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).
Wade Bowen, “Everything Has Your Memory” (written by Eric Paslay, Heather Morgan, and Wade Bowen)
To quote Mario, “Ah, just what I needed.” I’ve been hankering for a new Wade Bowen album for some time now, especially given how he seems to take longer breaks in between his solo projects than certain other artists. And with him spending more time in Nashville than Texas these days and working with some under-the-radar writers, it’ll be interesting to hear how his upcoming Somewhere Between the Secret and the Truth album turns out, especially given how solid his EP was from last year.
And you know, I’m in a weird place with this lead single, if only because this theme of re-experiencing an ex-partner’s memory through daily activities is one I’ve heard with more detail and a more cohesive storytelling element to it than what we get here, even if this is still really solid. I think it comes down to two factors that work in its favor: Bowen has always been a rugged vocalist who can sell heartache well, and though these do just feel like scattershot snapshots, I think that can work in sifting through the natural post-haze of a breakup. Plus, Bowen has always been one to push thoughtful material with accessible production, and I’d certainly rather hear this on country radio over most of what I cover on the actual charts. All in all, then, while I wouldn’t place this among Bowen’s best, it is a solid first step for what’s to come.
And now, our newest entries to this week’s top 40:
No. 39 – Thomas Rhett feat. Riley Green, “Half of Me” (written by Thomas Rhett, Josh Thompson, and Will Bundy)
This is just “Beer Can’t Fix” part two in both theme and even slightly in the melodic construction; I said it in my review of Thomas Rhett’s latest album, and it’s all I really need to say here. Granted, setting that aside, this is one of the better cuts on that album, if only because it’s decently produced and I don’t think Rhett is bad when he shifts into a neotraditional lane. Disingenuous perhaps, but for a fun drinking song this certainly is decent, and the hook, though somewhat corny, does work for me. I just don’t know if I buy a duet between Rhett and Mr. “I wish country music still got played on country radio” Riley Green on a stylistic level, especially when this isn’t really built as a duet and it easily could have been to have the two vocalists actually play off each other for an added bit of camaraderie and fun. I don’t know, Rhett is in a weird place in his career right now where every step moving forward counts. And while one could certainly do worse than this, one could also do a whole lot better – especially with this sound.
No. 40 – Lainey Wilson, “Heart Like a Truck” (written by Dallas Wilson, Lainey Wilson, and Trannie Anderson)
You know, given the muted reception to her album from last year and that her duet with Cole Swindell is now the bigger of her two hits thus far, I’m not sure whether Lainey Wilson has a ton of momentum moving forward or not. Granted, given that “Things a Man Oughta Know” was my favorite hit song of last year, I’m certainly rooting for her. Her new single is an incredibly solid follow-up that could act as either the aftermath of that aforementioned single or a prequel to Julie Roberts’ “Break Down Here,” using the titular simile as a way to, pardon the pun, keep on truckin’ even when the going gets tough. And for as much as I like what she went for with “Things a Man Oughta Know,” I actually think the comparison points in the metaphors used here feel a bit more cohesive and well-realized; it’s always good to see an improvement, even from something already great.
With that said, I’m not always as wild about the production, particularly in those twinkling textures and out-of-nowhere strings that appear on the bridge and feel like an odd tonal fit for a song centered around exposing its rougher edges. Still, she’s two for two for solo singles. Boom.
And now, this week’s throwback review:
No audio available, but you don’t really need it, do you?
Garth Brooks, “The Dance” (written by Tony Arata)
I’ve discussed Garth Brooks for this feature before, but I haven’t really discussed Garth Brooks, you know what I mean? This is the big defining moment – not just for Brooks’ career but for the ‘90s in general, arguably outshone only by a certain other Brooks single we’ll inevitably discuss later. And that’s the thing – “The Dance” is one of those signature songs that could have really only worked for Brooks alone, especially given his penchant for dramatic flair and this song’s booming intensity as a whole. Really, for what really should be a Hallmark-worthy sentiment in its main hook, it’s remarkably beautiful without qualifiers, thanks mostly to this song’s reliance on minor chords that ground in the weight of that sentiment. Everything good comes with a price, and it’s usually in the form of an inevitable goodbye and the pain felt after – where this song could easily refer to either simple heartbreak or death itself and the journey of life taken. A classic, any which way you cut it. Boom.