Florida Georgia Line Hits Rock Bottom and Just Keeps Digging

May God have mercy on our souls.

Florida Georgia Line is a Pop/Country duo from Nashville, Tennessee. They debuted on Republic Records in 2012 with Here’s to the Good Times. The double platinum LP attempted to meld elements of radio and stadium country with a few very basic qualities of rap and hip-hop. This came to head on the album’s diamond single, “Cruise,” which officially became the most most successful country single in music history. From here, they would release two more studio records-Anything Goes in 2014 and Dig Your Roots in 2016-each going platinum.

Despite what their success may imply, FGL is a bit of a polarizing act in the country music scene. The success which artists like Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell have found by calling back to a simpler, more raw form of country music has created something of a backlash against the bulk of modern country. A growing movement of purists and critics criticize the duo, and many others like them, for their abandonment of more traditionally country qualities. Instead, the modern country movement, often referred to as “stadium country,” focuses on more relatable topics of drinking and women, while incorporating elements of other popular genres in an attempt to gain crossover popularity. With their self-titled EP in 2018, I thought they’d hit rock bottom, but after hearing Can’t Say I Ain’t Country, it appears they brought a shovel.

The most noticeable new addition to the FGL tool box on this LP is the several skits, including the “Tyler Got Him a Tesla” skit which opens the album. Each of these is not only remarkably unfunny and out of place on this album, but they leave me bewildered as to why they’re even here. As best I can tell, the character of Brother Jervel seems to be an egregiously stereotypical redneck and these extended phone messages are meant to remind us all that the duo hasn’t lost their roots. Instead, they’ve made four painfully uninteresting, 50 second clips that are somehow still the best part of the record.

Another blatant weak spot comes in the melodies of nearly every track. At some points, like the closer, “Blessings,” for example, the melody is so scatterbrained and unorganized that listeners find themselves increasingly lost as it goes along. On the other hand, tracks like “Simple,” or “Colorado,” are somehow simultaneously catchy and unlistenable. In a nearly 50 minute runtime, there is not one single interesting melody to be found.

Of course, we simply have to discuss the features on this album. Jason Derulo is so out of place on “Women,” that I simply can’t believe that he was ever even in the studio with either member of FGL, but instead recorded his part with one take from his home and sent it in. HARDY’s verse on the atrociously titled “Y’all Boys,” is absolutely impossible to differentiate from the vocals we’ve heard from the central duo. Jason Aldean all but takes over “Can’t Hide Red,” and somehow it’s just as bad as the rest of the album.

This horrid set of features still acts as a merciful rest from the all out assault on the eardrums that is FGL’s lead vocals. On songs like “People Are Different,” “Told You,” and “Sittin’ Pretty,” as well as the entirety of their catalog, these two men seem to be locked in a constant battle to make the least pleasing noise that has ever oozed from a human mouth. The mix of country twang, nasal belting, and inability to correctly pronounce words, all drenched in pitch correction creates a Frankenstein’s Monster of sound that can only be called genuinely horrifying.

Shockingly, we’ve barely scratched the surface here. The production on this album just can’t be ignored. This is especially in terms of production as I’ve never, in my life, heard a drum kit that is mixed worse than the one that poisons nearly all of these tracks. The cymbals on a track like “Talk You Out of It,” are nothing but pure static. I’ve never heard this before, especially from a major label, but they just use static as a cymbal. Additionally, a track like “Small Town,” utilizes the trap drumming which I’ve previously complained about on past FGL efforts, but that I admittedly found almost relieving compared to the unlistenable attempt at organic drumming we’re given on Can’t Say I Ain’t Country.

Finally, we have to talk lyrics. The title track, “Speed of Love,” and “Y’all Boys,” should honestly be given sections of the country music hall of fame as, officially, the worst lyrics ever put to paper. The amount of talent it takes to base a song around such horrible central ideas and yet somehow underperform even those ideas is truly awe-inspiring, and to think nearly every track on the album had at least three writers.

There is one more group that I’ll mention before wrapping up. “Like You Never Had It,” and “Swerve,” find themselves here, grouped together by the simple fact that they are so remarkably unlistenable, abhorrently ill-conceived, and just generally awful that my abilities as a music critic just fall short. There is no reason why these songs should exist and they can’t be described, only experienced.

In conclusion, Can’t Say I Ain’t Country has all but broken me as a music listener. It is lyrically, melodically, instrumentally, and technically vapid, leaving no room for enjoyment. All of these complaints are multiplied by the fact that FGL is and will likely remain one of the most successful country acts on the planet.

May God have mercy on our souls.

0/10

The 10 Worst Albums of 2018!!

Thought I’d take some time and have some fun talking about the albums I really didn’t like this year! Let me know what you think in the comments.

10. Kanye WestYe

Including this record was a difficult decision for me for a few reasons. Firstly, it hasn’t garnered near the universal distaste that has followed many of my entries on this list and I seem to be in the minority in my dislike. Secondly, it is leaps and bounds better than the majority of this list. However, considering Kanye’s long career of gigantic, meticulously crafted masterpieces, Ye is heartbreakingly aimless and meandering. At the end of a runtime that barely clears half an hour, listeners are left with nothing by way of answers for Ye’s recent antics or even an enjoyable piece of art to justify them. Instead, we have to stew with the fact that, after 8 breathtaking and diverse albums, Ye has finally let us down for the first time.

9. Sun Kil Moon This is My Dinner

Following one of the best releases in his very long career in last year’s Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood, Sun Kil Moon made a quick turn around and seemed poised for an impressive follow up. Unfortunately, This is My Dinner fails fantastically. While the dreamy instrumentals and wide pallet are quite nice, they constantly marred as the man himself seems determined to mumble over them constantly while saying exactly nothing. When it comes to a Sun Kil Moon record, we don’t ask for active vocal melodies or catchy hooks, but we do ask for great lyricism, and when that is lacking, the project is almost unlistenable.

8. Kevin GatesLuca Brasi 3

Another entry in this list which received some sporadic, critical praise, Luca Brasi 3 is by no means unlistenable. In fact, if I’d never heard trap music before, I may even enjoy it. But after more than a decade of trap’s position at the top of popular music, the fatigue effects this album worse than most. This is because Kevin Gates does virtually nothing to differentiate his project from the tsunami of average, dime-a-dozen trap albums which is washing over the music industry at the moment. Snarky, braggadocios lyrics, trap cymbals, extended flows, we’ve heard it all a million times.

7. Nicki MinajQueen

Few feelings compare in intensity to the dread I felt when sitting down to a 70 minute Nicki Minaj album. Shockingly, it was slightly less offensive than expected, though it still lands here. While the instrumentals are, mercifully, more than mind numbing trap beats, they are nevertheless extremely puzzling, featuring strange pianos and the odd latin influence. Nicki’s trademark voices and accents are as grating as ever, though there’s a noticeable lack of her classic, high-pitched squeal, which is progress of a kind. Queen is just an overall unenjoyable experience which can at least be ignored, which is an improvement over previous work.

6. Lil DurkSigned to the Streets 3

There was a time when a new Lil Durk mixtape, particularly a continuation of the Signed to the Streets series, some of the best albums to come out of the drill scene, would’ve been massive news. It would’ve dropped to massive acclaim on Spinrilla and boast hard hitting bars and excellent underground features. Instead, it dropped on Spotify to virtual radio silence and featured the likes of Future and Lil Skies. In most cases, I wouldn’t even include this album on this list, and I’ve largely ignored the majority of Durk’s recent work, but Signed 3 is a disappointing conclusion on par with the likes of Godfather III, and I couldn’t help but mention it on this list.

5. Panic! At the DiscoPray for the Wicked

Speaking of artists that have aged poorly, Panic’s recent release is the sixth and worst in their discography. 2016’s Death of a Bachelor was the first time we heard Panic as a Brendon Urie solo project and though the absence of the other members was felt, there were enough unique ideas and Urie’s vocal was good enough to muscle the album up to a bearable level. Pray for the Wicked, on the other hand, is lacks all semblance of fun. Each track is a predictable, synth-heavy slog that feels almost obligatory at this point. There are no exciting vocal moments, no catchy hooks, just one uninspired attempt at a radio hit after another. It seems blatantly obvious now that Urie has outgrown the Panic moniker and the limitations that come with it.

4. Imagine DragonsOrigins

It seemed after last year’s Evolve, that Imagine Dragons’ career had run its course and possibly even overstayed their welcome. A year and another album later, this is the case tenfold. Origins makes some effort at interesting or heartfelt songwriting, but it’s so horribly stifled by the band’s need to write catchy hits for whoever listens to their watered down, EDM influenced pop, that these efforts are thwarted at every turn. The production is atrocious, zapping nearly all of the character from the lead vocals which are the record’s only prayer of an interesting quality. The worst offense, however, is the constant lyrical fixation on being an outsider and fighting the system, this coming from a band who’s debut album went double platinum and who’s music has flooded radio stations since their inception, chiefly because of their willingness to take underground influences like EDM and hip-hop and repackage them for mainstream audiences. This album is about as rebellious as the droves of Harley Quinn costumes that filled halloween parties this year, and it’s extremely boring to boot.

3. Fall Out BoyM A N I A

In a similar vein to P!atD, Fall Out Boy has been cashing in the good faith from their two good albums in the mi- 2000’s for almost a decade now with one vapid, overproduced, emo-pop album after another. With M A N I A, it would appear that they’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel. Soulless production, and atrocious instrumental pallet, and often grating hooks are just the start. The lyrics sound like the scribblings of a 12 year old FOB fan, desperately attempting to sell the illusion of edginess. Additionally, Patrick Stump turns in his most unforgivable vocal work to date. This is just yet another gratuitous release from a band that is so far past their sell by date that it’s becoming depressing, especially considering the special place their earlier work holds in all of our memories.

2. Florida Georgia LineFlorida Georgia Line

Granted, this was only an EP, but it was so egregious that it simply couldn’t escape this list.  When you start this album, there’s a lag moment, where your brain struggles to parse out what it’s hearing. Next, your body instinctively recoils, trying to defend itself from what it’s hearing. By the time you’ve reached the “acceptance” step of hearing a Florida Georgia Line project, it’s nearly over. I use the hyperbole because it’s difficult to point to one problem that lead to this, mostly because the answer is all of it. Vocals are comically twangy, the instrumentation sounds like a stock, country music ringtone, the hip-hop influences are atrocious, and the lyrics could be written by a country mad-lib book. Imagine a man in cowboy boots, drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and vaping. That’s this album’s target demographic. It is, however, mercifully short, which is so much more than I can say for my top choice on this list. 

1. Drake Scorpion

How did you feel when you heard that Drake’s new album would be 25 songs and 90 minutes long? Me too. Following a very publicized beef with Pusha T which Pusha ended with one of the most brutal diss tracks in rap history, Drake entered his album cycle, for the first time, with a massive blemish on his record. Scorpion could’ve been a long, stream-of-consciousness contemplation on Drake’s fame and the issues he’s faced. It could’ve been a hard-hitting push back against his detractors. Instead, it was musical wallpaper, much like every other Drake album, but this time with a larger budget and a 90-minute runtime. Scorpion is a giant tribute to the epidemic of meaningless, effortless albums flooding the industry today and because of that, Scorpion is the worst album of the year.