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Review: Crash My Party

By Mike Sparkman in Arts & Culture

Over the years, country has made a comeback after it mutated itself into a genre that incorporated major elements of rock and pop. Today, Luke Bryan’s country album “Crash My Party” is near the top of the Billboard 200. However, in terms of quality, it is largely a disappointment. I have never been partial to genericism, and this album screams generic. There is little to be found here that anyone hasn’t heard ten times over in a different key or at a different pace, with a slightly different chord progression, etc. However, it isn’t a subjectively awful album. The instrumentation is impressive and heavily layered, and generally pleasing to the ears. You can hear the many guitars, pianos, organs, banjos, you name it, and they appear flawlessly because of today’s digital editing ease. You won’t have a problem with the production if you like crisp, clean, won’t-offend-anyone production. Songwriting, though is a disappointment. Bryan’s only songwriting credits are the two songs he co-wrote. As for the ones where he hired professional songwriters, the lyrics were still questionable. One fine example of poor songwriting is the lyric “And she was like, ‘Oh my God, this is my song, I’ve been listening to the radio all night long’” from the song “Play it Again.” This lyric exhibits juvenile language, even though the song was written by two professional songwriters, Dallas Davidson and Ashley Gorley. Now, of course, they are capable of proper grammar, but a legitimate way of selling records and making money is by using juvenile sentence structure to appeal to younger audiences. The clearly commercial method being used here is difficult to call quality artistic creation, but rather commercial music manufactured to sell. Song by song, mediocrity is common. Bryan clearly took the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, and stuck with the same four chord, twangy anthems (complete with a vocal style that is practically identical to any popular male country singer) that we all know. The first track, “That’s My Kind of Night,” is one of the worst songs on this album. It is simply a plain track that leaves much to be desired, but it definitely has universal appeal to those who enjoy music that refers to having a good time. “Beer in the Headlights” is a more anthemic number, but once again it has little originality to be found. It goes through the typical motions of a power ballad, as in there is a low-key, melancholy verse with a soaring chorus, and later a contemporary guitar solo that completes the formula. The title track is similar in content to “That’s My Kind of Night,” but it is cloaked in a family-friendly vibe, and a slower, musical background. Not surprisingly, since they are the most hook-heavy songs on this album, these are the two most popular songs on the record. “Roller Coaster,” track four on “Crash My Party,” reverts back to the feel of “Beer in the Headlights,” but in fact one of the sparse noticeable differences between the two is that “Roller Coaster” is ultimately a heartbroken ballad. Nonetheless, the two tracks present nothing of artistic value, since they are mind-numbingly generic. “We Run This Town” is a nostalgic ballad that is certainly a highlight of the album. Like just about any song you’ll hear on this record, it soars high, but there are some distinct features on this number that set it above the previous four. Namely the pleasant slide guitar, the relatable lyrics, and the subtle piano. Sure, you’ll probably hear that same four-chord progression a couple more times on this album, but good instrumentation and improved songwriting can make all the difference. “Drink a Beer” is another song that can be set apart from the many milquetoast contemporaries on this record. It is noticeably more heartfelt and tackles the loss of a good friend despite the lighthearted title. It is not a guaranteed money-maker, nor is it filler, which is why it can be considered just a solid song. “I See You” starkly resembles “That’s My Kind of Night.” It is very hard rock-influenced, and it adds nothing of notable value to the album, so it can be considered filler. “Goodbye Girl” is a slight improvement since its lyrics are better than most other tracks, but it still keeps up the theme of unoriginality that drags this album down. “Blood Brothers” is certainly one of the better songs on this album, in the mold of “We Run This Town,” another highlight here. “Blood Brothers” chronicles a gritty, outlaw life, and is overall a good listen. The unfortunate reality of this album, however, is that the mediocre tracks (such as “Out Like That” or “I See You”) outnumber the good ones. If I were to go more in-depth, you would find several uncannily similar reviews of individual tracks. You’ll hear a slight improvement in “Shut It Down,” but that is merely because the chorus is quite enjoyable to listen to, otherwise the song is mediocre. Finally, “Dirt Road Diary” is an attempt to show people Bryan’s humble beginnings, but it just ends up being cliché. By this song, the same progression has been burned into your mind, so the music itself just sounds bland. The lyrics mainly talk about limited radio selection and shooting doves (shooting a symbol of peace? Really?), so unfortunately this album ends on a bad note. While I myself am not a big fan of the pop-country hybrid that this album displays, I have enjoyed my share of country music (like Uncle Tupelo and Wilco), and I know it can be quite good in the right circumstances. This album is one I consider to be subpar because I listened deeply to the music and found many regurgitations of the same lyrics, chord progressions, just about any substantial base component of a musical composition. This lack of diversity outweighs the couple of songs that I found to be solid, well-rounded tracks. This is because a good album should be one with no filler. This album falls short of an original, meaningful artistic statement.

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