The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [October 10]

Each week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. How do I determine if a song is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Songs rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Songs rated between 5 and 6.5 receive a 0. Songs rated 4.5 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Kenny Chesney – “Save It For A Rainy Day” 0 (#1 for second straight week)
  2. Keith Urban – “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16″ -1
  3. Brett Eldredge – “Lose My Mind” -1 (Up 1)
  4. Luke Bryan – “Strip It Down” -1 (Up 2) [Tied for Worst Song]
  5. Florida Georgia Line – “Anything Goes” -1 (Up 2) [Tied for Worst Song]
  6. Old Dominion – “Break Up With Him” -1 (Up 5) [Tied for Worst Song]
  7. Carrie Underwood – “Smoke Break” +1 (Up 2)
  8. Chase Rice – “Gonna Wanna Tonight” -1 [Tied for Worst Song]
  9. Chris Janson – “Buy Me A Boat” -1 (Down 6)
  10. Cole Swindell – “Let Me See Ya Girl” -1 (Up 2) [Tied for Worst Song]
  11. Maddie & Tae – “Fly” +1 (Down 1)
  12. Dan + Shay – “Nothin’ Like You” -1 (Up 1)
  13. Blake Shelton – “Gonna” -1 (Up 1)
  14. Chris Young – “I’m Comin’ Over” +1 (Up 1)
  15. Jason Aldean – “Gonna Know We Were Here” -1 (Up 5)
  16. Tim McGraw – “Top of the World” -1 (Up 2)
  17. Cam – “Burning House” +1 (Up 2) [Best Song] 
  18. Jake Owen – “Real Life” -1 (Down 1)
  19. Brothers Osborne – “Stay A Little Longer” (Up 2)
  20. Parmalee – “Already Callin’ You Mine” -1 (Up 3)
  21. Big & Rich – “Run Away With You” 0 (Up 1)
  22. Kelsea Ballerini – “Dibs” -1 (Up 2) [Tied for Worst Song]
  23. LoCash – “I Love This Life” -1 (Up 2)
  24. Jana Kramer – “I Got The Boy” +1 (Up 2)
  25. Hunter Hayes – “21” -1 (Up 2) [Tied for Worst Song]
  26. Brad Paisley – “Country Nation” -1 (New to Top 30)
  27. The Band Perry – “Live Forever” -1 (Up 1) [Tied for Worst Song]
  28. Randy Houser – “We Went” -1 (New to Top 30)
  29. Chase Bryant – “Little Bit of You” -1 (Up 1)
  30. A Thousand Horses – “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” -1 (Down 1)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -17

The pulse remains the same this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Thomas Rhett’s “Crash and Burn” went recurrent and fell from #5 to out of the top 30.
  • Lady Antebellum’s “Long Stretch of Love” went recurrent and fell from #16 to out of the top 30.

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Brad Paisley’s “Country Nation”
  • Randy Houser’s “We Went”

Song I Predict Will Reach #1 Next Week:

  • Keith Urban – “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Brad Paisley – “Country Nation” – Up 6 from #32 to #26
  • Old Dominion – “Break Up With Him” – Up 5 from #11 to #6
  • Jason Aldean – “Gonna Know We Were Here” – Up 5 from #20 to #15

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Thomas Rhett – “Crash and Burn” – Out of the Top 30
  • Lady Antebellum – “Long Stretch of Love” – Out of the Top 30
  • Chris Janson – “Buy Me A Boat” – Down 6 from #3 to #9

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Jake Owen – “Real Life” (It should get the axe this week)
  • Maddie & Tae – “Fly” (It has officially peaked)
  • Chris Janson – “Buy Me A Boat”
  • Chase Rice – “Gonna Wanna Tonight”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Hunter Hayes – “21”
  • The Band Perry – “Live Forever”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Sam Hunt – “Break Up In A Small Town” (Most Added Song of the Week)
  • Dierks Bentley – “Riser”
  • George Strait – “Cold Beer Conversation” (Most Increased Audience of the Week)
  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man”

By the way I think Strait has a great chance of making the top 30 and having success. Why? Because 1) country radio is in the toilet with ratings 2) country radio is desperate for names that can move the dial 3) George Strait gets people’s attention, no matter how much country radio wants to get rid of the older artists 4) George doesn’t need country radio, but country radio really needs George

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s chart in the comments below.

Album Review – Thomas Rhett’s ‘Tangled Up’ May Be One of Country’s Worst Albums

Let’s just be honest here: Thomas Rhett’s accomplishments and notoriety in country music today are solely because his dad is Rhett Akins. Thomas Rhett is a mediocre vocalist whose debut album was nothing but generic pop and bro-country schlock. There was zero originality because Thomas Rhett is not an artist. He’s a puppet willing to sing whatever his label, Valory Music Company (a subsidiary of Big Machine), wants him to sing and become whatever persona his label wants him to be. In 2013, the money was in bro-country. Fast forward two years, bro-country has faded and the money is in R&B-influenced sounds that create funky, danceable beats. Rhett developed a professional crush on Bruno Mars and says he’s changed the trajectory of his career to emulate Mars’ style of music. Conveniently, that funk pop musical styling just happens to be what makes money for Big Machine these days. Combine that all together and we have Bruno Mars Thomas Rhett’s newest album, Tangled Up.

The album begins with a club beat called “Anthem.” Don’t be fooled, just because you’ll hear a banjo in no way makes this song country. Drum machine beats and hand claps are front and center in the production as Rhett merely narrates how the song works. He speaks, not sings, but speaks lines like “this is part where the bass gonna stop” or “You startin’ to feel the momentum build so bring it on back to the chorus” and my personal favorite line of the whole song “this is the verse where you don’t know the words and you don’t give a damn ’cause it feels good.” It’s almost as if the writers are blatantly making fun of the generation that buys into this shitty music simply because it’s a “good beat.” But don’t get me wrong, this song flat-out sucks. “Crash and Burn” follows. Josh sums the song up perfectly with this segment in the single review: “Rhett does not have the charisma and soul of Mars to pull the song off. You need a high energy singer with great chops to make this song great and Rhett simply doesn’t have that. I feel like the instrumentation swallows his voice on this song. You notice everything else on this song before Rhett’s voice.” You could take that first sentence and apply it to just about every song on the album.

Up next is perhaps the worst song of the album: “South Side.” Before we even get into the terrible funk music, we get a distorted computer voice in an English accent (why?) saying, “Please commence shaking your south side.” I fought every urge in my body to not skip this song the moment I heard that sentence. I knew from that the song to follow was going to be terrible, but I just had to listen to it to know how terrible. Firstly, the funk mixed with stupid banjos sounds a bit like “Kick the Dust Up.” Rhett, again, simply sings about how a beat makes people want to shake their ass. But the second verse of this song is probably the worst verse in country music:

Like Memphis, Tennessee, got in bed with CDB
And had a baby and when the baby cried
It made this sound, ain’t no lie it was funkified

ARE  YOU KIDDING ME?! Thomas Rhett claims his new “funkified” music is the love child of Memphis Soul and Charlie Daniels! There have been some terrible name drops in country music, but this one just may take the cake. This song deserves a dedicated rant on its own. Moving on before I throw my computer into a wall. We get the first song on the album that I can actually listen to without getting angry. “Die A Happy Man” is a blues inspired love song. The sentiment is there and it feels somewhat honest: even if he never travels to see the world, he’d still be a happy man as long as he has his wife. However, I’m still not crazy about the song. The lyrics are rather bland and clichéd as Rhett still paints a shallow picture of how his wife’s looks and sexuality are what brings him to his knees and makes it hard to breathe. Also, Thomas Rhett is not that good of a singer, and in “Die A Happy Man” you can hear him trying too hard to sound sultry and sentimental.

Tangled Up is an album chock full of ideas and sounds borrowed from others. No other song is as indicative of his lack of originality than “Vacation.” There are 14 credited songwriters for this train wreck. 14! But half of those songwriters come from the band War. Rhett wisely credits the band for the song because the beat of the verses is essentially the beat from “Low Rider.” The song is about a party at home, but the partygoers are acting like they’re on a tropical vacation. It’s stupid lyrics that Thomas Rhett poorly raps set to a borrowed beat. Even the second verse where Rhett raps about  a Walgreens beach chair and Busch Light sends the same simple life sentiment of Jake Owen’s “Real Life.”

“Like It’s The Last Time” is yet another generic pop country song about a party in a field. You have all the usual suspects here: Moonshine, trucks, raising cups up, hooking up with the girl you like, bonfires, generic mid-tempo guitars, pop beats, and an implication of Fireball shots. It’s just another song to add to the hundreds of corn field songs from the past two years. “T-Shirt” is a hookup song about a girl who keeps coming onto Thomas Rhett. Apparently the song depicts a couple who’ve had these rendezvouses before and vowed to stop, but obviously that doesn’t happen. It’s a boring up beat pop rock beat combined with terrible lyrics and bad vocals. “Single Girl” finds Thomas Rhett pleading to a single girl. He wants to be her man and Rhett, who doesn’t seem to understand the fact that people can be happy and satisfied while not in a relationship, questions why she’s single. He assumes that because she’s single that she’s lonely and that he can be the one to fix it. These assumptions are misguided, immature, arrogant and a little trashy.

Surprisingly, there’s an actual good song on this album. “The Day You Stop Lookin’ Back” is a song where Rhett sings to a girl with a broken heart. The lyrics are actually mature and respectful and the production is more organic with an acoustic guitar and very little pop effects on the drums. Rhett encourages her to stop letting a past heartbreak get the best of her because once she stops looking back, she can then move on. It’s not a great song, but compared to most of the garbage on this album, it sounds pretty good. But we return to the crap with the title track, “Tangled.” This song is straight disco with a backing vocal effects and auto tuned, funky keyboard notes, heavy drum beats for dancing, and a funk inspired guitar. The lyrics are just another song of how Thomas Rhett enjoys being with some female because of the way she loves him physically. “Tangled” is a good reminder of how poorly Thomas Rhett sings.

Another good reminder of Thomas Rhett’s poor vocal abilities can be found in “Playing With Fire.” Rhett sings this song as a duet with American Idol’s Jordin Sparks. She is a much better singer than Rhett. Her lone verse is a better vocal performance than the rest of the album, and she’s even under utilized. Sonically, it’s 100% a pop ballad, but not a bad one at all. Lyrically, it depicts yet another rotten hookup relationship where both parties know it’s bad for them. However, they give into those impulses because they love playing with fire. Thomas Rhett also collaborates with Lunchmoney Lewis on “I Feel Good.” This is a lyrical mess of random nothingness. It starts out describing a scene that would have belonged in “Vacation” then finds Rhett driving in his car celebrating the fact that he got paid. The lyrics of this song don’t make any sense, and Lunchmoney Lewis’ rap breakdown doesn’t help this stupid funk song at all.

Tangled Up finally comes to an end with “Learned It From The Radio.” This is a song where Thomas Rhett thanks Dallas Davidson, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line for teaching him how to be a cliché. “How to wake up, how to work tough, how to roll up those sleeves. How to throw down, how to get loud, and what to put in that drink. To give the stars in the sky a little halo, I learned it from the radio.” It’s every cliché list item from 10 years of mainstream country reworked into this narrative of “how I learned this, how I learned that.”

This album is a mess and shouldn’t even be called music. The songs that combine country sounds with funk sounds are just a hodgepodge of noise that would make a deaf person cringe. The actual funk, disco, R&B songs are shitty and Bruno Mars himself wouldn’t even try to record that mess. Mainstream country isn’t exactly moving away from bro-country. Sure, these songs aren’t pop rock corn field parties, but the lyrics are still the same trashy immature sentiments meant to boost bravado and masculinity. Tangled Up is an embarrassment to country music, it’s an embarrassment to funk and it’s an embarrassment to music in general.

Grade: 0/10

The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown [September 28]

Jason Isbell Something More Than Free

This is The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown. Every week I’ll post the top 40 from the Americana Airplay chart, which is obtained from AmericanaRadio.org. From the site: “The Americana Airplay chart represents the reported play of terrestrial radio stations, nationally syndicated radio shows, satellite radio and internet stations who have agreed to submit weekly spin counts. For more information please visit www.americanamusic.org.”

The goal of this feature is to track and monitor the current most popular music in the Americana realm, as I believe it’s starting to take on a bigger importance in the world of music, especially concerning the current state of country music. In addition it will bring some new names to the site that haven’t been covered here before and could lead to more Americana coverage. It’s also a place to discuss anything going on in the Americana genre at this moment. Be sure to weigh in on the chart in the comments below.

  1. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Grade: 10/10)
  2. Patty Griffin – Servant of Love [Up 1]
  3. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin – Lost Time [Up 1]
  4. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Grade: 9/10) [Down 2]
  5. Watkins Family Hour – Watkins Family Hour
  6. Ashley Monroe – The Blade (Grade: 7/10)
  7. Amy Helm – Didn’t It Rain 
  8. Turnpike Troubadours – Turnpike Troubadours (Grade: 10/10) [Up 3]
  9. Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet (Grade: 9/10) [Down 1]
  10. Los Lobos – Gates Of Gold [Up 5]
  11. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats – Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats [Up 3]
  12. The Statesboro Revue – Jukehouse Revival (Grade: 8/10) 
  13. Joe Ely – Panhandle Rambler [New]
  14. Warren Haynes (feat. Railroad Earth) – Ashes & Dust [Down 5]
  15. Langhorne Slim – The Spirit Moves [Down 2]
  16. The Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club [New]
  17. Dale Watson – Call Me Insane (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 7]
  18. Uncle Lucius – The Light [Down 2]
  19. Wood Brothers – Paradise [New]
  20. Jonathan Tyler – Holy Smokes (Grade: 10/10) [Down 2]
  21. Don Henley – Cass County [Up 9]
  22. Shemekia Copeland – Outskirts of Love [Up 10]
  23. Richard Thompson – Still [Down 6]
  24. Rayland Baxter – Imaginary Man [Up 1]
  25. Chris Stapleton – Traveller (Grade: 10/10) [Down 6]
  26. Daniel Romano – If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ [Down 6]
  27. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color [Down 4]
  28. Whitney Rose – Heartbreaker of the Year (Grade: 10/10) [Down 4]
  29. Steep Canyon Rangers – Radio
  30. Waifs – Beautiful You [Up 1]
  31. Kevin Gordon – Long Gone Time [Up 3]
  32. Jackie Greene – Back To Birth [Down 6]
  33. Shawn Colvin – Uncovered [New]
  34. The Deslondes – The Deslondes (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 6]
  35. Jason James – Jason James [Up 5]
  36. Leon Bridges – Coming Home [Down 3]
  37. Sam Outlaw – Angeleno (Grade: 10/10) [Down 1]
  38. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind (Grade: 9/10) [Down 11]
  39. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie (Grade: 9/10) [Down 4]
  40. Sonny Landreth – Bound By The Blues [Down 18]

Album Review – George Strait’s ‘Cold Beer Conversation’

George Strait Cold Beer Conversation

The King of Country. The Cowboy. The Man. George Strait is a man of many names and many timeless country songs that will be remembered for decades and decades. While some may dispute the king moniker place upon him by his many fans, you at the very least have to put him near the top when counting the all-time greats in country music. He’s closing in on three decades of music and shows no signs of slowing down making music. Last week at this time none of us had any idea we would be getting a new Strait album this year and then Strait surprises everyone last Tuesday by announcing Vegas concert dates and a brand new album. Clearly an old dog can learn new tricks, as Strait essentially “pulled a Beyoncé” on us (where an artist surprise releases new music, as made famous by the pop star). Cold Beer Conversation is the name of the new album and I was definitely eager to dig into it because it’s George Strait and any new music from him is very welcome to this listener.

Cold Beer Conversation opens up with the love ballad “It Was Love.” It feels like your classic Strait love ballad, where with each listen it gets better and better. This Keith Gattis-penned song fits Strait like a glove and is a solid opener to the album. The album’s title track and current single follows. It’s a nostalgia driven song about two friends reminiscing, “shooting the shit” and wondering what lies ahead in the future. This song is definitely aimed more at a younger listener and I think it will appeal well to this group. Your mileage may vary with this song, as it will depend on whether or not you can connect with the theme. Personally it reminded me a lot of hanging out with an old friend.

The lead single from the album, “Let It Go,” is next. When this song came out earlier this year I reviewed it and my thoughts have remained unchanged. I will say though I was disappointed it didn’t even sniff the top 30 at radio. From my review of “Let It Go”: It’s sunny and happy. He co-wrote the song with his son Bubba Strait and Keith Gattis (also co-wrote Strait’s “I Got A Car”). The song is about how tough life can be, but you shouldn’t let that get you down and just let your problems go. Instead move past them and be sure to enjoy the truly good times and let them roll. It’s a pretty simple theme, as that is the intention. This song is intended to be a carefree and easygoing summer song.

“Goin’ Goin’ Gone” is your classic working man’s blues song. Strait sings about being overworked, not having a 401k and drinking your troubles away. It’s catchy, fun and relatable to the everyday American. In the 90s or even the 2000s this song is a number one song at country radio easily. This is the kind of fun country song we need at radio right now, but radio doesn’t want it. The album slows down with “Something Going Down.” It’s a love ballad where a man is having a romantic evening with his wife. He’s trying to get “something going down.” I can see what Strait is going for here, but the phrase comes off a little clunky to me. It just feels like something better could have been used. This surprised me considering the writers of the song are Jamey Johnson and Tom Shapiro. Despite this slight misstep, it’s still a good song, albeit one of the weaker ones on the album.

Strait goes back to his roots with “Take Me To Texas.” He proudly sings of his home of Texas and what it means to him. Now as most of you know Texas country artists love to have these songs on almost all of their albums and it comes off so hokey and clichéd. But for some reason it’s charming coming from Strait. It’s hard to explain. I guess it just sounds natural from him and speaks to his talent. One of my favorite tracks on Cold Beer Conversation is “It Takes All Kinds.” King George drops some good old Western Swing on us! It’s definitely one of the most pleasant surprises of the album and Strait’s little wink towards traditional country fans. The song itself is about how the world takes all kinds and it’s okay if others are different. In fact he makes a possible veiled reference to today’s mainstream country artists with these lyrics halfway through:

Some wear a backwards baseball cap/If that’s you I’m cool with that/Me I’m more a cowboy hat/It takes all kinds

It may not be a reference to mainstream country artists of today, but I could definitely see it being one. Nevertheless it shows George Strait is always the gentleman.

“Stop And Drink” feels like another classic Strait song from beginning to end. It’s about observing the craziness of the world around you and making you want to drink a cold one in response. You listen to this song and you mutter to yourself, “I’ve been here.” I have to mention the instrumentation on this song is fantastic, but that’s no surprise with Strait. One of the gems of the album is “Everything I See.” Strait reflects on the death of a close friend and how he’s trying to move on after losing him. Everywhere he looks he sees a little piece of his friend and still finds himself dialing his number everyday. It’s a heartfelt song and will really hit home if you’ve just lost a friend. Strait wrote this song with his son Bubba, Gattis and Dean Dillon.

A song that took me more than a few listens to really grasp was “Rock Paper Scissors.” It’s about a woman leaving a man and how she left a rock (diamond ring), paper (“she slapped ink on a good-bye note”) and scissors (what she used to “cut his face out of every picture”) on the table. The song is a really clever take on the classic heartbreak country song. Not to mention Jamey Johnson joins Strait on the song, making it even better. It should be said that it’s nice to see Strait have Johnson involved a lot in this album. By the way we’re still waiting on that new album from you too, Jamey. “Wish You Well” is a drinking/heartbreak song. A man is drinking at the bar as he recovers from his woman leaving him and remarks that there are six beers separating him from wishing she was there with him and wishing her well. Being that there are several strong songs on this album, this song is one of the weaker ones. It’s solid, yet unspectacular.

A troika of prolific songwriters for Strait wrote “Cheaper Than A Shrink.” That troika is Johnson, Bill Anderson and Buddy Cannon. This same trio wrote the Strait classic “Just Give It Away.” While “Cheaper Than A Shrink” may not be at that song’s level, it’s still pretty damn good. With a wry sense of humor, Strait sings of how spending money on drinking is much cheaper than a shrink to solve your problems. This is another song that if released in another decade, would have reached #1. The album closes out with “Even When I Can’t Feel It.” And it may just be the best song on the entire record. The song is basically about life and how even when life is unfair and keeping you down, you can still believe things will get better even when you can’t feel it. Once again it’s another classic Strait song where he just hits it out of the park with the right amount of emotion and lyrics that describe it perfectly.

Just as I expected, George Strait delivers with Cold Beer Conversation. It’s a very good album full of a variety of songs about life, love and drinking. Pretty much any country fan could pick this album up and find at least one song they can enjoy. Strait is simply timeless and shows no signs of losing his magic touch. Many artists when they get older lose what makes them great, but Strait still very much has it and seems poised to release a lot more great music for years to come. Go get this album and just listen to it repeatedly. And thank you, George, for another memorable album.

Grade: 9/10

There are currently no available ways to hear songs on the album via YouTube (at least legally, as I don’t like to advocate illegal videos on here) or Spotify. Your only way to hear it legally is via Apple Music, iTunes or Walmart. But as I said above I definitely recommend getting it.

 

Review – Joe Nichols’ “Freaks Like Me”

Joe Nichols Freaks Like Me

If you asked me in the mid-2000s who were my favorite male country artists, I would have put Joe Nichols near the top of the list. For years Nichols along with the likes of Josh Turner and Gary Allan consistently gave us solid traditionally rooted country music. Fast-forward to today and only Turner is the only one who hasn’t sold out in any way. Nichols cashed-in hard on the bro country movement over the last few years with terrible songs like “Yeah,” “Sunny and 75” and “Hard to be Cool.” At least the last one was disappointing at radio, as it gave me hope that maybe it would inspire Nichols to get away from the trends. Not only that, but Nichols questioned trend chasing this past year in this interview. Even more encouraging was a recent interview in Billboard where he had this to say when asked about staying true to yourself:

If everybody is chasing something in the format and trying to be what the last guy is, I think it gives me the perfect opportunity to stay true to myself and be who I am. I think that sets me apart from the next guy in line. I think there are times when that’s given me the benefit of the doubt at radio — maybe more than I deserve. A lot of people are trying to make something that sounds exactly like the last hit that was on the radio, and there are times when we try to outsmart the genre. I just try to be myself, and hopefully that works. If it doesn’t, I’m fine with that. 

If this is the start of turning over a new leaf and going back to what made him great, then I’m excited to hear the new album from Nichols. But for now we get our first glimpse to see if he can back up his talk with his new single “Freaks Like Me.”

One thing that immediately stands out about this single is it’s a big improvement over the last three in that I’m not annoyed by the sound or the lyrics. It’s actually country, which in today’s world of country radio is already putting you ahead of 90% of the other songs. A steel guitar makes any song sound better than one with synth and EDM beats. As for the song itself it’s an anthem to the average, everyday person. Nichols sings about being out of style, drinking beer after five, opening doors for ladies, being proud of his country and Jesus. All of this adds up to him declaring himself to be a…freak. What? Here’s the chorus:

Freaks like me, just outside the in crowd
Freaks like me, out of style and damn proud
Raise a can, ‘cause I’m a fan
Of everyone who’s turned out to be
Freaks like me

I’m not really sure how he has come to this conclusion. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word freak as the following: “one that is markedly unusual or abnormal.” I think everyone can agree that the kind of person Nichols describes himself as doesn’t match this definition. What he sounds like is the stereotypical country music fan that songs on the radio have been describing for years. I guess you could make the argument that he’s being ironic, but I don’t think he is and comes off quite earnest. If that’s what the writers of this song, Monty Criswell, Josh Thompson and Lynn Hutton, were going for they missed the mark. You know what I would have done to have this song make more sense? Replace the word “freak” with “joes,” as this song describes the average joe. Now read the chorus above with my replacement. Makes more sense, no? Also his name is Joe, so you get a corny pun that some would like. It would be an improvement at least.

“Freaks Like Me” is basically an okay, average song that has a confusing premise. It sounds country and Nichols sounds great, which are its biggest pros. The lyrics are just clichéd and stuff we’ve heard before, but they’re passable and not really offensive nor do they standout. Joe Nichols makes a step in the right direction with this song, but he needs to take it further if he wants to standout and prove that he’s a country freak in a world of non-country music trying to be country. I think that’s what he should have went for with this song if he was so insistent on the freak thing, as it would kind of funny to label yourself as a freak for making country music in country music. But ultimately “Freaks Like Me” is just middle of the road.

Grade: 5.5/10