Through most of the first verse, I kept hoping that “Buzzkill” was about Bryan castigating one of his drinking buddies and that it was at least meant to be funny. Once he added the adjective “little” to the title, though, I knew it was another girl-who’s-driving-me-crazy song, with just enough of a twist to make it seem original. The biggest twist is the tempo, which is slow enough to make nonsense of the lyric, and leaves you to wonder if Bryan has figured out where the emotional center of the song lies. The protagonist could be angry, sad, sardonic, whatever, but Bryan doesn’t seem to be going for any of those. He does realize that “wimp” isn’t an emotion, right?
Kelly Rowland—“Kisses Down Low”
Rowland has been on a lot of records that made the Hot 100 over the last year or two, but only one of them, “Motivation” with Lil Wayne, was worth listening to. Two of them, including “Kisses Down Low”, are among the worst R&B records of the last six months (the other is Ludacris’s “Representin’”). “Kisses” is actually the worst of the two, a record so obvious and blatantly pandering it’s hard to believe that anyone with any self-respect would release it (Beyonce has recorded orgasms that are more subtle). I have no idea whether Rowland is running her own career or has put it in the hands of someone else, but whatever the case she’d better find another caretaker soon. If she had been in a group like the Pussycat Dolls, it wouldn’t matter. But coming from Destiny’s Child and having a solo career reminiscent of Nicole Scherzinger’s? Somebody’s making a big mistake somewhere, and I suspect it’s Rowland herself.
Brad Paisley—“Beat This Summer”
The most open-minded artist in the most closed-minded of genres, Brad Paisley finds himself in a bind. He obviously feels the need to expand his music and his themes beyond the limitations of modern country, but at the same time doesn’t want to offend his audience or move so far out that they can’t follow him. The last thing Paisley wants is to come on as an elitist or spell artist with a capitol “A”. Hence the breezy likability of his stronger message songs, such as “American Saturday Night” and “Welcome To the Future”, and the sometimes bizarre tightrope-walking of “Southern Comfort Zone”. At the opposite pole, on a simple, nostalgic love song like “Beat This Summer”, Paisley feels free to pull out all the musical stops, deconstructing the rhythm track, applying decidedly un-country melodic intervals in the chorus, and tossing in sound effects and yet another peerless guitar solo. But by taking the music too seriously Paisley loses track of the song and it’s lighter-weight pleasures. In the end, the two ideas cancel each other out, and we’re left with a beautifully crafted track that doesn’t make much of an impression. Paisley is so smart he’ll work out his difficulties eventually, but I’m not counting on it happening this year.
Juicy J featuring Big Sean and Young Jeezy—“Show Out”
Mid-level rappers bragging over Mike Will Made-It beats have become something of a sub-genre in the last year or so, and here’s another one. The beats are still good, but they’re starting to become repetitive. As for the rappers, there’s a reason they’re mid-level.
Phillip Phillips—“Gone, Gone, Gone”
Not a Lefty Frizzell cover, unfortunately (I doubt if Phillips would even know who he is); just another Mumford & Sons imitation. Phillips is less pretentious than Mumford, and puts a little more variety in his music. That is, he’s more pop. But that doesn’t make him any better. It might even make him worse, if such a thing is possible. Better than the Lumineers, though, for what that’s worth.