Ashley McBryde - "Girl Goin' Nowhere"
An intimate and sincere track about the life of a young artist finding her path and voice. McBryde hits a homerun vocally, while the songwriting is both parts broadly appealing and descriptively poignant. Matched with a toned-down, acoustic production, "Girl Goin' Nowhere" is a compelling and powerful effor that exemplifies McBryde's status as one of the genre's brightest young stars.
Luke Bryan - "Knockin' Boots"
While hardly groundbreaking, what allows "Knockin' Boots" to stand out from Bryan's past uptempo efforts is its easeless charm. Moving away from the mindless tropes of tracks like "Move" and "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)", Bryan is able to shift the framing from crude to pleasant. The production is solidly country, and it thrives melodically and in its simplicity. A career-defining moment? No, but enjoyable and somewhat refreshing from someone who has often veerd into hamfisted territory.
Logan Mize - "Better Off Gone"
Logan Mize has shown signs of potential in the past, and "Better Off Gone" really puts that into practice. The moody, atmospheric yet pulsing production is incredibly well done, while Mize balances a sense of reflection with an underlying tone of grief. The writing balances a detailed story with an expression of overarching sentiment. It really fires on all cylinders and is well worth a listen.
Florida Georgia Line - "Talk You Out Of It"
Regardless of what your thoughts on Florida Georgia Line have been in the past, what has been undeniable is their boundless energy and charisma. In "Talk You Out Of It", they abandon all semblance of these aspects in favor of an awkard, sultry vibe. The melody and hook are uncharacteristically poor, the production is weak and generic and Tyler Hubbard feels largely disconnected. It's a change in style for the duo, and in terms of quality (and, apparently, commercial viability) it just does not work.
Chris Young - "Raised On Country"
The demise of Chris Young as an ambassador for solid, neo-traditional country music has been a storyline discussed ad nauseum among critics, and quite frankly it's growing tiring. It's not third-rate Sam Hunt pop anymore I guess, so congrats? All this is is D-list bro-country songwriting that namechecks genre legends as a means of making up for the fact that there is not a single original component in the writing or production of the track. As always, he is capable of so, so much more.
Dustin Lynch - "Ridin' Roads"
If we're being honest this is probably the best Dustin Lynch song in a few years. That said, it just sounds like "Small Town Boy" minus a layer of autotune. "Backroads, party, country, small towns, hot girl", you get the idea. It's not particularly clever, country, or memorable, but I guess it's not unlistenable either. Still well below his capabilities, which we have been saying since 2012.