Kane Brown feat. Katelyn Brown, "Thank God"
I generally find this brand of worship love song pretty insufferable, but this is pretty solid. I think the harmonies are really nice, and the production is appropriately restrained and organic. Nothing groundbreaking, but a really delightful track.
Nate Smith, "Whiskey On You"
I guess this guy is a viral star of sorts? I'm not really sure and I didn't bother looking it up, but this is quite a strong debut. Again, the whole "wasting alcohol on breakup" trope is getting old, but there's enough power in Smith's performance to make it memorable and the hook and chorus are pretty well constructed. Quite strong, and I'm compelled to hear what else he does.
Tyler Hubbard, "5 Foot 9"
I wasn't really sure what to expect from Hubbard's first post-FGL efforts, but "Five Foot Nine" is a really nice and somewhat surprising start. The production is refreshingly laid back, and while the whole premise is a bit cheesy -- again, I don't like the God-made-you subgenera -- Hubbard really sells it. He's always been a charismatic performer, but I was surprised at just how much he shines when Joey Moi isn't cranking everything up to 1000. I won't be shocked if the rest of his stuff is decidedly bad, but this is a really enjoyable and infectious first go at it.
Bailey Zimmerman, "Fall In Love"
I am truly shocked at how much I love this song. I kind of assumed on image that he was a MW knockoff (and I suppose I was kinda right -- their voices do sound pretty similar), but this is much more compelling than the vast majority of Wallen's work. The production work here perfectly encapsulates the almost dark cynicism in the writing, and Zimmerman perfectly delivers it a somber yet aware way. Some of the turns of phrase work better than they should have, particularly as the chorus builds. It would have been easy to go for bombast on the hook, but the choice for a more smoky slow build hits all the right notes. I'm not sure where Zimmerman goes from here -- he certainly has quite the following already -- but I was incredibly impressed by this first single.
Randy Houser, "Note to Self"
I'm glad Houser has finally taken his talents out of the mainstream machine. He's arguably the best vocalist in the country music space, and wasting it on the most pandering nonsense imaginable was a real shame. His last album, Magnolia, was great, and this is a solid continuation. It's a little listy (maybe by design) and feels cliche at times, but overall, it has a message, the production doesn't beat you over the head, and it's obviously well sung. I look forward to his forthcoming record.