Gary Allan – “Get Off On The Pain”

Sam Gazdziak | February 24th, 2010


“Today,” Gary Allan’s most recent single, has roared up the charts with all the speed of a tree sloth, taking more than eight months to crack Billboard’s Top 20. It’s not exactly a mystery why–with a drippy string section and pedestrian theme, it’s more suited to a lesser light like Jimmy Wayne or Chuck Wicks.

“Get Off On The Pain,” the title track to Allan’s upcoming album, trades in the sap for a swagger that better suits the edgy singer. There’s no subtlety in the way he sings/shouts his way through the song (written by Bill Luther, Brett James and Justin Weaver), basing it instead all on raw emotion and lung power. There’s no moping around or drowning in self-pity, either. Sure, Allan may lament his luck of throwing good love after bad women, but in the way he sings “maybe I just get off on the pain” there’s the definite sense that any regrets are temporary and that he wouldn’t change his ways if he could.

The song also serves as a lesson for any aspiring singer who wants to know how to make a country song that pushes the borders of the traditional country sound and do it properly. The guitars snarl and the drums pound, but while most songs that try to be edgy and “rocking” are about as rock as the Jonas Brothers, this song has some teeth to it. The only slip-up was the addition of the Token Banjo, rapidly becoming the most annoying of all modern country song elements. If you have a song that sounds too pop or too rock, you just add the Token Banjo and presto, instant country song! Fortunately, it makes just a couple of brief plunking cameos and is then pushed out of the way by a slide guitar.

It is true that the schmaltz of “Today” is more in keeping with the general tone of modern mainstream country music. If we’re talking about song quality though, “Get Off On The Pain” is the one that should be creeping (or soaring) its way to hit status.

Thumbs Up

  1. Michelle
    February 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I have liked Gary Allan since he first came out. It’s a shame he doesn’t get the recognition he so deserves!!

  2. Steve Harvey
    February 24, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Not a great song, but it’s a good song, and Allan makes it seem damn cool.

  3. Steve M.
    February 24, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Not a bad song, and plus, it sounds personal. Allen is one of the few mainstream artists I have respect for.

  4. Nicolas
    February 24, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Haven’t listened to this song yet, but almost anything’s better than “Today”

  5. Rick
    February 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    So, does this mean Karlie is going to do a Friday opinion topic thread on “Masochistic Country Songs”? Hmm…

  6. crazybaby
    February 24, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    i LIKE it! :)

  7. Wade
    February 24, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    I really love Gary’s stuff, this is another great one!!

  8. Jaime
    February 25, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Pretty darn good song. Great beat.

  9. Steve Harvey
    February 25, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    This production definitely sounds like a step in the right direction, compared to TODAY and LIVING HARD.

  10. Noah Eaton
    February 26, 2010 at 1:51 am

    I can just imagine soccer moms screaming “Oh dear Lord, the song title is promoting BDSM to our children!” and shrieking in horror as they thumb for the dial! (shrug)

  11. garyfan
    February 26, 2010 at 5:54 am

    love this song.. yes Today is too sappy for me.
    hope this is the next single

  12. Jon
    February 26, 2010 at 7:24 am

    The song also serves as a lesson for any aspiring singer who wants to know how to make a country song that pushes the borders of the traditional country sound and do it properly.

    Ah, yes; “properly” making a non-traditional country record means making a noisy, manly rock record, not one of those sissified, girly pop records. Glad we’ve got that straightened out.

  13. Jim Malec
    February 26, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Yes, because all things are an equal distance from a center point…

  14. Jon
    February 26, 2010 at 9:13 am

    No, Jim, because Sam’s next sentence – the one that explains the one I quoted – is all about snarling and pounding and rocking teeth. Couldn’t be any clearer, and it’s not like this is exactly some newly expressed attitude around here; it surfaces regularly: manly rock influences on country are authentic and cool (especially if they’re punk-inflected), girly pop influences on country are fake and icky. Now where’s that drink you promised?!

  15. Jim Malec
    February 26, 2010 at 9:40 am

    A lot of this is subjectivity, because everyone’s “center point” will be somewhat different. But I would argue the case, and I think there’s compelling evidence to prove, that much of what is derided “around here” has “girly pop records” is much further from a general center point than is a song like “Get Off On The Pain.”

    The drink is still in waiting, as I am still in Europe.

  16. Sam G.
    February 26, 2010 at 9:57 am

    If you want to continue to throw around words like “macho” or “sissified,” Jon, please do so, but I’d like to make it clear that you’re pulling that out of your own head and not out of anything that I wrote.

    The words I probably would have gone with would have been “raw” versus “tepid” or “watered down.” Good country-pop trumps bad country-rock any day of the week, but too much of the country-pop that I hear pulls in the worst tendencies of pop music.

  17. Jon
    February 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    OK, Sam, but the words you *did* go with were the ones I pointed to, and I don’t think you have to have an advanced degree in pomo litcrit to see a little genderizing going on.

    Of course you’re going to say that “good country-pop trumps bad country-rock” in the abstract, but where’s that rubber ever going to meet the road? Apparently it doesn’t even in Gary Allan world, where his “drippy…sappy” stuff can’t hold a candle to the “swagger” (hmm, would that be a lady-like swagger or a manly one?).

    Jim, I have no doubt that you believe that “‘what is derided ‘around here’ has ‘girly pop records’ is much further from a general center point” than this record of Allan’s, and it might even be true, but what is that general center point? Why, it’s that part of country music that manly men who like their drums pounding, their guitars snarling guitars and their lyrics swaggering see as central to their notion of what real country music is. Whereas the fact of the matter is that there is no general center point for country music from which you can measure deviation in all directions.

  18. Sam G.
    February 26, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Bad pop-country songs don’t improve just because it’s Gary Allan singing them. “Today” doesn’t hold a candle to “Get Off” for many reasons, volume not being one of them. I’d rather listen to “Giddy On Up,” a song that features a fair bit of swagger from a *gasp!* woman.

    And I know quite a few women who’d take issue to your stance that rock is a man’s music genre.

  19. Thomas
    February 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    …he pulls it off quite nicely, still i can’t help myself wishing to hear this one from a real rock band. the way it stands, it’s neither fish nor fowl.

  20. Jon
    February 26, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Sheesh, where did I write that “rock is a man’s music genre?” That’s even farther off than your misreading of “manly” as “macho.” And nice try with “Giddy On Up” – are you calling it a good pop-country song? Because if not, that’s just another distraction. And the notion that you “properly” make a non-traditional country record by making one that rocks still doesn’t look any better now than it did the first time around.

  21. Sam G.
    February 26, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    You read into my review what you wanted to read, as opposed to what was really there, so I figured I was entitled to do the same with your response.

  22. Steve Harvey
    February 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    That was a rather odd detour in the discussion there.

    As far as rock elements of Allan’s sound go, I don’t think you can deny that theere’s a strong Southern Rock influence in Allan’s music that’s become increasingly prominent from ALRIGHT GUY onwards.

    If anything, this song is a step away from it after the screeching overproduced guitars of LIVING HARD.

  23. Jon
    February 27, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    No, Sam, I read what was there:

    “The song also serves as a lesson for any aspiring singer who wants to know how to make a country song that pushes the borders of the traditional country sound and do it properly. The guitars snarl and the drums pound, but while most songs that try to be edgy and “rocking” are about as rock as the Jonas Brothers, this song has some teeth to it.”

    Perhaps your thinking is muddy and confused, or perhaps you just said something other than what you meant to say, but those two sentences are crystal clear.

  24. sam (sam)
    February 27, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I interpret the passage that Jon quotes as suggesting that there is at least one “proper” way to push the boundaries of tradional country (Gary Allan’s way is one way) and at least one wrong way — a way that results in music that is “about as rock as the Jonas Brothers.”

    And yet I see little or no evidence as to why one way is “proper” and the other way “improper.” I see no reason to believe that it is proper to push the boundaries of traditional country in a rock direction but improper to push those boundaries in a pop direction (I assume that by saying songs “about as rock as the Jonas Brothers” the reviewer means pop oriented songs).

    As an aside, the review says there is “no sublety in {Allan’s vocal performance), but seems to treat this as a positive because the song is based on “raw emotion” and “lung power.” I suspect,however, that other vocalists, when backed by more pop oriented production, would be chastized (perhapss on the 9513 perhaps elsewhere) for singing that lacked sublety and relied on lung power. Their performances might be accused of lacking emotion (though many of their fans would respond that they found said performanes highly emotional).

  25. Joe
    February 27, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I think Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wrestler” is a much better song about a man in the same position. Thoughts?

  26. Austin
    July 1, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I heard this song for the first time about a month ago and was instantly hooked. I was about to change the station when the first strains of the song caught my attention and I let it play. Glad of it! I absolutely LOVE the song! “dancin in the flame”
    And I liked Today as well, though I have to admit it was a bit sappy.

  27. jayla
    July 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    this song totally rocks i love it i sing it all the time in my head and also im in by keith urban

  28. TammyJean
    March 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    This song is a great anthem for the PBR – Professional Bull Riders and is featured as a theme song on VS. channel. If you look at bull riding as the “woman” it all makes sense! Pain, scars, long shots and lost causes. It’s all there and it’s great!

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