The Poison Pen, Volume 2: Expecting More Than Generic Mediocrity

This feature is called The Poison Pen. It’s really quite simple: this is where I’m going to share my negative reviews. They won’t be near as long as full reviews, but at the same time long enough to properly convey my points. Because at the end of the day the bad music still needs to be called out. So without further ado, here are some albums I do not like.

Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty 

At this point in Carrie Underwood’s career, an album of this quality is just completely unacceptable. Her albums though have been on a steady decline since the “Cowboy Casanova” era, so I guess I can’t be too surprised. But usually her albums have some songs of merit. I can’t find any on this album. Really this album exemplifies everything I hate in modern music: its generic mediocrity that has been market-tested and put through the blender to make the most safe and boring music to appeal to the most amount of people as possible. When you try to appeal to all, you appeal to none.

The album’s title track is one of the most cut and paste vanilla motivational tracks you’ll hear this year. It’s the very definition of a wallpaper song. “Ghosts On The Stereo” is another pandering song that relies on name-dropping of country legends to garner your support. Just like the Brothers Osborne though, Carrie will get a pass for it because she’s another media darling who is immune to certain criticisms, while other artists will get dragged through the coals for it. Songs like “Backsliding,” “Southbound” and “Drinking Alone” are your average, dime-a-dozen pop diva songs that have absolutely nothing to say. They’re not fun or catchy either. Underwood has pretty much given up using her voice to deliver spin-tingling vocal performances and instead just screams over the most average production possible.

The rest of the album just sort of blends into each other. Every song is just slightly different from the other. “Kingdom” and “Spinning Bottles” also sees Underwood doing her best Martina McBride impersonations, reminding us that sappy grocery store country that McBride helped popularize is unfortunately still alive and well. If I had to pick the best song on the album, it would be the bonus track “The Champion” because at least it’s catchy and I’ll remember it. Ludacris did well on his feature too. The other good news is at least I’ll have forgotten the songs on this album weeks from now.

David Nail and The Well Ravens – Only This and Nothing More 

The lead single “Heavy” made me excited to hear this album. I thought we were going to hear David Nail really flex his creative muscles in his first project since being dropped from his major label. Instead Nail and his band deliver generic rock music with Only This and Nothing More. “The Gun” appears to try to be a song about domestic violence, but it doesn’t really go anywhere significant lyrically. You can pretty much say this for the whole album. Each song just kind of glazes over you, with two exceptions. While “Heavy” is the one lone bright spot on this album, the biggest stain by far on the album is “White Trash Girl.” The term “white trash” is beyond antiquated with its negative connotations it evokes. Yet being “white trash” is cause for celebration and praise in the song. It’s just plain stupid. I can’t believe how much better The Fighter is compared to this album.

Jimmie Allen – Mercury Lane

Man I was hoping I didn’t have to put this album here. But when the majority of the lyrics on an album sound like the leftovers from Chris Young’s last couple of albums, it’s not a surprise. Jimmie Allen has a pretty good voice and the production on this album isn’t bad. But he has to step up lyrically if he wants to be taken more seriously on future projects. Fortunately there are hints of promise. “All Tractors Ain’t Green” is the gem of the album, as Allen addresses his race in a genre that is mostly white. It’s a great song that I hope he builds off of for the next album. “Best Shot” and “How To Be Single” are good moments on the album because they don’t try to cram every kind of cliché in like a lot of the other songs. Allen’s rendition of “Boy Gets a Truck” is better than Keith Urban’s version. Perhaps the biggest problem on this album though is there are wayyyyy too many Jack and Diane references. In fact there are too many in country music nowadays period. I vote that this reference to be banned from here on out. The quota has been met and then some.

Walker Hayes – “90’s Country”

This guy’s voice just plain blows. It’s painfully thin, as Hayes couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. The lyrics, unlike Lauren Alaina’s “Ladies of the ’90s”, don’t take any time to show the references have any sort of meaning or feelings behind them. They’re just crammed in like MadLibs and we’re expected to be impressed that Hayes can name drop a bunch of 90’s country. I’m not. It’s a shame the great production gets wasted on this terrible song and artist.