Review – Sam Hunt’s “Downtown’s Dead”

Change is hard for everyone to accept. In country music there are two artists right now who can claim superstar status (transcend beyond the genre): Chris Stapleton and Sam Hunt. They’re both fusion country artists. Now I’ve been on record as a Stapleton fan for a while, but it’s kind of been the opposite with Hunt. It’s what happens when you’re blinded by traditionalist hate, even though Stapleton certainly doesn’t fall into the category of tradition. Yet Hunt gets all of the hate. All the while he’s proving to everyone that change in country music can be accepted by a lot of people. He isn’t your standard pop country artist.

This came to me when he released “Body Like a Backroad” last year. It was the only song he released last year, but it was one of the biggest hits of the year in all genres. Most artists would have gladly capitalized on this and released an album. But not Hunt. He’s not interested in fame and fortune, contrary to the image traditionalists and pop country fans want to portray. He doesn’t really use social media much and it’s been four years since his debut album. Hunt is taking the exact opposite approach of today’s average artist. He’s actually taking his time releasing music and it’s quite a refreshing approach.

That leads us to his brand new single “Downtown’s Dead.” The echoes of a dobro guitar introduce the song before feeding into a blend of country, R&B and pop influences. The song is about the loneliness of a crowded bar. Much like Maren Morris’ “I Could Use a Love Song,” this single centers around the millennial angst of dating and socializing in today’s world. It’s the realization of chasing after the highs of the bar and clubs scenes only leads to emptiness and unhappiness. True satisfaction can’t be found at the bottom of a glass or end of a bar. Hunt perfectly frames this message around the scenes of a club on Tuesday and Friday nights. At the end of it all, he realizes he needs to go back to the woman he loves. It’s a short and effective story that conveys its message well. While I don’t expect Hunt’s new album anytime soon, he delivered another song that is bound to be played all summer in “Downtown’s Dead.”

Grade: 7/10

Songwriters: Sam Hunt, Josh Osborne, Shane McAnally & Zach Crowell 

Review – LANCO’s “Born To Love You”

LANCO is a relatively new band that has broken onto the country scene. The name is short for Lancaster and Company if you’re wondering, as the name is quite different. It’s five-piece band, led by lead vocalist Brandon Lancaster. In 2017 they had their first hit in “Greatest Love Story,” a catchy love ballad with classic rock sensibilities. It was a true hit, as it had great sales to match it’s heavy airplay. Now they have released their follow-up single, “Born to Love You.” Just like “Greatest Love Story,” this song also has a classic rock feel about it. It’s a love anthem with an instantly catchy hook (“Wherever I go and whatever I do, I was born to love you”). The song’s real secret sauce is the bouncy synth that drives the song and gives it a danceability that will put it on a lot of summer playlists. Melody is a missing element from so much music nowadays and this song has it in spades. The combination of new wave tinges and upbeat country rock with easily connectable lyrics make “Born to Love You” a great example of how to make something that’s both fun and full of heart.

Grade: 8/10

Songwriters: Brandon Lancaster, Josh Osborne, Ashley Gorley & Ross Copperman