Album Review: Chris Young — A.M.

Sam Gazdziak | September 26th, 2013

chrisyoungAMAfter a string of #1 songs, Chris Young released “Neon,” one of the best songs of his career. A gorgeous, traditional country tune drenched in steel guitar, it was one of 2011′s best singles.

“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.

2 Stars

Preview or purchase A.M.

  1. bob
    September 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I have to agree with your review. I’m not even sure I’ll buy the songs you describe as “noteworthy”. What a waste of a great voice.

    So far, I’ve only bought a few songs from each of Young’s albums and one of my favorite Young efforts in recent years is his duet with Patty Loveless “Love Don’t Let Me Down” from the “Country Strong” cd.

  2. Ben Foster
    September 26, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I could not agree more, Sam. My expectations of this album were modest, and yet I still wound up being disappointed.

  3. Barry Mazor
    September 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    I’d suggested in my column here in July that there were some strong songs on this CD as well as sadly thin ones, so I’m basically in agreement with Sam, and on about the same better titles–which in this day and age, you can get on their own, at will!

    I’d said:

    “Some of the up-tempo stuff sounds like typical fist-pump-along country radio fodder (the title song, “Nothin’ But the Cooler Left,” “Lighters in the Air”); but as has been the case with Mr. Young, there are resonant, hooky ballads as well, particularly “Forgiveness,” “Text Me, Texas,” “Lonely Eyes,” and “Goodbye.”..”

  4. Joe
    September 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Terrific review. I feared this would be the case when “Aw Naw” was announced. What a Shame. Guess I will just have to keep playing Neon on repeat.

  5. Rick
    September 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    If an modern major label artist wants a chance at Top 40 AirHead Country Radio airplay, and to stay on the label roster, they have to play the game. Country Radio is the tail that wags the Nashville music machine dog and you either play along or get benched. Chris has chosen the only option and I can’t blame him even though the sonic results are predictable.

    In a format dominated by the likes of Luke Bryan, crowd pleasing mediocrity is the way to climb the ladder of success. Take Florida-Georgia Line for example…

  6. Richard
    September 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Spot on review. Even with Young’s voice, most of this album is just lazily-written, overproduced garbage. When “Neon” tanked at radio I unfortunately knew an album like this would be coming. It seems the only one not yet sucked into the frat boy douche-rock vortex is Easton Corbin.

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