Album Review – Kip Moore’s ‘Wild Ones’ is Mainstream Country’s Best Rock Album

Kip Moore is much more of a natural rocker than many of his country counterparts, save for maybe Eric Church. But even after Moore’s debut album Up All Night, there are comparisons being made to the likes of Springsteen more so than Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean. Even seeing Moore live in concert (back when “Young Love” was his radio single) proved that rock music was better suited for Kip’s voice, and Kip and his team have tapped that side for his newest album, Wild Ones. This is not a country album by any means; it’s a rock album, but a fairly decent one if I do say so myself.

Wild Ones kicks off with the roaring title track. This song is simply about how Kip Moore and his friends like to party on the weekends. Content wise, this song offers nothing new, but one of Kip Moore’s strengths as a songwriter is that he tells these familiar stories from different angles. There’s no mention that the wild ones are partying on tailgates or back roads, they’re just partying somewhere and having fun. The beat picks up a little bit with “Come and Get It.” Here Kip is thinking about his woman and wants to have that passionate time with her. I like the production behind Moore’s vocals; the guitars layer steadily as the song rises and peaks at the bridge. You can tell there was some thought put into the music.

Kip sings of summer love in “Girl of the Summer.” In this familiar tale, summer has come to an end and the girl in this summer fling has left him without a trace. Kip reminisces of the times they made out in a photo booth, drove with the windows down, and sneaking into junkyards for a late night rendezvous. “Girl of the Summer” has a slower tempo in the verses that rises to an anthemic chorus. Again, this is a frequent story out of Nashville, but Kip adds enough of his own flair to the story for it to have some originality. “Magic” is a love song where Kip thinks her kisses and touch are more magical than any fairytales or TV magicians could create. The production in this song has a sort of fantasy feel to it which is a nice fit given the title. This song seems like a filler song. It’s not bad, but there’s nothing in the song that makes it stand out.

“That Was Us” is mid-tempo rock song with what sounds like a pop drum loop included in the mix. Similar to “Wild Ones”, this song depicts a couple of buddies who let it loose on the weekends and aren’t afraid to drink, smoke, fight, and make love. The song depicts a short timeline with actual character names as they meet and find love. But the third verse finds Kip and his friend hunting down an abusive boyfriend of a female friend until they’re pulled over by the “blue lights.” There was some effort put into telling more of a story here, but like many of the songs here, it’s not all that original. After this is the hard rocking “Lipstick.” This is a song that doesn’t have much of a story or that good of lyrics, but the rock production is awesome. Simply, Kip says he’s been everywhere and will travel anywhere to meet his lady and kiss her lipstick. The verses simply list place after place from Texas to Wisconsin and California to New York. The purpose is achieved after the first verse, yet we’re still treated to two other verses that name more places for no real reason. However, the lead guitar lick helps create an infectious melody behind Moore’s voice.

Kip experiments with an 80s inspired rock melody with “What Ya Got On Tonight.” While Kip travels and meets other beautiful women, he continues to think of the one who has his heart and wonders what she’s wearing. The lyrics are shallow, but again, the production is great and helps cover up for the lyrics. However, Wild Ones, turns the corner at this point and starts to have a bit more variety with lyrical content. “Heart’s Desire” shows Kip Moore in more desperate light after a relationship goes south. He’s a mess because he knows he messed up, but her love is still his heart’s desire. Kip Moore’s raspy voice aids in his delivery as he tries to make it through while still wanting her love to come back to him.

Next is one of the best songs on the album, “Complicated.” This is a love song, but it’s not a pretty fairy tale love. It’s a more realistic look at love with two imperfect people making it work through life’s twist and turns. “All I know sometimes you love it, sometimes you hate it, but what good’s love if it ain’t a little complicated? No it don’t always go like you always hoped it would, but sometimes complicated is pretty damn good.” I like the way the story is laid out and pop rock production makes song even more appealing and easy to listen to.

This is followed with the album’s lead single, “I’m To Blame.” From my review of the song: “The lyrics are pretty safe, and average for a country ‘bad boy’ song. They aren’t offensive, but nor are they groundbreaking, original, or inspired. ‘I’m To Blame’ is a short, catchy jam coming in a quick 2:14 for its run time. He doesn’t waste time with guitar solos in the song; the lyrics are packed in tightly.” Curiously, another song about Kip Moore being himself regardless of anyone else’s opinion follows. “That’s Alright With Me” finds Kip telling us, again, that he likes to drink, smoke, likes good-looking women, and makes no apologies for who he is or what he does. While the content of the verse of these two songs show different sides of Kip Moore, the messages are essentially the same. “That’s Alright With Me” seems like another filler song, and I think it’s placement in the track list was poorly thought out.

Kip offers up another pop rock love song in “Running For You.” Moore has fallen for a girl who wants to run off and chase her dreams wherever the wind blows her toward. Unfortunately for him, he’s unable to travel alongside her, but he knows she needs to go, and let’s her. But his vow to her is that he’ll be there for her when she needs him to. While the production on this song is more on the generic side, this song probably has the best lyrics on the album. The album ends with “Comeback Kid.” This slow-tempo rock song is about how Moore may not be the best right away; he always bounces back and never gives up. He’s thankful that his love continues to have faith in him. It’s a nice song with an honest delivery from Kip Moore.

Like I said above, Wild Ones is a rock album, not southern rock, just plain rock and pop rock. And as a music album I do like it. There were songs with a good rock production that was enjoyable to listen to, and songs where the lyrics and stories stood out more. Even the songs with familiar stories seemed fresher. Kip Moore and his writing team put more thought into these songs than you’d find on many other mainstream “country” albums. Even Moore’s song “Backseat” (which you’ll find on the deluxe version of the album) is a well-written exploration into a boy losing his virginity. Moore spends most of the time on the anticipation, nerves, and vulnerability involved with that action. In comparing that hook up song to the likes of “Strip It Down” or “Burnin’ It Down”, “Backseat” has much better writing. Overall, Wild Ones, has its moments, but there are still some flaws. I like it as an album, but this is Country Perspective, and the fact that this rock album is marketed as country is one of those flaws. With that said, Wild Ones may be the best non-country country album out of Nashville this year.

Grade: 5.5/10

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18 thoughts on “Album Review – Kip Moore’s ‘Wild Ones’ is Mainstream Country’s Best Rock Album

  1. I actually really liked it and am thinking of getting the album myself. I found it to be myself a good mix of country and rock and without the title track I’d probably would’ve had it as one of the best mainstream albums this year.

    Oh Derek check Rolling Stone Country. Kip has an interview there and it’s fun to read.

    I can’t decide to buy this or just wait for Maddie & Tae’s album this Friday I’m so conflicted.

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  2. I was disappointed with it honestly. The albums writing is boring on the first half, and it’s a bit too rock-oriented for me, though it does fit Kip’s voice well. The lack of including two previously released singles makes me think that one album was scrapped to end up with this one, which is a shame because I loved the first two singles.

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    • Yeah, after “Dirt Road” did terribly on radio, Kip started from scratch with this album, which is part of why there was such a delay in its release.

      That Rolling Stone interview that Raymond mentions above goes into more detail about it

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  3. The songwriting was really good at times on this album. But I just kept waiting and waiting and waiting for some country instrumentation and it never came. This was straight rock and not even southern rock like Blackberry Smoke or the Banditos. If this album actually had just some country music, it would have rated higher in my mind. It’s a shame because I know Kip is capable of more and he didn’t give it to us.

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    • I had that same thought and almost mentioned something about how it isn’t even Southern Rock. But, alas, I didn’t, so thanks for adding that!

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  4. I actually liked this, but grading it is extremely hard. I mean granted, this is nowhere near as bad as the stuff that Sam Hunt puts out, but just like Hunt, Kip veers off into a direction that isn’t really Country. As a fan of Rock, I actually really enjoyed this, and i’m glad it at least sounds different from the mainstream right now, but it is hard to overlook the not Country fact. As a rock album i’d give it a solid 8/10, but for Country idk…..

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    • I personally wouldn’t go near as high for a rock album – as a standalone music album, I probably would have graded it along the lines of a 6.5-7. It’s all in the perspective of how it’s marketed.

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    • I ended up giving it a country rating and a rock rating. Most non-country music that is marketed as country is crap in both country and whatever genre it really is. This album was different because it was actually good rock. A very hard review, and this problem would not exist if country was country and rock was rock.

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  5. I generally tend to enjoy rock music (although not as much as country) so I liked a lot of this album too—except for “That’s Alright With Me,” “What Ya Got On Tonight,” and the title track—but it shouldn’t be marketed as country (how many times are we having to say that these days? 😉 ) As a country album I’d probably give it a 5/10, and as a rock album a 7.5/10. Definitely a disappointment.

    My favorite tracks were “Complicated,” “Running For You,” and “Girl Of The Summer”…the first of which was my overall favorite song on the album, and the last kind of a guilty pleasure. I know it’s an overused theme, but I liked the production and the imagery in the lyrics.

    I guess it could’ve been worse. Rock being marketed as country isn’t our biggest problem…right, Sam Hunt?

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  6. I think you got this one way wrong. Kip deserves a lot more than a 5.5, even if the album has more of a Rock feel than country. It is country though, and not just thematically. There is a banjo plucking along in the background on a number of different songs. I can wholeheartedly say that this is my favorite cd that has come out so far in 2015, and it will be hard for anything else to top it the rest of the year. It’s an easy 10/10 for me and I don’t see any of the songs as “fillers”. After buying the deluxe edition I can honestly say that Wild Ones is a masterpiece, whatever genre it may gravitate toward. I was honestly shocked at how low of a score you gave it. I completely disagree.

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    • I don’t want to insult you, dude, but here’s the thing: Just because a song has a banjo in it doesn’t mean it’s country. Most of the time in current mainstream country music, banjos are thrown into non-country songs so people can claim that the song is “country.” Take Sam Hunt’s “House Party”—that has a prominent banjo part, but it’s FAR from being country, as all of Hunt’s songs are, really. Anyway, my point is that a banjo isn’t even strictly a country instrument, and yet nowadays people say that since songs have a banjo in them, they’re therefore country.
      Don’t get me wrong: I think this is a pretty good rock album, and I’m sure it would’ve gotten a higher grade if this site was Rock Perspective. But it’s Country Perspective, and so Josh and Derek have to review music through a country lens.
      But if you like it as a country album, that’s not the end of the world. To each his own, I suppose!

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      • So I ask you, because it seems that different people have different answers and I’m curious what your take on it is, what exactly is “Country Music”. How do you define it? Is it the themes and storytelling aspect of it? Is it the instrumentation? Is the definition so finite that there is no wiggle room whatsoever? How does someone judge what is and isn’t country? When I listened to Kip’s new CD, the thought of “Oh hey, this isn’t country” never once crossed my mind until reading the review on this site. So, I guess my view on what Country is must be different than many of the peoples’ on here.

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      • I think it’s a combination of instrumentation and lyrical themes and storytelling – but the instrumentation and production is the key part of that. “Lipstick” is an example of a song that is full-fledge arena rock. The guitar licks and heavy drum hits, sounds like something straight out of the golden age of arena rock in the mid-late 80s.

        “Country” Music has become so wide and inclusive of everything that the songs here with more pop elements (“Running For You” “Complicated”) sound like they’d belong. But if you rewind 10 years and throw this album in the mix of Brad Paisley’s ‘Time Well Wasted’, Dierks Bentley’s “Modern Day Drifter” or even Jason Aldean’s debut, then it’s way more obvious that ‘Wild Ones’ isn’t country.

        When I listened to this album, I kept picturing a 1980s Bon Jovi album with less synth.

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  7. If Kip’s songs aren’t as hook-heavy or as sticky as his idols, it is nevertheless admirable that he’s completely revamped his sound so he doesn’t feel like anybody else in contemporary country — not his bro country peers, not Church, not a red dirt refugee or macho rocker. He’s effectively evoked the feel and aesthetic of mid-’80s heartland rock, and if that doesn’t necessarily make him a wild one, it does make him a rebel of sorts.

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