Review – Jake Owen’s “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” (feat. Chris Stapleton)

jake-owen-if-he-aint-gonna-love-you

Jake Owen is probably frustrates me the most amongst major label country artists. Here’s an artist who I believe is quite talented and is capable of producing great music. It looked like he was having a breakthrough in this regard a couple of years back when he released “What We Ain’t Got” as a single, one of the best singles of 2014. Unfortunately that underperformed for his label’s expectations and Owen has been back releasing mediocrity. Nothing angers me more than an artist who willfully puts out bad music when they’re fully aware they’re capable of more. I know this is a business and if you’re on a major label, you’re essentially their property. But it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow knowing this fact. So once Owen’s previous single “American Country Love Song” ended at radio, I was curious to see what the follow-up would be. I have listened to his new album American Love and hope to review it at a later date. When listening to it there was some clear-cut songs I saw as singles and a few I really hope to see released as singles (“LAX” in particular). Well Owen chose one of the clear-cut choices as his new single, “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You.”

What immediately stands out about this single is its catchy grooves and sounds. Most specifically the slide guitar work in this song is very easy to fall for and enjoy. Combining this with the slow-jam, R&B-like sound this song encapsulates, I knew immediately that there was a good chance of this being a single for Owen. But Owen just doesn’t appeal to modern country fans with this song. No, he pulls out something he knows traditionalists will undoubtedly pay attention to and that’s Chris Stapleton. He not only helps co-write this song, but is heard quite prominently in the chorus of this song harmonizing with Owen. You just can’t miss a voice like Stapleton’s. The lyrics are quite catchy too upon your very first listens. All of this together makes for quite a good song, even if it’s not really that country, right?

Well when you start actually paying attention to the lyrics, things kind of take a turn. Once you hear them, it’s pretty clearly what this song is about: a guy hitting on and trying to pick up a girl at the bar, who happens to be in a committed relationship. She’s there alone and the guy knows damn well what her situation is, but he’s inferring since she’s there alone that something could be up and this is his chance to steal her heart. Depending on your interpretation, the song paints the guy at best as opportunistic and at worst a slimy douche. The girl’s reaction to all of this is very ambiguous and her viewpoint really isn’t delved into, which is a shame because it could have really helped establish the narrative of this song. As Mark Chesnutt showed with “Is It Still Cheating” on his new album and even Tim McGraw with “Don’t Make Me Feel at Home,” a pro cheating song can work if the situation is pretty clearly explained. This song fails to make a clear explanation, so I’m left kind of feeling confused about it all because it would feel presumptuous to immediately label this guy a creep, but also not to feel like something is wrong with this picture.

So overall “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” is just a weird song. It has the elements of a good song in spots, while in other spots it’s debatably douchetastic. I will say this is a step up from “American Country Love Song” in that this song doesn’t at least put me asleep and has some energy about it. Really I feel like Chris Stapleton is a big part of why I don’t hate this song because he carries the catchy chorus of this song with his bluesy vocals, while Owen just gets out of the way. The best I can say about Owen’s vocal performance is at least he didn’t do his terrible spoken word he seems to jam into a lot of his music. So basically I think if you gave this song to Stapleton and had Dave Cobb produce it, it would at least be above average. But regardless of who is singing or producing this song, you just can’t get past the mediocre writing that ultimately drags down “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You.”

Grade: 4/10

Written by Chris Stapleton, Shane McAnally & Luke Laird

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10 thoughts on “Review – Jake Owen’s “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” (feat. Chris Stapleton)

  1. If I heard this radio, I would have changed it before he even started singing because just the first few notes of the song sound like something from Thomas Rhett.

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  2. Hey if a guy wants to hit on a girl in a bar, and she wants the attention, it’s on her…..otoh if she doesn’t want the attention you’re being a douche. Also this is about the umpteenth millionth guy tries to hook up in a bar with a girl song this year (Home, CHTF, BAYC…just stop). And see Chris can write plenty of crap songs too.

    The most frustrating artist for me in modern male mainstream country is Blake, although Dierks is rapidly trying to catch up. For much the same reason, he knows good country, and he actually has enough charisma & ability to stand out from the crowd (why I’d give him the “award” over say Dierks or Jake). But Pure BS tanked until they released the deluxe with “Home” and it’s been a slide ever since (helped by the legion of new non-country fans he gained from the Voice).

    I think the bigger point though is about what happened when Owens actually put out a decent song, same as with Pure BS, it didn’t sell. Labels want to make money. If we want better singles, they need to do at least as well as the crap/mediocre stuff.

    In conclusion go buy WMM’s album when it comes out Friday :).

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    • Dierks tried to put it a good song and it didn’t do anything so turn he put out that crappy Drunk on A Beach and it was a hit. Go figure. Brett Eldredge frustrates me. He has an awesome voice and sings b side Rhett crap. Someone needs to lock him in a room and play Raymond on a loop until he deprograms.

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      • Dierks is a million times better than the sad shit he has been putting out as of late. Brett Eldredge is very frustrating as well, he has a great voice, but does not pick very good songs at all. Raymond and Beat of the Music were good. Other than that, his choices have been mediocre to terrible.

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        • JLL basically proving my point (again). For purposes of most frustrating for me, you have to have at some point shown a knowledge, ability, & desire to have made better country music. So Brett, Luke etc wouldn’t qualify.

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    • This is an excellent point. We can’t just buy Isbell and other independent artists’ records and hope the mainstream will change. William Michael MOrgan is a great example of someone we should be championing in the mainstream. I may have to write an article about your point here, thank you.

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  3. That comment was meant to be a reply to Seak05, sorry. And I can’t find anything to get behind with this song, including and maybe especially Stapleton. Both Jake Owen and Chris Stapleton are capable of much better. When I saw the title of this review, I actually thought, Jake Owen and Chris Stapleton, I bet that will be good. It reminds me of “Smokin’ and Drinkin'” in that sense; both Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town knew better, and that collaboration was wasted. This is much the same.

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  4. I’m the proud owner of one (1) Jake Owen song & it’s not “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You”. His voice is ok but the majority of songs is mediocre. The current album is nothing but hot-air.

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