Review – A Thousand Horses’ “Smoke”

Smoke

With every new year, there’s always going to be new country acts emerging. It’s still quite early in 2015 and we’ve already been introduced to some new acts. One of them is band called A Thousand Horses. They’re signed to the major label Republic Nashville and they’re releasing their debut album Southernality on June 9. The band consists of Michael Hobby (lead vocalist), Bill Satcher (lead guitarist), Zach Brown (guitarist/vocalist) and Graham DeLoach (bass/vocalist). They describe their sound as a combination of southern rock and country (as they mention on their site, they say Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers influence their sound). Their lead single “Smoke” has rocketed up the Country Airplay chart quickly, placing 26th on last week’s chart. This surprising surge in popularity has certainly caught my attention, so let’s take a look at “Smoke.”

Right from the beginning of the song you can hear the steel guitar and the mandolin, which provides a nice sound. This is pretty much consistent throughout the song. It’s a nice sound, but it’s also very safe and radio friendly. There isn’t an edge at all. No risks are taken instrumentation wise, which isn’t surprising with a lead single. When it comes to an act’s first single they want to play it as safe as possible to appeal to the largest amount of people possible. So I completely understand this. With that being said though, it makes for just a decent performance.

As for the lyrics in this song, they’re also pretty safe. Hobby sings about a woman in his life, which he compares to smoke. Here’s the chorus lyrics, which are repeated ad nauseam:

She’s smoke

I pull her in nice and slow/She’s a habit that I can’t let go

Blowing rings around my heart

Once she stole, watching her sway and glow

It’s killing me and I know/I can’t stop her once she starts

She’s smoke

These lyrics aren’t terrible and at least it isn’t another song comparing a woman to alcohol. Then again these aren’t great lyrics either. Just like the instrumentation these are very safe, in-between lyrics that won’t offend anybody nor make people cry “bro country.” Basically what this song is saying is the man in it is addicted to this woman and can’t her out of his head. It’s a simple, straight forward love story. At least that’s what the story that is being told by just listening to the song.

As for the music video for “Smoke,” which you’ll see below, it tells a slightly different story. In the music video the band hits a club. And in this club there’s a woman who is on stage stripping, which has caught the eye of lead vocalist Hobby. Oh and one more thing. The name of the stripper is “Smoke,” as you’ll see in the video she walks into her dressing room and there’s a sign that says “Smoke.” So what I thought was just a harmless love story before is now a story about a man becoming enamored with a stripper named “Smoke.” Now music videos don’t have an effect on my grades of songs, but it’s really hard to shake the image this video gave me of this song after watching it. I don’t think Florida Georgia Line has even put strippers in their music videos.

If I was grading this music video, I would give it a 0/10 because it’s unoriginal, dumb and once again a country song objectified women. These are the kind of things that impede mainstream country music from moving forward. But fortunately for A Thousand Horses I’m only reviewing the song. It’s certainly better than the video, but this song doesn’t leave me in awe like the band was with the stripper in the video. It bores me more than anything and at best makes neutral background music. I think this band’s talented and has potential. They’re certainly capable of much more. I hope their album is better and I’ll certainly give it a chance. But when it comes to “Smoke” it’s just meh for me. This is just another average country song.

Grade: 5/10 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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26 thoughts on “Review – A Thousand Horses’ “Smoke”

  1. I agree this is very meh.. I’m more inclined to give it a 4/10 but a 5/10 also fits. If I want to a hear a smoke song I’ll listen to “Smoke Rings In The Dark” by Gary Allan, not this.

    At least this is better than Florida Georgia Line’s “Smoke” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • ….And I just saw the video, my god what the hell was that? That definently just ruined the song for me.

      And btw the only reason this has skyrocketed up the charts is because of that “On The Verge” program. You know, the one that helped the bad songs by Dustin Lynch, Raelynn, and Sam Hunt do as well as they did (ugh…)? I”m not a fan of the program at all.

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      • Well my opinion may not matter much but I love the song & I’m not gay but I liked the video-it was daring & different.. Go A THOUSAND HORSES!

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  2. Honestly, the lyrics were a dead giveaway well before the release of the respective video that this song is about lust, not love.

    The very lyrics you quote connote a dive bar or gentleman’s club environment. Granted we’ve heard many songs about swaying in the headlights of a jacked-up truck parked out in the middle of nowhere, but when you do the lyrical arithmetic, it becomes obvious what kind of scene is set.

    The bridge is the most egregious giveaway: where he speaks in the THIRD-person:

    *

    “When the night burns out,
    and we all go home,
    scent of sweet perfume,
    all over your clothes…”

    *

    Notice that the vocalist says “WE all” on the second line of the bridge. This suggests that the narrator is not alone and is accompanied by others (likely other bros) who are also watching her dance or are otherwise drinking. This also suggests that the narrator hasn’t taken her home and has yet to introduce himself to her.

    Is it possible to have feelings of love for a stripper and/or exotic dancer, or to feel love for someone in a decidedly lusty environment? Absolutely. But the details here just aren’t consistent with feelings of love, but rather of lust and infatuation. It’s nice that objectification of the subject is minimal compared to other songs with this theme, and I do appreciate the relative open-endedness the bridge leaves of unrequited connection……..but I simply can’t buy the idea this is a love song.

    And here’s my biggest problem with this song. Its clear what their intentions were with the songwriting and the accompanying video, yet they settled on the most milquetoast production scheme as far as the music is concerned. The central riff of this song actually reminds me of that of Third Eye Blind’s “How’s It Going To Be”, and while that was easily among the alternative band’s more radio-ready and tamer singles, that song nonetheless still maintained an edge especially in the poignant, desperate bridge that precedes the narrator’s final concession that the relationship has indeed ended and he must come to terms with its dissolution. But with “Smoke”, there’s absolutely no edge whatsoever like you’ve said. It’s painfully safe and inoffensive, and that greatly hurts a song that would have benefited from more bite in the guitars conveying the fact what he‘s feeling is lust, or a more vulnerable bridge and coda perhaps if it has grown to something more.

    “Smoke” can’t help but sound a bit disingenuous to my ears. And that’s my main issue with this song: it’s clearly a song about a more physical kind of desire or infatuation that is nonetheless watered-down and rendered inoffensive and edge-free to death to the extent it is marketed as just another love song. If anything, the video is more honest than the radio single.

    I’m thinking a 4 out of 10 for this one. It’s not worth hating on any level, but it’s nonetheless a below-average song that is also hurt by coming across as disingenuous in its intent and ultimately sounding all too forgettable. Still, I too understand why they released this kind of song as their debut single……….and I can only hope they wear their influences more authentically on their sleeve with their forthcoming full-length debut and, hopefully, a single or two as well.

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  3. Well I m surprised by the negative about the song and video!!?? I think most red blooded men have been to strip clubs !!! Been enamored by a vixen or two. Especially if lonely and drunk!!!!! The blank lonely lusting of the women??? Is this not why there are so many. The song really tugs at the emotions!!! Great girl in video!!!! I give it 8/10

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