Craig Morgan – “Bonfire”

Andrew Lacy | May 28th, 2009

Craig Morgan - BonfireListening to Craig Morgan’s latest album, That’s Why, how many of you think to yourselves, “This album would be perfect if it just had a song about drinking with your friends at a party outside of town?” Me neither. But apparently Morgan and producer Phil O’Donnell did, and they’ve decided to re-release the album and replace two of the original tracks with two new ones, including Morgan’s next single, “Bonfire.”

With “Bonfire,” Morgan joins the annual summer ritual of artists and labels competing to see who can release the most popular anthem by attempting to recapture the fun and flavor of “Redneck Yacht Club.” If you’re willing to overlook the production, the lyrics and the melody, he does just that. If those three things matter to you, I’m afraid this is just another forgettable attempt at a party song that will serve as background music for your summer barbecue.

The song features a collection of nameless, faceless people gathered around a bonfire outside of town to drink. That’s it. There is no description of any of these people, what their backgrounds are or what they’re doing besides drinking and “partying,” whatever that means. The only person who is identified as an individual is the obligatory police officer who seems to show up at all of these shindigs and scares everyon–only to join in on the fun himself. What a twist!

The ramped up electric guitars that open the song could easily lead someone to mistake it for a Jason Aldean tune, and things go downhill from there. With little concern for dynamics, the production remains at full blast for most of the three minutes, leaving Morgan in a perpetual shouting match to try to be heard over the instrumentation. As a result, any semblance of a real melody is lost in the ruckus. Suddenly the lyrics seem like a minor issue compared to the production.

Craig Morgan is a talented artist with one of the more distinctive voices in country music today, but he has hampered himself once again with poor song selection as he has forgone artistic merit in favor of commercial success. “Bonfire” will likely be a hit, but that says more about commercial radio than about the song itself.

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  1. PaulaW
    May 28, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    I’ve checked both BMI and ASCAP and it’s not listed yet. Anybody know who the writers are? I have a guess, but I want to confirm it.

  2. Jim Williams
    May 28, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    One thing I can always count on. If 9513 doesn’t like it, chances are great I will. Its like reading the clueless critic file. Definition of a CRITIC Can’t Really Invent, Instead Condemns

    Thanks for the work guys

  3. JD
    May 28, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Can’t
    Really
    Invent
    T
    Instead
    Condemns

    What happened to the “T”???

  4. Rick
    May 28, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    My favorite line in the review: “he has hampered himself once again with poor song selection as he has forgone artistic merit in favor of commercial success.” Maybe the “artistic merit” part is just entirely missing from the equation these days for Craig’s music…

  5. PaulaW
    May 28, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Ok – this is not one of my favorite songs by Craig — but I have a question for ALL of you:

    If you could go to your job and do what the boss said and get paid a HUGE wage …. or you could do what you want and get paid minimum wage or less … what would you do?

    While I would love to see (and still have hope for) is that somehow the two situations will eventually become one … but until then, I dont totally blame the artists for cutting the songs they are cutting.

    As for the songwriters — I know a lot of songwriters and I know their best stuff is seldom what gets cut and/or released as singles. So you really cant judge the songwriter based what is on the radio either.

    Just my two cents worth.

  6. Stormy
    May 28, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    If you could go to your job and do what the boss said and get paid a HUGE wage …. or you could do what you want and get paid minimum wage or less … what would you do?

    Option B.

  7. PaulaW
    May 28, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Good for you Stormy. Some of us have families to feed.

    (Oh, and just for clarification in my question – option A is NOT illegal or immoral)

  8. Stormy
    May 28, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Guy Clark once told Rodney Crowell that he could be a superstar or an artist. Rodney replied that he wanted to be an artist.

  9. Brady Vercher
    May 28, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    As a consumer, do you want a high quality product that’s going to do exactly what you want, or would you be willing to settle for an inferior product because it saved (or made) the maker a buttload of money?

    And when you go to a site like Consumer Reports, do you want them to actually test the product they’re reviewing or is it OK for them to disregard the actual usefulness and quality if it made the manufacturer a lot of money?

    Those options present a false choice, but I think plenty of us have gone or are going to work to do what the boss says without making a huge amount of money, but I don’t think that proves anything.

  10. Leeann Ward
    May 28, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Paula,

    Your question is thought provoking, but I don’t think it’s really parallel to the issue of artists giving up artistry for the sake of radio hits. I’m sure Craig Morgan was able to feed his family before this ramped up push for radio hits. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of being able to feed the family as much as the desire to be famous and rich, which is quite different than avoiding minimum wage or less.

  11. Rick
    May 28, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Stormy, Justin Townes Earle the other night said “Guy Clark told me to never let the truth get in the way of a great story!” Seems like Guy is just full of sage advice! (lol)

    I just can’t get worked up over Craig or his music as it just doesn’t seem all that deep or significant. He’s more like a serviceable “blue collar” country singer rather than an artisan or master craftsman…

  12. PaulaW
    May 28, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Brady – apparently quite a large number of “consumers” think this is a high quality “product” or they wouldnt continue to buy it when other “product” is readily available.

    Leeann – he might be “feeding his family” just fine, and will be able to do so for some time to come if he’s managed his money well – but how long will he have a job if he doesnt produce the “product” that is selling?

    I’ll admit that my question is a very “simplistic” representation of the situation, but then again, it’s not really that far off.

    Though I’m not a fan of Jamey Johnson’s voice (he’s got some good songs) – I do applaud him for standing up for himself and his music. He has it “his way” and has commercial success but he is an exception to the rule.

    Though I cant find a review on this site – most critics everywhere completely trashed “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”. Do you think Jamey Johson cares? Do you think he only spends the money from “In Color” and “High Cost of Living” while the money from “Badonkadonk” sits in a duffle bag in his garage collecting dust? I dont think so.

    I’m not giving a free pass to bad music. But sometimes beauty IS in the eye of the beholder. I really like a lot of what you guys hate, and vice versa. That doesnt make any of us wrong. It doesnt make consumers wrong because they rush out to buy Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus or whomever the latest flavor of the week is. It means we have a choice. We can buy “mainstream commercial” music or we can scour myspace and sites like The 9513 for something else. It is the choice of each individual human being.

    I think sometimes the critics (ALL of them, not just those at The 9513) get too caught up in critiquing and forget to just listen and enjoy. There are some poorly written songs that I like. Dont know why – dont care – I just like them. There are some “technically perfect” songs that I refuse to listen to. There are some songs I love on one day, and dont care for much on another. It’s just the way it is. No rhyme or reason – just individual tastes.

    Now – having said my piece (and then some) – I’m done with this topic. No hard feelings toward anyone – but this is making me tired.

  13. Leeann Ward
    May 28, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Guy Clark also once told Kris Kristofferson, before going out on stage, to go and “break a heart”, instead of “break a leg.” I suppose there’s a reason he’s such a great songwriter who, incidentally, has maintained his artistry while still more than being able to feed his family.

  14. Leeann Ward
    May 28, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Paula,
    I’m not meaning to be a jerk or anything, just found this topic to be interesting tonight, even though it comes up so often.

    Personally, I’m fine with songwriters or singers having duds in their catalogs. It’s bound to happen and I really can’t think of anyone who doesn’t. I just want to know that they are really trying and not tossing out their artistic integrity for a quick buck. To me, it’s not a simple matter of “you can just turn off your radio if you don’t like it.” I resent the fact that I have to keep my radio off. I miss the time when I could listen to the radio and truly enjoy the experience. Furthermore, I hate that I have to qualify everytime I tell people I like country music. Instead of simply saying “I like country music”, I have to add, “but not the stuff you hear on the radio.” The fluff just keeps adding up, which could eventually result in people who once loved country music moving onto something else. Country music is too good and important to me for that to happen. So, I can’t be satisfied with simply relaxing and taking mainstream country music in its current state of mediocraty. I want something better, because I know it’s possible as evidenced by the past.

    PS. I truly believe country music has its cycles and this too shall pass.

  15. Brady Vercher
    May 28, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Brady – apparently quite a large number of “consumers” think this is a high quality “product” or they wouldnt continue to buy it when other “product” is readily available.

    There are a lot of factors aside from quality that determine popularity or how much a product sells, so chart success and sales numbers aren’t indicators of quality. In the large majority of cases, the product with the most money behind it is going to sell the most units.

    No hard feelings on my part, either, Paula; just a friendly disagreement. I appreciate your comments and willingness to formulate your own opinion even if I don’t always agree with it.

  16. Leeann Ward
    May 28, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Andrew,
    I forgot to say excellent review, by the way. I’m a sucker for some healthy sarcasm.

  17. Razor X
    May 28, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything Leann said. With respect to Paula’s original question:

    If you could go to your job and do what the boss said and get paid a HUGE wage …. or you could do what you want and get paid minimum wage or less … what would you do?

    Depending on what one does for a living, this may or may not be a good analogy. In some jobs there’s a clear right and wrong way of doing things with very little leeway. It’s also a bit problematic referring to a music career as a “job”. Granted, it meets the definition, as it’s how musicians make a living, but I imagine most people become interested in music because it is their passion, not because they see it as a money-making vehicle. I realize that compromises sometimes have to be made for commercial reasons, but I think too often artists and their labels opt for the quick buck instead of trying to be creative and finding good songs that a lengthy career can be built upon. A little more balance would be nice.

  18. Andrew Lacy
    May 28, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks Leeann. I’m glad my first review here was able to spark such a lively discussion.

  19. PaulaW
    May 28, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Andrew – I dont think it actually “sparked” it – I think it just brought it to a head – again. Welcome to the melee. ;-)

    This has been ongoing for as long as I’ve been reading here. Tonight it just got the best of me.

    I think we all have to just agree to disagree.

  20. Janet Hansen
    May 28, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Everyone contributing to this conversation is right on the money, in every aspect. It isn’t just country music, but the industry overall that is suffering. It’s really hard to determine exactly why, when in reality, everyone is jumping up and down, running around with their hair on fire screaming about how bad things really are! Is that a juxtaposition or an oxymoron?

    Seems to me that overall we are witnessing a controlled crash on one end of the spectrum or the other. Personally, I’d prefer that the wheel is not reinvented every other minute just to make a buck from the tech point of view. Just leave well enough alone…but that isn’t the way this global economy works.

    Music is for the people, not the suits or the techies hired by the suits. Music by people, for the people and “about” the people. And it’s about emotion…period. Technology cannot detect emotion. Emotion certainly does not come up on the radar of Wall Street. So I’d like to know how technology and money drive an industry it can’t possibly understand?

    Janet Hansen
    Scout66.com

  21. merlefan49
    May 28, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Craig had a killer song a few years back
    “When a man can’t get a woman off his mind” To bad he hasn’t done anything that good since.

  22. Leeann Ward
    May 28, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Yes, Paula, it’s always fun to debate, but I’m always willing to agree to disagree in the end, because I know rhetoric isn’t going to sway any of us on this matter. It’s something we have to come to on our own, whichever way that may be. I haven’t always felt the way I do now, but no one’s well crafted argument changed my mind. My tastes changing is what has turned me into the music cynic that I am today. I’ll admit it was more fun for me before.

  23. PaulaW
    May 28, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Andrew – could you tell us who the writers are on this song please?

  24. Andrew Lacy
    May 28, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    According to iTunes, the writers are Craig Morgan, Kevin Denney, Mike Rogers & Tom Botkin

  25. PaulaW
    May 29, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Thanks Andrew. I coundnt find the info anywhere.

  26. Kelly
    May 29, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Janet – you say “Music is for the people, not the suits or the techies hired by the suits. Music by people, for the people and “about” the people. And it’s about emotion…period.”

    Not sure what that really means, to be honest. If music is for “the people” then it’s silly to then point out who it isnt for, in my opinion. Also, I couldnt care less about “emotion” if a song is overly-derivitive, benign and cliched to the point of uselessness. “Emotion” is great, I guess, how about freshness and distinctive qualities in a song, though?

  27. Kelly
    May 29, 2009 at 9:27 am

    “Craig had a killer song a few years back
    “When a man can’t get a woman off his mind” To bad he hasn’t done anything that good since.”

    I blame country radio for not making that song a hit. It’t way too traditional that’s why “Bonfire” will do just fine. Don’t blame the artist or producer. Blame radio!

  28. Leeann Ward
    May 29, 2009 at 9:30 am

    I’m assuming those are two different Kellys…or a sardonic Kelly as the latter?

  29. Kelly
    May 29, 2009 at 9:45 am

    The former, Leeann. Morgan just isnt for me really.

  30. Kelly
    May 29, 2009 at 11:21 am

    I suppose then Rascal Flatt’s “Summertime” is genious compared to “Bonfire” I don’t know about anybody’s background or what they’re doing besides drinking and “gettin’ sexy” and wearin’ flip flops. WoooWHOOOOO!

  31. Janet Hansen
    May 29, 2009 at 11:47 am

    If music isn’t about emotion, what IS it about?

    I can tell you it isn’t about money.
    It certainly isn’t about technology.

    Debating, rather than rallying around an artform that has become the livlihood for thousands and thousand of people seems irresponsible to me. The music industry doesn’t need more fuel added to the flames.

    This thread became an issue over one song put on an entire album up for debate because artistic control reared its ugly head. I also hear the word blame being used…as if pointing fingers is going to change the situation. It won’t. Neither a producer, or radio can make a song a “hit.”

    If a particular song, or musical style just isn’t in your wheelhouse, it isn’t! No two people hear music the same way. It’s the emotive properties of music that make songs popular among large groups of people.

    Janet Hansen
    Scout66.com

  32. Kelly
    May 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Janet – music is “about” a multitude of things. Your effort to make it “about” one thing is overly simplistic and amazingly short-sighted. If different peices of music mean different things to different people (which obviously, they do), why the need to make it all “about” anything as a collective, all-encompassing group?

    The issue I stated previously is that I dont really give a rip about the vagueries of “emotion”, if the song isnt distinctive, fresh and something that I would want to listen to. Are you placing a higher premium on “emotion” than quality?

  33. Blake Boldt
    May 29, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Craig Morgan is a talented artist with one of the more distinctive voices in country music today, but he has hampered himself once again with poor song selection as he has forgone artistic merit in favor of commercial success.

    Morgan’s album was released in October ’08, and it’s only moved 50,000 units. Radio may play his generally-boring material, but I’d hardly call him a commercial success these days, which makes some of the art v. commerce argument here a moot point.

    Morgan’s music rarely has boiled anybody’s blood, and while that’s suitable for your summer radio playlist, it’s not going to drive people to buy records. I think he knows his problem of face-name recognition, but hasn’t been able to solve it. To add to his issues, his target audience is one made of lower-to-middle class, rural folks who are struggling to make ends meet with the economy and are even less likely to buy product than most. Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Sugarland and the current gaggle of pop-country acts are selling way above the pack because they attract a wider (economic) audience. Once you consider the airplay of Morgan, Montgomery Gentry and Rodney Atkins, their sales #s surprise you, but they’ve limited themselves by sticking with the same-old, same-old content, content that only appeals to a certain sector.

    Believe me, I don’t want them to water down their country-ness in any way, but acts like Jamey Johnson, Zac Brown and Toby Keith speak to similar audiences and still manage to find interesting things to say that results in record sales.

  34. Todd
    May 29, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Spot on review Andrew. This song seems like an inferior retread of the song “This Can’t Be Good” from Blake Shelton’s “Pure BS” album to me.

  35. Leeann Ward
    May 29, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Debating, rather than rallying around an artform that has become the livlihood for thousands and thousand of people seems irresponsible to me. The music
    industry doesn’t need more fuel added to the flames.

    Janet,
    I honestly don’t know how to respond to this statement. I guess all I can say is that I can’t be convinced that it’s irresponsible to debate the state/direction of country music and I don’t feel it’s my responsibility in the least to simply rally around bad music in order to protect the livelihood of those who contribute to this “art form.” It just doesn’t even make sense to me as a philosophy, since I can’t help but have a mind of my own.

  36. Bobby
    May 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    1. So for the fourth time in a row, he’s screaming his way through a song. Go punk rock or heavy metal if you’re gonna scream.

    2. The melody sounds ridiculously similar to “She’s Country,” and the lyrics are just as dumb. But just like “She’s Country,” it doens’t put me off any.

    3. KEVIN FREAKIN’ DENNNEY co-wrote this? The same guy that gave us the (sadly forgotten) masterpiece “That’s Just Jessie”?

  37. Stormy
    May 30, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    He should have gone with a cover of The Hoodoo Gurus Miss Freelove ’69.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_UCks8O0FA

  38. walker
    May 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    commercial success = in general, people like it and it sells…

    artistic merit = only awarded to songs that don’t sell

  39. bob
    May 30, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Can’t
    Really
    Invent
    Though
    I
    Condemn

  40. Andrew Lacy
    May 30, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you for at least using all the letters in the acronym.

    If I can add one more (comparatively minor) complaint about the song, to me it sounds way too similar sonically to “Sticks” from the same album.

  41. Stormy
    May 30, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Walker: You forgot an important part of the equation.

    Commerical sucess: Momentarily good, doesn’t last.
    Artistic merrit: Timeless.

  42. Leeann Ward
    May 31, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Blake, I agree that having this discussion about Morgan is kind of pointless considering he’s not even attaining real commercial success with his watered down music. So, not only is he not really very successful, he doesn’t even have artistic integrity to cite as his excuse. Sad.

  43. cody
    July 5, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Bonfire was written byt craig morgan and Mike rogers

  44. Riho
    August 20, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I think this song is kick ass. who the f*** cares about little details. “at the bonfire out in the sticks, country, backwoods, home grown, hicks” I like it.

  45. stormy
    August 20, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Riho: One of those little details–if anyone had shown up around the bonefire my friends and I were at in the little town where I grew up and called us hicks, he would have gotten his ass kicked. Buying into negative sterotypes doesn’t make them true and this whole new wave of Country Music hicks ‘n sticks is very bad vaudiville.

  46. Andrew Lacy
    August 20, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I’m with Stormy. I think it’s safe to say that in a lot of small towns, being called a hick is a reason to fight.

  47. stormy
    August 20, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Its so reductive. My dad was a redneck, who worked for the railroad and owned more than 10 guns and loved John Wayne and WWII movies and baseball. He also owned more than 10,000 books, and made sure to take his girls to every cultural event he could find including The Vienna Boys Choir at which concert, he cried. My mom was such an old school homemaker that I only had about three new outfits a year she did not sew and still aspires to own a cow. She is also a feminist who recently called me to ask me to download a Coldplay song for her. She was is a deep seeded Christian who was leery of what she used to call “the homosexual lifestyle” until her youngest daughter befriended a gay guy. When he was sick with AIDs and I wanted to move in with him to take help take care of him, her only response was “Well, you have to” and then to research high fat content puddings and soups to feed him.

  48. L Rpogers
    August 23, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    I think is a good song. Mike Rogers was the songwriter.

  49. Lucas
    August 23, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Somebody should have compressed that song and turned the instrumentation down.

  50. Jayce
    September 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I like the song. It was written by former Dreamworks Recording artist Kevin Denney, Mike Rogers, Craig Morgan, and Tom Botkins.

  51. Jeff
    February 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    This song is a joke. Stormy said it perfectly when he said, “Buying into negative sterotypes doesn’t make them true and this whole new wave of Country Music hicks ‘n sticks is very bad vaudiville.”

    Don’t forget that tragedy called “International Harvester.”

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