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).
Courtney Patton, “Do You Feel Love” (written by Courtney Patton)
I haven’t had as many chances to discuss Courtney Patton’s work as I’d like. She’s the sort of writer with a country backbone whose work typically leans into elements of folk and Americana, which means that, like with most projects in that vein, her albums can sometimes be very demanding slow burns – and production has always been a slightly inconsistent issue in the past (not unlike husband and fellow performer Jason Eady, really). So to hear her lean into elements of jazz and soul ahead of her first album in four years (Electrostatic) has me really interested, because both pre-release tracks are great.
Granted, for the purposes of this feature I’m going to give the slight edge to the more groove-driven “Do You Feel Love,” which leans into those aforementioned soulful elements off the more ragged touches of fiddle, organ, and bluesier electric guitars and blends together well. Clarity and texture has always been superb in this regard to her work, but it’s nice to hear her expand off that minimalist structure to deliver something with a little more drive and punch. With that said, she’s always had a world-weary quality to her voice, and while I do think a more powerful presence could have sold the bite and smolder in the kiss-off conceit better, sometimes something more direct can work well too, especially when this is a track that questions if the character’s relationship is teetering on the edges of indifference and its end or if it can hold on. All in all, just a fantastic start that offers a needed expansion for Patton’s sound without sacrificing anything else to get there. Boom.
And now, our new lone entry to this week’s top 40:
No. 25 – Blake Shelton, “No Body” (written by Chris Tompkins, Josh Kear, and Rodney Clawson)
… OK, look, part of me wanted to give this the benefit of the doubt. Blake Shelton’s insistence on a ‘90s country pivot could definitely work in spirit – though he debuted in the early 2000s, early singles like “Austin” and “The Baby” showcased strong storytelling elements, which often comprised the most interesting moments of that decade over its actual sound. And he’s got the coy charm and charisma to sell that decade’s goofier moments well, too.
It makes no sense, then, for this to feel as clunky and flat as it does, especially when, again, Shelton has the charisma to potentially make a goofy track like this at least seem fun. But off the slower pace and curdled electric axes that offer no sense of groove whatsoever – along with some really robotic-sounding vocal production on the chorus that makes Shelton’s performance sound forced and phoned-in – I definitely can’t see a ‘90s connection, and I definitely can’t say this is something that’s all that fun or catchy to listen through. And for a love song trying to be cute with that hook, this certainly pales in comparison to his own “Nobody But Me.” It’s not a complete misfire like “Come Back as a Country Boy” before it, but like with most Shelton singles over the past decade and a half, I just find it forgettable.
And now, this week’s throwback review:
Reba McEntire, “You Lie” (written by Charlie Black, Bobby Fischer, and Austin Roberts)
I’ve always found it fascinating that, though I firmly grew up with 2000s country, I can say I grew up with Reba McEntire’s music. Her career longevity rivals George Strait’s almost exactly – both performers started in the ‘80s and managed to notch hits all the way through to the 2010s and have their legacies secured. Where they may differ, though, is in what decade could constitute as their best – from a commercial standpoint, at least.
And considering this is the decade in which McEntire had hits with “Fancy” and “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia,” among others (and the crazy part is, we won’t even get to discuss those particular songs for this feature), I’d say the ‘90s golden age belonged to McEntire just as much as it did to anyone else. Her first No. 1 single of the decade offers a fantastic introduction, too – a track anchored in a minor melancholy over her character’s realization that her partner has fallen out of love with her, hanging on only to spare her the hurt … even though it’s hard to hide and has the opposite effect instead, which is why I’ve always loved the dramatic flair and tension in the hook that’s always been a great trademark of my favorite work of hers. And the fact that it helped forward that momentum for even more to come means we’re in for many great selections of hers ahead. Boom.