DISClaimer: Country Polishes Its Pop Aspirations

Country polishes its pop aspirations this week.

The new singles by Clare Dunn, Sam Hunt, Kalie Shorr and (gasp) Joe Diffie all burble and burp with electronic liveliness. WEA stars-on-the-rise Dan + Shay and Michael Ray continue to straddle the line between pop and country.

Our most “country” contenders of the week are Jason Aldean and Disc of the Day winner Luke Bryan.

The DisCovery Award goes to a new female, Abi.

Writers: Clare Dunn/Gordie Sampson/Josh Kear; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; MCA Nashville
– Lustrous and lovely. The tune is super catchy, her throaty alto is a glittering jewel and the layered production shimmers. A simply stunning pop listening experience that deserves massive radio airplay.


JASON ALDEAN/Drowns The Whiskey
Writers: Brandon Kinney/Jeff Middleton/Josh Thompson; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Sony-ATV, no performance rights listed; BBR (download)
– The shuddering, deep-twang guitar work give the production its power. He can’t shake her memory, no matter how much he drinks. Miranda Lambert provides the harmony vocal on this solidly country outing.

Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Silverado
– Diffie’s first country single in five years squanders his spectacular country singing voice on a tuneless, quasi-spoken ditty with a jumbled production heavy on electronic effects. He’s a dirt-authentic honky-tonk singer who seems to be trying way too hard to sound “contemporary.”

SAM HUNT/Downtown’s Dead
Writers: Sam Hunt/Zach Crowell/Josh Osborne/Shane McAnally/Charlie Handsome; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; MCA Nashville
– He again deploys his hushed-voice phrasing on the verses, then turns more shouting and explosive on the heartache choruses. With his click-tracked, looped productions and sampled sounds Hunt remains in a sonic country category all his own.

Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; KS (download)
– Pert pop with an endearingly chirpy tone. As you might guess from the title, this is tasty sweet, if lacking in nutritional value.



LUKE BRYAN/Sunrise Sunburn Sunset
Writers: Zach Crowell/Ryan Hurd/Chase McGill; Producers: Jeff Stevens/Jody Stevens; Publishers: Highly Coumbustible/Songs of Southside Independent/Atlas/Who Wants to Buy My Publishing/I Love Pizza/Universal/Lake Allegan/Plum Nelly, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol (track)
– Bryan is coming off one of the finest singles of his career (”Most People Are Good”). He has another winning effort with this nicely written, nostalgic reminiscence of a summer romance that faded when the temperature cooled.

Writers: Harper Grae/Jennifer Hanson/Nick Brophy/ Fred Wilhelm; Producers: Jennifer Hanson/Nick Brophy; Publishers: Oliver Ann Music (BMI), peermusic III/Miss Marvelle Music (BMI)/Songs of Sanchez (BMI)/Farm Thang Music (BMI); Grae Area
– Her best yet. She delivers this song of existential regret in a penetrating soprano wail. Despite the toe-tapping tempo and upbeat mood, the underlying message is a desperate quest to know the mother she never had. Very involving.


Writers: Dan Smyers/Shay Mooney/Jordan Reynolds/Laura Veltz; Producers: Dan Smyers/Scott Hendricks; Publishers: none listed; Warner Bros.
– Ultra romantic. The video features footage of both men’s weddings. As usual, the sonic production values are as flawless as the team’s vocals on this melodic ballad. Their star continues to rise.

ABI/A Day Without
Writers: Andrew Dorff/Jimmy Robbins/Lucie Silvas; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; One Country/Nine North
– The busy, echoey track crashes and clicks around her. But her clear, pristine vocal commands center stage regardless. Next time, simplify the production.


MICHAEL RAY/One That Got Away
Writers: Josh Osborne/Matthew Ramsey/Josh Rosen/Jesse Frasure; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Atlantic (download)
– He seems to piling one release on top of another, which seems to be a mini trend these days. This is a nicely bouncy, mid-tempo outing with loads of hooks. She might only be his for one night, but that’s okay because she’s going to make a helluva memory.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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