Jason Aldean, who was announced as the Entertainer of the Year for the second straight year at the Academy of Country Music Awards, just released his eighth studio album, “Rearview Town.” The album features 15 new tracks sung by Aldean, and follows his 2016 release of “They Don’t Know.”
The title track is the perfect name for the album, as Aldean said in a Rolling Stone interview, it is a metaphor for leaving an up-and-down past year behind. Aldean was performing on stage at a music festival in Las Vegas just over six months ago when a mass shooting ended his performance.
Because of the trials that Aldean has been through since the release of “They Don’t Know” two years ago, this album had the potential to be an emotional and moving piece of art.
Unfortunately, this one falls flat.
Aldean concerts are famous for being just music, as he usually eliminates any in-between showmanship — which he openly admits before many of his shows. While this can certainly be appealing at his shows as it allows for more music, he also seems to eliminate any kind of personality from “Rearview Town.”
All of the songs on the LP fall between 2:48 and 3:26, leaving little time for Aldean to effectively portray a serious message. Many of the songs fit into the cookie-cutter shape that much of modern country music has become — there are songs that talk about girls, whiskey and partying, but there just isn’t anything that feels emotional or original, which is surprising given the events that Aldean has experienced recently.
Of course, Aldean does not write his own music, which probably explains why none of the songs tell the stories of his troubling past years.
Like a lot of Aldean’s previous music, it can get your toe tapping and can be fun to listen to while driving or having a drink, but as far as being relatable and telling a story, it just doesn’t succeed.
Overall, the album feels linear. There is no real rise or fall from song-to-song. Aldean has never been one to slow it down, but even in individual songs, they begin, and they end. None of the songs go anywhere. Lack of storytelling through lyrics can sometimes be saved with effective instrumentals, but in Aldeans case — where many of his past songs have relied on souped-up instrumentals — it just all starts to blend together.
Despite all of this, there are a couple of bright spots on the album. The first track, “Dirt to Dust,” is a good opening track. It still falls into the same rut as described earlier, but opening tracks can get away with that. It serves its purpose: it gets you to listen to the next song. This song has the potential to be released as a single, and I think it could find success on country music radio.
“You Make it Easy,” the album’s fourth track, does slow it down, and Aldean does a good job by showcasing his vocal range and letting his voice do the work, rather than using a compilation of back-beats and guitar riffs. The song is the lead single on the album, and has reached number two on Billboard’s US Hot Country Songs.
Aldean finally tells a decent story in the album’s title track. The song tells of a person leaving the confines of a small hometown. I think there could have been more done vocally in this song, however. While the story is okay, the lack of emotion and movement in Aldean’s vocals leaves something to be desired in a song that Aldean — even though he did not write it — should find relatable.
Ultimately, Aldean is going to find success with this album because it’s good for radio. Paired with that is his name recognition and track-record of success. Aldean knows what it takes to make a successful album in today’s world of country music, and there is no reason to fault him for that. But for old-school country music faithfuls, this just might not be your cup of tea.
Photo courtesy www.jasonaldean.com