Album Review: Chris Young — A.M.
“Neon” didn’t even crack the Top 20 on the Billboard charts. In fact, it’s been two years since Young had a bona fide smash hit, with the last #1 song being “You” in 2011. Young and his team were left with two choices. He could release a rock-solid country album that probably wouldn’t get airplay but would add him to the growing roster of Nashville iconoclasts who are making their own music their way. Or, he could just join the crowd of country-rock overaged frat boys who are unable to sing anything other than party anthems about drinking, driving trucks and getting it on with country girls.
If you need a clue as to the direction Young chose, the lead single from his new album is called “Aw Naw” – so dumbed down and simplified, the songwriters didn’t even bother to include actual words in the title. At this rate, country songs with titles like “Grrr” and “LOL OMG” are mere months away. It’s got drinking, it’s got partying, it’s got a hot girl in painted-on blue jeans. There are no references to tailgates, but “Aw Naw” has already surpassed “Neon” on the charts in spite of that oversight.
If that song becomes a smash hit, there are plenty of follow-up singles in the same vein. “Hold You to It” is about getting a hot girl to “move it” to a song with a pumping bass line. “A.M.” is about partying with little hotties. “Nothin’ But the Cooler Left” is a party song for good ol’ boys and country girls. It just goes on and on, depressingly so. “Goodbye” and “Who I Am with You” take a break from the party/concert anthems, only to add some vocal histrionics and screeching metal ballad guitar solos to the mix.
A.M. has some noteworthy songs, for those willing to dig past the dude-bro machismo. “Text Me Texas” (despite the incredibly corny title) and “Forgiveness” are sweetly sung ballads that represent the only understated moments on the album. “Lonely Eyes” is an excellent blend of a contemporary, propulsive country-pop arrangement with Young’s powerhouse vocals.
For all his past success, Young hasn’t really solidified himself as an upper-tier country star yet. With an amped-up sound and a simplified batch of songs, A.M. has the ingredients necessary to do it. The only problem is that Chris Young now sounds like all the other male singers on the radio.
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