Country Pop With A Lot Of Heart, Swindell’s ‘You Should Be Here’ Is Where You Should Be At

taylor
Written by taylor
/ 9 mins read

It’s no secret that I generally have some pretty biting criticism for Country Pop as a genre, as it is so handcuffed to these rather annoying Pop conventions such as copycats hooks and notes, yet at the same time, when these conventions are handled with the right amount of care, I can easily be swept up by such formulas. Cole Swindell is one of the few Country Pop Artists that continues to win me over with both his carefree party numbers and also his ballads that have a hell of a lot of heart. Honestly, even if I know where such music is going by the time I’m a quarter into the track, I for some reason totally stick around and even sing along to karaoke ready anthems because Swindell has a very charismatic vocal quality. His is a rough timbre and his drawl is definitely one of the more present drawls out there, yet never does he sound like a caricature – in fact, it is Swindell’s authentic sounding voice that I am really buying. Albums and voices and instrumentations like these put me at ease and I tend to let my critical guard down and just go with the flow on these songs which won’t win any awards in my book, but certainly make me understand how the newer generation of Country music lovers feel about their scene. Swindell’s music is simple, relatable here and there, and enjoyable for me when I don’t listen too intently to the lyrics - I prefer to vicariously latch on to the moods being created. Still, listening to song after song about missed connections or a fear of not making enough of an impression on a girl can be a bit of a drag, as I am hearing more confidence issues than chivalry at play, raising my eyebrows each time a rather clueless passage is uttered.

The First Few Tracks Are A Mix Of Hit And Miss For Me, But Experience With Swindell Reminds Me To Practice Patience

Not for the first time, an album begins with my most disliked song – not a terrible song by any means, but one that is my least favorite of the bunch. “Flatliner” is a Southern Rock joint with wailing electric guitars and swift Rock drumming, yet the notes played here are those obvious canned ones that sound like musicians ‘trying too hard’ to sound southern. Now, I know these cats are all southern – that’s not debatable, but with such a rich regional music history to fall back on, more often than not modern artists still choose to pick canned melodies and patterns that I feel are ill thought out. The power chords are voluminous with an edge, sure, but their progression is so freakin’ dull, yet even worse than that is the motor mouth way in which Cole Swindell and guest Dierks Bentley are vocalizing their lyrics – pitching up at the end of each line with these really corny emphases. Yes, everything is designed to display a devil may care attitude, but they are not committing fully, from the sound of things. I do not like when a concept sounds half baked – too many other ways of delivering attitude in a better way out there to settle on verses and hooks such as these. But I know my boy Cole Swindell won’t perpetually let me down, and as if hearing my dissatisfaction, he hits with a solid song number two – called “Middle of a Memory” , a laid back ballad that really picks up with the elevated volume of its hook; “in the middle of a dance floor all alone / in the middle of an old school country song / right when I was just about to lean on in / why'd you have to go then?” The best thing about this song are the vivid lyrics, which, as us fellas could all agree – are really universal. Swindell has been struck by the beauty of a girl in a bar, and after getting the courage up to by her a drink and ask her for a dance, the burgeoning love connection is cut short by her friends showing up and pulling her away to leave for another spot. Soul crushing lyrics indeed, but totally relatable; “about a minute into our first dance / we got blindsided by your friends / all in a hurry like you had to go / didn't they know you can't leave someone / Girl, you can't leave someone.” Happens all the time. But here is the hard truth that I don’t know if Swindell gets. We’ve all been there, but we learn through experience that the girl is not going to leave unless she wasn’t interested – in most cases. A little bit of that self wisdom would have been awesome.

Raise Your Red Cups To Some Of These Delightful Trials & Tribulations

Aside from track four “Home Game”, which suffers from the same weak Millennial Pop cadence where every sing-talked line goes up then down at the end, the music gets decidedly better after such songwriting weak-sauce. This turn around begins with the cymbal crashing Rock ballad “Up”, one of those passion on the dance floor moments stoked by a U2 style delay pedal guitar pattern and some great vocals from Swindell as he describes how his woman’s qualities have him ‘up’ walking on clouds, yet also referring how he wants to be ‘up’ all night, as he doesn’t want to come down. Even where the Millennial Whoops come in, I don’t care because they generally fit – and who knows, maybe I could be swept up in the same energy enough to belt out ‘wah-ohhh’ with the rest of the gang. The chords are not all that inventive, but “Party Wasn’t Over” is for the kids going to house parties now, incorporating trending Trap sounds to best express this lament similar to “Middle of a Memory”, where there is a good time being had, but the girl of your dreams leaves before you had a chance to truly connect. We have all had those crushes in middle school and high school, and I personally imagine a Country fried version of the teen romance movie Can’t Hardly Wait playing out in my minds eye, with the hottest girl in school Jennifer Love Hewitt always two steps ahead of my plan to win her over.

An Abundance Of Ballads With Bittersweet Grooves

Many of the ballads tend to present the same warm yet subtlety somber vibe, and with arrangements so similar, it is hard to say which track is memorable over another. I find this to be somewhat of a shame – with a little more effort, Swindell probably could have diversified the ballads. Still, they are all quite listenable at least – “Stay Downtown” continues with the frustrated love vibes with continued uncertainty about Swindell’s relationship status, presenting itself as a typical ‘late night bootycall’ song where he knows his ex (I assume) should stay her ass downtown if she knew what was good for her, but he is weak enough to open the door when she knocks and sleep with her when she gives hims drunken kisses ‘like tattoos’ on his neck. It always ends up as a ‘bad idea’ in the morning. Cliché city, but whatever. “You Should Be Here” is about loved ones who are gone, and how they would have dug whatever current moment is unfolding. Again, a similar sounding ballad with perhaps and even more forgettable melody. “Stars” grooves a bit more with a lot more hope, and I find that I like the melody even more on “Making My Way to You”, reminding me of the type of motivational music one listens to when returning to a loved one after a long time of being broken up. “Gettin’ Forgotten’” is one of two bittersweet acoustic and sadly sung numbers – this one has a little more brightness to it, while “Remember Boys” is slightly better arranged overall, but I do take issue with the unbelievable lyrics, as Swindell invents a term that I don’t think really exists, as it is predicated on girls actually having a cadre of boys that they remember fondly in the back of their minds, and that Swindell is somehow happy to be included in such a group of guys who failed at keeping a relationship going with her. First of all, my experience with speaking with girls about such topics is that they don’t think about ex lovers in such a way – maybe a couple ‘remember boy’ moments, but not at the detriment of messing up whatever current feelings they have going for the current guy. As a man, I can understand more the swag of a rapper saying to a girl he’s after that he wants to be the ‘only one’ she will ever remember, because he enters that relationship as a unique individual determined to make an impact – but as Swindell tells it, he would actually enter the relationship with low expectations and only the conciliatory hope of at least making the same impact as a bunch of other dudes? Well, I won’t be singing along to this one, but I could totally switch gears and belt it out to the best and most traditional sounding Country Rock boots-scooting dance track “No Can Left Behind.” Great arrangement, melody, and fun as hell lyrics where Swindell’s true confidence shines through.

2. Track List (14)

3. Official (14)

4. Live (2)

5. Featuring Remixes

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7. Similar Albums (1)

8. Similar Artists (18)

9. Album Info

Songwriter

  • Cole Swindell

Label

  • Warner Bros. Nashville

Producer

  • Michael Carter