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Jake Owen – “The One That Got Away”

Songwriters:  Jake Owen, Jimmy Ritchey, Dallas Davidson

It would be all too easy to call out the new Jake Owen single for the fact that it doesn’t sound remotely like country music in any form, but the song exemplifies a much greater loss in modern country music – the fact that country storytelling has gone almost entirely by the wayside.

“The One That Got Away” is an unorginal song that tells an unoriginal story with an unoriginal hook.  Two teenage lovers share a summer fling for three months before parting ways, after which the guy wishes he had the girl back.  That’s my summary of the song’s story, but you don’t learn anything more from the song itself than from the preceding summary.  The song’s characterizations are so wafer-thin that it feels an account of two nameless and faceless individuals, while the song’s hook amounts to nothing more than a trite phrase that Owen doesn’t use in any novel way.  The loose narrative consists of vague paint-by-number summertime images that have been many times before, and that don’t enhance the story beyond the black-and-white template, making for a song consistently uninteresting in content.

The song’s greatest and most substantial failure is that it makes no significant attempt to connect with the listener on an emotional basis.  Nothing about the story feels urgent or revelatory, and nothing about the delivery feels impassioned or sincere.  That just leaves one wondering why the song even needed to exist in the first place.

If you want a really great song about the love ‘that got away,’ one you could go for is George Strait’s “I’d Like to Have That One Back.”  It’s way better.

JAKE’S SCORE:  4
(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Single Reviews

 

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2011 In Review: Singles I Would Rather Forget

It would be extrememly redundant if I were to mourn over what a weak year 2011 has been for country music, but really, let’s face it.  Country music just doesn’t get “good years” anymore these days, at least not from a mainstream perspective.  Periodically we are treated to a something genuinely great that offers a glimmer of hope for the genre’s future – Last year it was “The House That Built Me”; this year it was “Cost of Livin’.”  But even then, we still have an enormous amount of duds foisted upon us at the same time.

The following is a candid list of 2011 single releases that, as far as I’m concerned, unequivocally missed the mark.  I will indulge in one last breath of biting sarcasm, and afterwards I shall never speak of these songs again.  I don’t care at all if the songs were big hits or not – They’re being judged solely on the basis of how badly they make my skin crawl.

Trace Adkins, “Brown Chicken Brown Cow”

A heaping helping of distasteful over-the-top sexual imagery built around a corny pun that grows more intolerable with each chorus.  When I first heard this, I thought surely this would be the worst country single of 2011.  At any rate, not playing this song was one of the few things that country radio got right in 2011.

Aaron Lewis, “Country Boy”

A rocker-gone-country du jour sets out to prove his country cred by coughing up every rehashed country cliché in the book.

Eric Church, “Homeboy”

An annoying title pun and a few slight tinges of rascism fail to disguise this dud as anything other than just another throwaway tune about how country life trumps city life.

Sugarland, “Tonight”

There were two good songs on Sugarland’s largely atrocious album The Incredible MachineOnly two good songs.  After they were both sent to radio, it figures that the inevitable third single would sum up everything that’s gone wrong with Sugarland’s music lately.  The lyrics make no sense.  The production is bloated and tasteless.   Worst of all, the typically stellar Jennifer Nettles turns in one of her weakest performances to date.

Jake Owen, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”

With inspid lyrics set against an arrangement that sounds like bad eighties pop music, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” plays like a big heap of almost everything I hate about stale mainstream country music all wrapped up in one package.

Luke Bryan, “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)”

Lyrics?  Dumber than dumber than dumb.  Bryan’s playful vocal almost saves this from being a complete dud.  Almost.  But not quite.

Brantley Gilbert, “Country Must Be Country Wide”

“In every state, there’s a station…” playing crappy country pride anthems that shamelessly namedrop legends in a vain attempt to compensate for their own utter lack of artistic merits.

Jason Aldean, “Dirt Road Anthem”

This gets a nomination for Song of the Year?  I don’t get it.  What unique and amazing qualities does this song possess that deem it worthy to compete against the work of Matraca Berg and Deana Carter?  Because it’s the first song in forever to crow about dirt roads and cold beer?  Because it’s so revolutionary to namedrop George Jones?  Way to knock your credibility, CMA.

Gloriana, “Wanna Take You Home”

This song is like air to me.  I get nothing out of it whatsoever.  It starts by rhyming “girl” with “rock my world”… and then it’s all downhill from there.  What more is there to say?

Kristin Chenoweth, “I Want Somebody (Bitch About)”

Hey!  Yeah you!  Y’all better listen up!  Uh-huh!  O-kay!  She’s a Broadway star – It’s not like she’s never sung before.  So how on earth does she turn in a performance so awful?  Never mind that the song itself was pretty much a turd to begin with.  Every now and then, I might get the lurge to listen to this song just to chuckle at how amazingly bad it is, but even then, I rarely stay with it past the first chorus.  When I first heard this, I though surely this must be the worst country single of 2011.

The JaneDear Girls, “Merry Go Round”

Oh, my ears.  Oh, my ears!  I’m so sorry, but these girls are total vocal hacks, and smothering them in auto-tune only makes it worse.  It just blows my mind that a major Nashville label is throwing their support behind such godawful music.  Sorry, Adkins and Chenoweth, we have a winner.  This is undoubtedly the worst country single of 2011.

Martina McBride, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”

Just in case you didn’t hear her, she said “I’M GONNA LOVE YOU THROUGH IIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTT!!!!!”

Justin Moore, “Bait a Hook”

This whole “country-good-city-bad” shtick wore out its calling card a long, long, LONG time ago.  Why, oh why, do country music’s frat boys insist on selling us the same unintelligent one-dimensional character over and over again?  Or perhaps the better questions is why are people still buying it?  I hate to wax philosophical here, but isn’t it just so sad that this is what country music has come to?  Drivel like this undermines the overall credibility of the country genre, disrespects its rich history and heritage, and gives genre outsiders one more reason to be instantly dismissive of country music in general.  If I didn’t already love country music, songs like this would probably make me hate it.

Brad Paisley, “Camouflage”

Yet another sign that Paisley’s creative batteries are begging for a recharge.

Lady Antebellum, “We Owned the Night”

Glorified elevator music.  But, to keep it in perspective, the rest of the album was even worse.

Well, there you have it.  I’ve had my say, so now it’s your turn.  What were your least favorite singles of 2011?

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Year In Review

 

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Jake Owen – “Alone with You”

Songwriters:  Catt Gravitt, J.T. Harding, Shane McAnally

In a career whose output has largely been dominated by antiseptic radio fodder, Jake Owen’s recent hit “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” found him finally being able to pander successfully, with the song becoming his first number-one hit.  Follow-up release “Alone with You” swaps out the good-time vibe of its predecessor for a much darker mood, as its lyrical narrator tries to avoid falling for a woman who desires only physical intimacy, having no intentions of remaining in a committed relationship.

As “Alone with You” begins, the melody is so monotonous and plodding that it’s almost grating.  But as he gets further along in the “Need You Now”-esque ballad, the tone takes on increased urgency.  Owen sings in an almost pleading manner as he delivers the chorus:  “Don’t put your lips up to my mouth and tell me it’s okay… Don’t slip your hand under my shirt and tell me it’s okay.”  Unfortunately, the song’s title hook – “I can’t be alone with you” – is so rote and unimaginative that it falls perfectly flat.

Then the second verse rolls around, and that same boring melody resurfaces once more, while the heavy production all but snuffs out the traces of vulnerability in Owen’s delivery.  With the overall package being weighed down by an excess of blandness, it’s unfortunate that the song’s strongest qualities are largely confined to its chorus, as I can’t recommend a song by virtue of a good chorus alone.

Ultimately, that’s all the song really is – a good chorus in want of a good song to call home.  While “Alone with You” is still a discernible step up from the insipid “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” it still never quite manages to rise above mediocrity.

JAKE’S SCORE:  5
(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Single Reviews

 

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