Review – Keith Urban & Eric Church’s “Raise ‘Em Up”

Collaborations have been quite popular in the world of mainstream country music in the past couple of years. There have been a lot if you sit down and think about it. Among the collaborations you have Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan collaborating on “This Is How We Roll,” Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore coming together on “Small Town Throwdown” and Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood on “Somethin’ Bad” to name a few popular ones.

None of those collaborations impressed me because quite frankly they all sucked. The latter one really disappointed me, while the other two weren’t huge surprises. So when I heard Keith Urban and Eric Church collaborated on a new single, I was intrigued. Sure I’m not the biggest fan of either of these guys’ work, but I respect their talent and I felt there was potential with this pairing. So without further ado let’s look at “Raise ‘Em Up.”

The song begins with an acoustic guitar, which is omnipresent throughout the entirety of the song. This is combined with some typical modern country production to give the song a vibrant and upbeat attitude. The song can fly by if you don’t pay attention. While the instrumentation isn’t my exact cup of tea, I really don’t have any qualms with it. It’s solid, radio friendly and respects the roots of country sound for the most part. This is a pop country sound that works for me.

As for the song itself, it’s quite interesting. The phrase “raise ’em up” means a variety of things in the song, from raising a beer in celebration to raising your own kids. Regardless of whatever the meaning is at that moment in the song, they’re all going for the same feeling of down-to-earth, everyday life. It’s a sentimental, feel good song that is supposed to relate to the everyday man as they drive down the road on the way to work. I think for most listeners the song will be an accomplishment in this aspect.

For me personally, it appealed a little bit in the emotional aspect. For the most part though, I just can’t get into this song because it’s simply doesn’t go far enough. It would have been better if it was longer and told more of a story. Instead it just uses vague and at times clichéd themes, similar to most nostalgia/sentimental songs that have come out in recent memory. This is on the writers of “Raise ‘Em Up,” which are Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston and Jeffrey Steele. I have no problem if a song uses just a few clichés if it feels like it belongs instead of being forced. Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown” is a perfect example of this. Also the pandering lines towards the troops made me cringe a little and those definitely felt forced.

As for the decision of pairing Keith Urban and Eric Church, I think this was a great choice. I thought their voices went really well together and it sounded natural. This song really fits Church well because this type of song is right in his wheelhouse and most of his popular songs are similar to “Raise ‘Em Up” in terms of theme and tempo. Urban didn’t try to over sing in this song either, which in my opinion has ruined some of his songs. The only issue I had with the vocals in this song were at the end with the “Ohhhhhs” being echoed over and over. This space could have been better utilized improving the story and theme of the song. Other than that I thought the vocal performances of Church and Urban were solid.

I honestly don’t know how to feel about “Raise ‘Em Up.” It’s certainly not a bad song, but it’s not a great song either. I mean if it came on the radio I wouldn’t start singing along, but I would have no problem listening to it. I think most listeners’ perception of this song will be based on how big of a fan they are of Urban and Church. Their fans should like this song, while the rest of us are kind of confused on how to feel about it. The song has been nominated for the 2015 Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, so hence the timing of this song being released as a single. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t have a lot of success on the charts. These two each have a dedicated fan base that will really rally a lot of support behind it. So it you’re a fan of one of these artists, check out “Raise ‘Em Up.” If you’re not, then you won’t miss anything.

Grade: 6.5/10

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32 thoughts on “Review – Keith Urban & Eric Church’s “Raise ‘Em Up”

  1. I was vastly underwhelmed with this song. I think they try to fit too much into the story, and to me, the verses don’t really connect like a story should.

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    • Yeah this song had potential to be good, but as you said they tried too hard to appeal to everyone with broad descriptions instead of trying to tell a engaging story.

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  2. This is a slightly-above average result that nonetheless can’t help but leave me feeling gutted in that it EASILY should have been a whole lot better and poignant.

    The vocals are easily the best aspect of this track. They sound naturally engaged with the material at hand, and the interplay feels authentic. I totally get why Urban reached out to Church because, when you get your head around the “bad boy/outlaw” image that Church and his management team has repeatedly fed, Church is actually a whole lot more convincing when he approaches the topics of nostalgia, family and others that have a lighter populist draw to them. “Sinners Like Me” is a perfect example of that where, despite the title suggesting another “Hell yeah!” raising hell kind of song, it’s actually a gentle look back in admiration on his loved ones in their imperfect, rough-around-the-edges ways. Church shines on those kind of songs, so he fits hand in leather glove here.

    Lyrically, it’s weakened considerably by a lazier mode of songwriting that is daisy-chaining generic significant life events/milestones akin to living the “American Dream”, relying on a title that SCREAMS mass populist appeal on its own and serve as a watermark for any sign of cohesion between these said events, shoehorn a few rounds of obligatory U2-esque “whoa oh ohs” in the coda to further aggrandize that populist appeal and call it a day. Humorously enough, I was starkly reminded of the board game “LIFE” when I first heard the song and I could envision Milton Bradley in a bid to revive this ubiquitous and long-lasting game for a new generation consulting these artists, their labels and the song’s writers, and paying them dearly to have the song be featured in their latest advertising campaign. Yep……spin that wheel, drive that fast car down the winding golden path, stick another light blue or pink peg in that backseat, pick up another $20,000 promissory note and settle on Millionaire Acres if you put your heart to it………but hey kids, don’t forget to stick them lighters up along the way! Because That‘s The Game Of Life! 😉

    Still, I do appreciate that we’re presented with some nice slices of imagery in this lazier lyrical arrangement. Songs are most effective when they, first and foremost, have the ability to paint visuals in your mind..…..and from white sails in Mexico to black umbrellas in the pouring rain, “Raise ‘Em Up” succeeds on this front. What makes good songs great, however, is whether they’re able to take it one step further and inspire not just still frames or murals, but stories in your mind’s eye………..and that’s where “Raise ‘Em Up” falters.

    Unfortunately, there’s one other central flaw to this song: it sounds way too reminiscent of Urban’s earlier hit “Somebody Like You”, albeit in a more subdued tone. Kenny Chesney had this exact same problem with “Til It’s Gone” and, just as I wanted to belt the chorus of “Don’t Happen Twice” or “I Go Back” instead as I’ve heard that song, I feel the urge to belt “I used to run in circles goin’ no-where fast. I’d take, uh, one step forward end up two steps back.” as he sings “Get those white sails sailing down in Mexico, it’s just a whiskey glass if you ain’t makin’ a toast…” instead. That sound-samey redundancy can’t help but be somewhat of an issue for me.

    Still, while this easily should have been a whole lot better and poignant……….…I’ll still take it, and it’s not something I’ll change the station over.

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    • LOL at thinking of the board game LIFE when hearing this song. That’s makes a lot of sense and just like the board game it’s just fantasy to think life is this easy.

      That’s the song! I thought at one point in the beginning it sounded familiar to a previous Urban song, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. That part of the “Raise ‘Em Up” sounds exactly like that line in “Somebody Like You.” They had to have realized they recycled that sound, right? It’s so blatantly the same. This song is decent as we agree, but it is no way deserving of freaking Grammy. When I saw it was nominated for a Grammy I couldn’t believe it. Then again Kenny Chesney’s bland and unimaginative “American Kids” was also nominated for a Grammy. The Grammys must have not heard Eric Paslay’s “She Don’t Love You” or Dierks Bentley’s “Here On Earth,” which are way more deserving.

      I hope Church and Urban pair up for another song though. They have good chemistry. Let’s just hope the next is much better.

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      • “Sure, is it lyrically deep or special? Of course not, but honestly, considering this is being sent out to COUNTRY RADIO, how much more deep could they have gotten away with before radio abandoned it? Granted, these two are both big enough to where they probably could push an actually meaningful song, but its not as if both artists haven’t seen some resistance from radio. Despite being known as the biggest hit from his “Fuse” album, Urban’s “Cop Car” is thus far, the only single to not reach #1 and his first to miss the top 5 in forever. Church had the lead single from his latest album miss the top 20 and had the followup to a huge #1 only reach #20. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Zack, none of those songs you mentioned that failed were really all that deep or meaningful”. Yes that’s true, however it proves my point that radio can and will show resistance to superstars with they songs that they don’t see fit. Knowing country radio, it would be the same thing if this duet had gone too deep and told an actual story.”

        Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” is a single of respectable depth and poignancy, and it appears to have found its stride since hitting the Top Twenty of the airplay chart. That single-handedly exposes the “radio and depth don’t go hand in hand” argument as a mind-over-matter excuse.

        Eric Paslay’s “She Don’t Love You” is also more than holding its own on the airplay chart, and this is from a newcomer who has hardly established himself yet (at least as a performing artist, as he has had success penning songs for other artists).

        Admittedly, I have no idea what the deal was with “Cop Car”. It will remain one of the more exceptionally rare cases of a recent hit that fared better on the composite chart than on the airplay chart (the vast majority of the time, it’s the other way around). It definitely sold like a legitimate #1 hit and listener callout surveys also reported positive mean scores. I’m not convinced the “anti-ballad era” argument holds water, either, because the Zac Brown Band were able to produce #1s off of “Goodbye In Her Eyes” and “Sweet Annie”, while Dierks Bentley’s “I Hold On” (which, to be fair, is more a ballady mid-tempo rather than a straight-up power ballad) was also a big hit. That one remains a stumper for me.

        *

        “But I don’t like this song because it appeals to radio, I too would have liked to have heard something better from this duo. Going back to the my blurb about the title, country radio is definently seeing some small shifts and ruptures right now. Having a song with a title such as “Raise Em Up” suggests a rowdy time between two guy friends. To me, having a song with a twist title such as this at the death of bro country, seems to me as if it is a slap in the face to those advocating that party songs are the way to go. Makes sense, considering Eric wants to be an outsider (I love the guy, he is arrogant I know, however he definently has played both sides of the coin). I know this song is a year and a half old, however I think it comes at a great time, not a remedy to any of radios problems, but certainly an enjoyable tune in my opinion. I definently can see how you would find this song bland though, I definently think of “Somebody Like You” when I hear this.”

        Why should it matter if a song appeals to radio or not? Why should the fact it’s making a bid for airplay diminish the net value and appeal of any given track?

        Please note I’m not pointing a finger at you when I say the following, but more at this hipster-purity argument that music is sacred and once you promote anything to a mainstream-sensible audience, it loses that sanctity. I couldn’t disagree more. Like Trigger of Saving Country Music has repeatedly said, we should not only keep pushing for lesser-known, largely independent and/or grassroots music to be heard at a broader scale, but we should also root for established artists to get better. And even while the Internet and digital distribution has done so much good in getting music heard at a much further distance, radio nonetheless remains the #1 medium music fans surveyed listen and discover music. And while it isn’t easy, we should always try to take advantage of every resource available to acquaint songs and their respective writers and performers to the broader public.

        I still dislike “Chicken Fried”, for instance, but I also conclude that that song was exactly what the Zac Brown Band needed to win the blessing of radio programmers and serve as a Trojan horse to get their vastly better material on the radio subsequently and establish themselves as a brand. And I HATE “Beachin’” and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” annoys me to no end…………..but, hypothetically, let’s say it was Owen’s plan all along to, once he had amassed enough hits off of shallow trend-pandering tripe and, thus, clout………..he would use that clout to boldly turn the page in his career and release some truly compelling material from here on out? Wouldn’t you want to root for that?

        Again, not intending to give you an unnecessarily hard time or anything. I just can’t help but have knee-jerk reactions when I hear that “radio kills/neuters quality” argument. Among other things, radio is a viable and necessary tool available to get music heard, and it remains possible as ever for quality to find its place.

        *

        Ironically, your final score for this release was actually higher than mine. I consider this a 6/10 song. 😉

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      • I’m assuming part of this reply was to Zack below. Haha!

        As far as your last point regarding Zac Brown Band, I’m completely with you there. I’ll take one bad song if it leads to many more great songs as it has been the case with ZBB. I think Jake Owen is doing the same thing and it makes perfect sense. I think his new album will be much better and have more substance. I see him taking a path similar to Dierks Bentley having a few radio friendly songs (that aren’t that bad) and then songs with depth and substance. I mean Owen is a fan of Simpson, so he obviously knows good country music.

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      • Noah-

        First of all I take no offense to your comments and appreciate the fact that you expressed your views,

        As for the miraculous hits on radio, I’m sorry if I came off as thinking that radio NEVER plays ballads and/or serious tunes. They do however, get it wrong more than right as to what songs they promote. Jake’s amazing climb into the top 20 with “What We Ain’t Got” would never have happened, in my opinion, without the help of “Beachin'”. That song, horrible as it was/is, was definently a song that radio gravitates more towards and therefore, ended up giving Jake a huge platinum #1. Had he not had that, I don’t think that “What We Ain’t Got” would be enjoying the success it is having right now. I really don’t know what the story is with Eric Palsay, I do know that the industry loves him right now for whatever reason. Probably because he is one of the better male mainsream newcomers? Idk
        Zac Brown Band has always marched to their own drum and I admit have surprised me with how they can send songs, such as the ones you pointed out, to the top. Dierks’ s “I Hold On” is another mystery to me. Now like I said, I don’t think that radio is 100% opposed to ballads/meaningful tunes, but like I said they often favor more of the less serious “don’t think about it too much” songs. The songs by Paslay, ZBB, and Dierks are anomalies of what country radio likes to play usually. Just look at one of that charts that Josh uses for his weekly rating. Where are most of the +1’s? In the 20’s-30’s. Where are most of the -1’s? Usually the top 10.

        Now, I’m not saying that radio is all to blame, I know that label politics play a HUGE part in deciding what the suits would like their artists to play.

        Now on the to the radio/quality argument. I don’t believe that an artists has to totally squander all meaning of a song so that radio will play it. This song is a good example of this actually. Its not too strong for radio to shy away from, but also isn’t devoid of at least SOMETHING to make for an enjoyable listen.

        Also, I’ll state for the record that I am quite a huge fan of mainstream country and I dont think that just because something is mainstream means it lacks any sort of substance. I’m just saying that country radio and ballads just don’t see eye to eye as often as they should. And i don’t think artists should have to succumb to recording a bad song in order to get their more better stuff out there but unfortunately that’s the case. I agree with you here, as much as I hate stuff like Beachin’, I’m glad they exist, if only to serve as a way to launch an artists more meaningful music out. On what is perhaps Dierks Bentley’s darkest album yet, he recorded songs that dealt with deep subjects like pain and loss and even religion somewhat (Here On Earth). Of course though the biggest hit from it(thus far) is “Drunk On A Plane”, one of the few lighter songs on there. “Bourbon in Kentucky” a very deep song, stalled out at #45. It proves that an even an established artists like Dierks(who had come off of 3 #1’s) could be shown what happens when you go too depressing. “I Hold On” was a miracle I admit, and something I am glad happened. Even something like Drunk On A Plane, whatever your thoughts on it may be, helped Dierk’s slowing moving ballad “Say You Do” climb up on the charts.

        Keith and Eric could have produced a more meaningful track sure, however these artists could also have taken it too far and had the same thing happen to them what happened to Dierks Bentley’s “Bourbon In Kentucky”. Again, I’m not saying that radio won’t play ballads or that trying to get a hit should excuse a song from lack of substance, I was only trying to point out that radio rarely favors these types of songs(something I think will change in 2015). I too, am always watching and keeping my eye out for country artists(no matter who) who are making good music of any form, fun song or not. Thank you for your thoughts once again,

        Zack

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      • One more note: I apologize for any spelling/grammar mistakes in my comments, typing from a phone is a little annoying haha

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  3. Eh, its not perfect but I’ll take it, enough for me to give it a 7/10.

    What I can appreciate about this song is the fact that we have two males, males coming together for a song called “RAISE EM UP”. On first glance what does the title suggest? If you are aware of what the hell has been happening to mainstream country for the past couple of years (which I certainly know Country Perspective is) then you’re probably thinking “Ugh ANOTHER party song? Really?” However its not, the decietful title unfolds into a song about various things like raising your lighter, voice, children and ok yes a truck.. Sure, is it lyrically deep or special? Of course not, but honestly, considering this is being sent out to COUNTRY RADIO, how much more deep could they have gotten away with before radio abandoned it? Granted, these two are both big enough to where they probably could push an actually meaningful song, but its not as if both artists haven’t seen some resistance from radio. Despite being known as the biggest hit from his “Fuse” album, Urban’s “Cop Car” is thus far, the only single to not reach #1 and his first to miss the top 5 in forever. Church had the lead single from his latest album miss the top 20 and had the followup to a huge #1 only reach #20. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Zack, none of those songs you mentioned that failed were really all that deep or meaningful”. Yes that’s true, however it proves my point that radio can and will show resistance to superstars with they songs that they don’t see fit. Knowing country radio, it would be the same thing if this duet had gone too deep and told an actual story.

    But I don’t like this song because it appeals to radio, I too would have liked to have heard something better from this duo. Going back to the my blurb about the title, country radio is definently seeing some small shifts and ruptures right now. Having a song with a title such as “Raise Em Up” suggests a rowdy time between two guy friends. To me, having a song with a twist title such as this at the death of bro country, seems to me as if it is a slap in the face to those advocating that party songs are the way to go. Makes sense, considering Eric wants to be an outsider (I love the guy, he is arrogant I know, however he definently has played both sides of the coin). I know this song is a year and a half old, however I think it comes at a great time, not a remedy to any of radios problems, but certainly an enjoyable tune in my opinion. I definently can see how you would find this song bland though, I definently think of “Somebody Like You” when I hear this.

    Wow, I didn’t think I’d go to such lengths to explain my thoughts a song I only thought was good haha

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    • I agree with Noah above regarding songs being radio friendly. Just because they’re radio friendly doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad. “Homegrown” by ZBB is definitely radio friendly, but it’s a good song. Same with Bentley’s “I Hold On” or Church’s “Talladega.”

      Country radio will play deep songs. To me it all depends on the artist and their popularity. Once an artist is established after a few hits they can do more what they want. And yes sometimes the theme of a song will cause it not to make it to country radio. That probably explains why Dierks hasn’t released “Here On Earth” as a single because too many people would throw up their arms over the theme of questioning religion (ditto Sturgill’s “Turtles All The Way Down.”). Many deep songs broach “touchy” subjects and radio programmers don’t want to chance anything.

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      • Zack: Thank you for your thoughtful, detailed response! =)

        While I hear and nod affirmatively to your more generalized argument, there remain other telling disparities to consider in recent memory. Besides Eric Paslay, who you yourself acknowledged with a rolling and shrug of the shoulders…………..there is, of course, a major curveball: Kacey Musgraves’ “Merry Go ‘Round”.

        Unlike the Zac Brown Band , Eric Paslay and even Jamey Johnson (if you want to count his notorious co-write of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” as what helped him get his foot in the door to record amazing music his way)…………Kacey Musgraves released this damning, dystopian, salty take on small-town life as her LEAD major-label single. So here she comes out of near-obscurity, without aid of Clear Channel’s “On The Verge”, Big Machine or other strings attached with a single that is brutally honest and depressing………….and manages to take it to the Top Ten of both the Hot Country Airplay and mongrel charts. And this came not during the time we’re observing now where “bro-country “ may still be lingering but has nonetheless lost its commercial luster………….but during the PEAK of the “bro-country” trend. Oh, and she’s not even a blonde! 😉

        (impersonates Bill O’Reilly 😉 ) How do you explain that? If you want to be extremely cynical and argue, like a considerable handful have that Musgraves has only pulled through because of her good looks, fine. But that’s a laughable theory to me in that, after all, there’s no shortage of other good-looking female country singer/songwriters out there………and some of them have released as their lead singles songs that are shamelessly formulaic, faceless and middle-of-the-road with themes that took absolutely no chances that went virtually nowhere on the charts. For instance, while I strongly like Lucy Hale’s debut album “The Road Between” in that I believe it’s a great textbook definition as to what modern country-pop done right sounds like, she also doesn’t exactly go off on a limb and broach rather contentious topics and subjects either. She has a solid collection of songs of which more than enough bolster solid choruses and hooks, solid melody lines, enjoyable production that effectively weds country instrumentation with a Taylor Swift-esque pop production flavor, and an effusive and capable vocal that appeals squarely to a shifting younger listening demographic on country airwaves. Hale had so much of the right idea, and yet has made minimal chart impact.

        Yeah, sure: her three follow-up singles all made minimal impact on the airplay chart and there is no sign as of yet that radio will embrace Musgraves again. But it still doesn’t diminish my initial point at all. “Merry Go ‘Round” was the most controversial and heady of her four radio singles, and was less catchy than both “Follow Your Arrow” and “Keep It To Yourself” were. How the hell could a lead single lamenting the dark side of small town life with a decidedly understated production and the lack of obvious special treatment like “On The Verge” soar all the way to the Top Ten during the height of the “bro-country” trend? It. Makes. Absolutely. No. Sense……………..and yet it defied and surmounted the loftiest of odds.

        So, again, I’m convinced it’s more of a mind over matter situation than anything. Label executives ASSUME any track of respective depth and teeth is going to crash and burn because of the compulsive fear that it will alienate too many listeners, and they’re so insistent in this belief that even many artists who ideally want to make at least a somewhat different kind of music take their word for it blindly. Granted risk-taking on deep songs are known to fail as experiments too, but…………look, I’ll just come out and say it. I think Music Row is stuffed with raging hypochondriacs. 😉 Now I will acknowledge Church has recently said that, while he believes it’s the responsibility of artists to take whatever momentum they achieve in their recording careers and use it to push boundaries and take chances, he also conceded he probably wouldn’t have succeeded in getting away with that beginning with his debut album. None of us will ever truly fathom exactly how intimidating the music industry is behind closed doors unless any of us, obviously, make a bid for a career in the music business ourselves and get as far as they have.

        Still, the curious case of “Merry Go ‘Round” keeps flailing back outside the head. And, in the end, I simply think way too many artists have been conditioned, more than anything, to assume their labels know best just like it is often said “Father knows best…”…………to the extremity where many are afraid to even critique a business decision or proposed artistic direction in a conference room. They assume it’s “just the way things are.”, or “that’s the way the cookie crumbles.” Musgraves thought otherwise from the very beginning of her major-label career…………….and was rewarded for being outspoken. Just as, to a lesser extent, Eric Church has and, perhaps, Jake Owen and Eric Paslay will if their current singles continue to climb a little more.

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  4. Noah- You make a very excellent, valid point about Musgraves, honestly I can’t explain it. The only thing I can say is that country radio is (for lack of a better term) unreadable. Who knows what will be a hit or not?

    You know after reading your comments and thinking about them, I’ve come to the conclusion: It’s not really what the artist puts out as opposed to just the actual artist themselves. Josh pointed this out in another comment here, but it just comes to a point where you can release most anything you want and it’ll still be a hit (Luke’s somber, sentimental “Drink a Beer”, FGL’s “Dirt”). Meanwhile someone like Owen has to be strategic with his actions to get something meaningful played, same with Bentley to an extent.

    In the end though what I’ve taken away from this, is that you’re right, its the intimidation of the labels that is really doing it. Trying to pressure young acts to just appeal to the widest audience possible instead of truly putting down their thoughts on a piece of paper. What’s really frustrating as a fan, is that I have no clue what an artist has to go through to get the song that they want out to radio. Like you said there is no way to know unless we actually go through the process ourselves.

    Even a superstar like Aldean is subject to this. Take his latest album for example, Yes there are about 7-8 tracks that deal with the same concept of either um…”being” with a girl or at a party with a girl. These songs seem like he is off having fun in fantasy land. However, then you take songs like “Don’t Change Gone”, “Miss That Girl”, and “Two Night Town” which contrast to above mentioned songs, as these songs deal with hurt and loss. These songs are without a doubt more genuine. It makes me think that Aldean wanted to somewhat record an album of personal songs to help him and perhaps channel a catharsis from it. Instead it seems as if the suits said “No we need something more radio friendly” and then boom! Out comes 7-8 very similar sounding tunes. Its a double edged blade really. The less established artists, honestly to me, seem as if THEY are the ones who can afford to tinker a little bit with their music while the major artists probably feel to much pressure to go down that road.Idk, just my thought.

    To answer your question from earlier, that is probably why Zac Brown can afford to push some songs like “Goodbye In Her Eyes” and “Sweet Annie” to the top. He is his own boss, the only people who can tell him a possible suggestion are probably his own bandmates (or maybe they just make decisions as a band anyway, I have no clue)

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    • Zack: You’ve just effectively explained why I tend to be less harsh on Jason Aldean than many non-Taste of Country/Roughstock reviewers tend to be, but I nonetheless still proceed to thrash most of his radio singles.

      As I’ve said repeatedly as far back as when The 9513 was a functioning country music discussion blog (I surely think their former writer Jim Malec influenced me especially), I’ve always seen potential in Jason Aldean to be something more than he settles on being. I’ve never liked his personality (or lack thereof, to be accurate! 😉 ), he has a painfully-limited monotone vocal, and he settles way too much for mediocrity to outright horror in his lead single releases most notably.

      Yet, Aldean also has plenty working in his favor. Firstly, I’ve always considered him a somewhat above-average A-list (when I say A-list I am not meaning A-list like the way Josh has categorized artists from A to F in terms of quality here, but rather as being among the most established and relevant entertainers in the mainstream) entertainer when it comes to album track selection. He has never written more than a total of four songs among his six studio albums, yet he has a better taste in deeper cuts than most of his A-list peers do that reveal legitimate songwriting chops. I think his sophomore album is probably my favorite because of the considerable number of strong deeper cuts including “Back In This Cigarette”, “Grown Woman” and “Not Every Man Lives”. And I honestly like, even somewhat enjoy, half of his current album. Almost all of its latter half, in addition to “Tryin’ To Love Me”, is at least decent and even solid at times. And “Don’t Change Gone” is easily his single best recording since “Church Pew or Barstool” off of “My Kinda Party”.

      Which gets me to the second think I can credit Aldean for. Even though his vocal is extremely limited as I’ve said, he nonetheless knows a surprising bit how to make the most of his monotone, and I think can sell legitimate emotion when he tries. “Don’t Change Gone” and “Tryin’ To Love Me” prove this. I think that can be attributed to that you can never doubt how stoic he can be otherwise and that he takes what he does way too seriously, even when he is cutting utterly embarrassing songs like “She’s Country” and “Burnin’ It Down”.

      Finally, when his producer Michael Knox and his engineer aren’t obsessive over chasing trends on singles, I appreciate that the production on many of his non-singles features actual percussion, whiffs of pedal steel and blues-leaning guitar that makes for a more genuinely modern country-rock sound (even if unimaginative and generic often).

      *

      Jason Aldean has always had the potential to be something more…………….but instead sells half of himself out to blatant mediocrity. Yet, even as far as six albums deep into his career, his potential for more miraculously hasn’t dissipated yet. Which, too, leaves me wondering if Aldean actually fights for the songs he wants to cut more than many will ever credit him for, and Broken Bow’s refusal to go full hog results in agonizingly divided and compromised albums each go around.

      *

      As for the Zac Brown Band, well, we know Zac Brown is a businessman and has even flat-out said the band is a brand. So I’m confident creative control is of utmost importance to them and they know what they’re doing.

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  5. The songs actually growing on me. I’d give it a 7.5 I wish Eric church had more of a role and I kinda had my expectations way too high when I heard about this.
    The lyrics aren’t bad but a little cliche but I at times like the dialed down tone. Keith’s voice continues to be intriguing to me cause he sounds a little monotone to me but I think this song was meant to be as simple as possible.
    Better than what most is on the radio.

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