According to my lone source of country music news, country is navigating back to that nineties sound (the best decade in country music ever). So since I never know any of the artists Saving Country Music's articles reference, I thought I should find out for myself if that is actually true. I've done this exercise a couple of times in the past with disastrous results, but I have my fingers crossed!
The rules are simple: Clearly I've never heard any of these tracks before, so I will review them as I watch the music videos. This time I'm relying on American Country Countdown's chart for August 22, 2022, the most recent chart currently available. And I'm only reviewing the top ten, because I am not a glutton for punishment.
Bear in mind, I'm grading on a curve.
Wheeeeee! Here we go!
#10 ~ You Proof ~ Morgan Wallen
This is the first time I've ever heard this guy, who's for some reason controversial (because someone apparently recorded him having a private conversation with a friend). He's clearly not the best singer ~ nasally and he tends to slur his words ~ but he's certainly not the worst.
This song is perhaps following a modern trend, starting with a bare-bones verse and filling out the rest of the track with repetitions of the chorus. I can see the sing-along allure, but the subject matter, previously done to death, could use some fattening. I do give him props, though, for essentially keeping it country.
I haven't obviously heard the other top nine singles yet, but I will give this one a B-.
#9 ~ Damn Strait ~ Scotty McCreery
One might not want to do a song that instantly reminds the listener of King George, That said, the track is definitely country, kind of second-tier country, however. It's inordinately easy to write a song with hooks that are song titles.
How about this:
Mama Tried to Sing Me Back Home but I Was A Lonesome Fugitive, when all she ever wanted me to be was a Working Man. Merle used to be my favorite singer, but now I can't even listen to him because then I'll Start Loving You Again.
I vaguely remember this guy from when I used to watch American Idol (probably the last season I watched it) and he has a good country voice, but this song is cheap pandering. He can do better. B-
#8 ~ Truth About You ~ Mitchell Tenpenny
Interesting storyline. This guy is a good singer, in the Travis Tritt vein. I don't know if he's had any previous singles, but this track is one that'll capture your attention when it bursts out of your car radio. I admire a song that tries to say something and isn't trite. I wouldn't buy it, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the effort. B
#7 ~ Like I Love Country Music ~ Kane Brown
Kind of a cross between Brooks and Dunn and Achy Breaky Heart, this is a damn fine bar song. I would dance to it. Again, I know nothing about the guy or any history attached to him, but with this track he is definitely doing nineties country in the truest sense of the word. Granted, it's a throwaway, but I suppose Boot Scootin' Boogie could be labeled a throwaway, too. That doesn't mean music can't be fun. In fact, it's supposed to be fun. B+
#6 ~ With A Woman You Love ~ Justin Moore
A bit reminiscent of Tracy Lawrence's later releases, Moore has a decent country voice and the track's production does harken back to the nineties days. And kudos for a song that is written in the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus standard. Unfortunately, it doesn't really resonate with me. The sentiment is great, but this track just sounds ordinary. B-
#5 ~ The Kind Of Love We Make ~ Luke Combs
I like this one. Frankly this guy has one of the best voices in country music today. The melody is one I could find myself humming when I'm trying to fall asleep. I also like the fact that he's not the cliched "leading man"'; he just has a great voice. Best so far. A-
#4 ~ She Had Me At Heads Carolina ~ Cole Swindell
Okay, nothing like stealing a melody from a more famous song. I hope Tim Nichols and Mark Sanders got songwriting credits on this. I guess this is one way to get on the radio. A cheap way. He's not an original singer and for stealing somebody else's song, this one gets a D-.
Oh, here's how the original goes:
#3 ~ Take My Name ~ Parmalee
I don't know who Parmalee (pick a better name) is, and I don't know what this is. This is something that movie producers would consider a country song. It's not. I vowed to watch every YouTube video 'til it's completion, but I knew where this one was going. F+
#2 ~ Last Night Lonely ~ Jon Pardi
I've read that this guy is the real deal. Apparently he has better tracks than this.This one has a lot of noise, but no real purpose. I will say that the production is over the top, and not in a good way. D
#1 ~ At The End Of A Bar ~ Chris Young and Mitchell Tenpenny
Kids, don't be fooled by the racket. To be honest, I lost interest in this video and started doing other tasks. Mitchell, your number eight song was eons better. And just when I started to think that the nineties really were back. F
So, just like the last time I tried this experiment, Luke Combs wins. But props to Tenpenny (#8, not #1) and Brown. There's a lot to like here, but not much originality.
And Saving Country Music, you told me that this Pardi guy was someone to watch. I think I'll pass.