ Time” or “Better Man,” that is – it’s still an excellent country song, all the same. Granted, its unassuming nature is pretty much its asset, a plainspoken tale of love gained and love lost anchored by a terrific fiddle line that maintains its optimism to find the right one, even if it’s sold by someone beaten down and battered. Honestly, with how effectively straightforward and simple it is in concept, I can see where all of the Merle Haggard comparisons came to mind with Black, because his debut album is a near-classic. Boom.