Of course, I’m not surprised either. Even though I think I’m one of the few who actually thought Wheelhouse was an excellent album, it’s also that more creative experimental route he took that led to his stagnation on the charts. Again, that’s another shame too, because even though that album had that one atrocious song that unfortunately attracted all of the attention away from the album itself, that album also really felt like Brad was pushing himself to new artistic heights. As a critic, I love seeing that.
It didn’t help that his next album, Moonshine In The Trunk was released during the whole “bro-country” phenomenon either, even if I think Brad was able to handle it pretty well. Then of course you had the final singles from that album barely scraping the top ten along with his last single with Demi Lovato barely scrapping the top fifteen!
With that being said, it’s safe to say that Brad Paisley seriously needed a career rejuvenation, and what better way to do that then to return completely to your roots? That’s what he did for his newest single, “Today”, a song that from my understanding was written nine years ago. If you want my straightforward opinion, I would say it’s his best single in awhile.
Now, the best part of this song is undoubtedly its sound, and I know what you’re thinking, “Oh look, another country critic who’s happy that someone made a traditional country song”. To an extent, sure, it’s true, but I’ve been on record as saying I like experimentation within music, and while this song doesn’t do that, it’s also just got that classic Brad sound that I (sort of) grew up on and have always enjoyed.
The opening piano along with the guitar work opens its way to a song that’s got the room it needs to breathe, coupled with heavenly pedal steel and fiddle during the choruses. Along the way you get touches of mandolin in the background, which, I have to ask, I know that steel and fiddle is slowly making its way back, but when’s the last time we heard mandolin in a mainstream country single? Nonetheless, I also quite enjoyed the crescendo leading into the bridge that shows Brad playing a fine guitar solo, and even though it might get “louder” at that point, it still blends in with the mood of the song quite nicely.
Vocally, well look, we’re not going to crown Brad Paisley as one of country’s absolute vocalists (not a knock on the guy though), but one thing I’ve always applauded more than sheer vocal power is personality. We’ll get to the theme of this song later on, but it helps that Brad is able to sing this song with a lot of emotive passion and sincerity. You can tell he’s invested in this song and that it means a lot to him. I can totally respect that.
As for the song’s theme, well look, I’m glad that we’re finally moving back to an era in mainstream country music where artists are actually saying something with their music, but at the same time, I’d argue that the song’s lyrics and themes are its weak point. The theme of enjoying today and conquering the moment certainly isn’t new at all, but to be fair, the emotional nuance once again does a fair bit to win me over. I’m not quite sure the song’s lyrics and details dig quite as deep as they could though. It’s a good, if overused message, but it certainly doesn’t match the sound and emotional passion here.
But overall, this is a solid comeback for Brad Paisley. Heck, the best way to really re-evaluate your career is to return to your roots, and with the tides of mainstream country music shifting back towards more traditional and substantive music, Brad Paisley would be a welcome fit.
Author: Zackary Kephart