Florida Georgia Line

15 albums, 98 tracks

Country

Narratives

"Florida Georgia Line"

Mar 20, 2019

Florida Georgia Line Has Me Feelin’ Some Kind Of Way With 2019’s Can’t Say I Ain’t Country

camjameson
Written by @camjameson from Extraneous Routes  / 11 mins read
#CantSayIAintCountry#FloridaGeorgiaLine#Country#CountryPop#CountryRock#TraditionalCountry

What the hell is happening to me? I used to take pride in absolutely decimating mainstream Pop music like this, finding it to be the bane of my existence & an industry-wide plague that was stagnating the creativity of far-greater undiscovered musicians out there in the market, but now I’m suddenly defending the very music I once thought to be utter trash. Am I just getting old & soft, weakened by years of monotonous mainstream radio performances? Was this music catchy all along & I was just too blind to see it? Or is it something else, like perhaps my progressed age has shown me how spectacularly entertaining it is to watch someone game the system entirely, knowing exactly how to tweak their sound to appeal to modern audiences whilst maintaining their individual schtick, thereby reaching the widest market & reaping the rewards monetarily? Whatever it is, it’s causing me to voice a very controversial opinion that goes against everything I’ve believe in for decades now: Florida Georgia Line are genuine geniuses of contemporary Country music, far more talented & impressive than we give them credit for – Yes, I’ve drank the fucking Kool-Aid & it’s incredibly uncomfortable for me. I know their first album Here’s To The Good Times… was influential & whatnot for how tremendously it shifted the Country Pop scene into the mainstream consciousness as a viable creative outlet & I get that artists should naturally improve their skillsets over the years like a fine wine aged in oak barrels, but their 2019 release Can’t Say I Ain’t Country has no right being as good as it is, literally living up to its namesake by delivering a stellar collection of backwoods jams that’re so clearly influenced by eighties- & nineties-era Country that you rightfully can’t pigeonhole the duo as being a bunch of braindead Popstars. Time & time again I find myself going into songs thinking ‘oh yeah, this is gonna be an absolute train-wreck,’ only to find that my expectations – typically based on their previous history of coopting Hip Hop culture for song names that have nothing to do with the actual lyrical content – were totally off-base, founded in stereotype with no confidence that Florida Georgia Line could actually produce anything worth shaking a tail-feather at, resulting in me eating crow more on this album than pretty much any artist I’ve reviewed in the last year who’s completely reinvented themselves as a sort of ten-year reunion present to today’s aging audiences – So, if you’ll humour me, prepare to uncover some of the best qualities about this album; You’ll likely be just as surprised as I was.

Sharper Turns Have Never Been Taken

As I’ve touched on ever-so-slightly in other Narrative reviews before, Florida Georgia Line’s entire aesthetic depends upon their ability to somewhat ‘bridge the gap’ between the popular styles of Hip Hop & Alternative R&B with the less-favoured genre of Country, packing their tunes with Trap-inspired beats & Snoop Dogg-ified naming conventions whilst sporting all-white fur coats & Kanye shades as if they were some kind of mid-noughties Pimp characters. Well, in a move that absolutely defies convention, the daring duo cleverly pulled a fast one on all of us by hiding a handful of genuine R&B bangers within Can’t Say I Ain’t Country that not only uphold the integrity of their stolen genre but do so without playing directly into the stereotypes you might’ve formed just from the song titles alone – For instance, the song “Women (feat. Jason Derulo)” would rightfully have you preparing yourself for a bombastic Dance Pop adventure with some shameless self-promotion adlibs occurring within the first 5 seconds given that Jason Derulo is in-fact the featured vocalist on the track, but they go in a completely different direction that’s nowhere near your prejudiced opinions; Yes, they soothe your nerves with a beautifully somber ballad packed to the brim with soulful charm both in vocal intent & endearing instrumentation, admittedly a tad too processed for my likings but a pleasantly far-cry from the generic Pop bullshit we’ve come to expect from Florida Georgia Line at this point. It’s a surprisingly authentic R&B performance that’s more respectful of the past than nearly anything they’ve delivered before, capturing the wholesome swaying momentum of retro ‘I wanna get married in a barn’ slow-dance songs of the Country variety fused with the delicate vocal radiance of a nineties Slow Jam, making for a truly heartwarming experience you won’t soon forget; This all continues in ballads like “Talk You Out Of It” that lean so heavily into crooning R&B territory that you might need to watch your step, as you’ll be weak in the knees when you hear the honest-to-Betsy game-spitting going on within, utilizing very natural analog instrumentation that’s played in a decidedly robotic fashion as if sequenced from a drum pad, Alternative R&B-specific vocal patterns you only really hear kids in the last three to five years using & – of course – some references to Luther Vandross within the song’s lyrics that make it blatantly obvious these guys know exactly how to market the shit out of themselves, preying on the nostalgia of older listeners whilst borrowing anachronistic sound profiles to make their contemporary listeners think they’ve broken new melodic ground – I’d be remiss not to acknowledge how incredibly strange this whole scenario is though, as Country & R&B may share sonic ancestry but they certainly have failed to assimilate with one-another nearly every time an artist has tried, so in reality Florida Georgia Line are really just coasting by on the power of novelty rather than actually producing spectacularly-inventive music; They just want to reap the benefits of African-American culture without having to deal with any of the societal prejudices that come along with their adopted image. Still, the fact that they’ve managed to get this close to a proper blending of the disparate genres is a feat in & of itself I can’t help but admire in one way or another.

Finally, Someone At The Studio Got The Memo

We can talk about how Florida Georgia Line steals from Black music culture ten ways ‘til Sunday, but the real draw-factor of Can’t Say I Ain’t Country is the sheer amount of classically-inspired Country jams they have on the album, making it clear they’ve been listening to the industry’s cries for ‘real Country’ to make its triumphant comeback across the market. They miraculously take a step back from the Patron for a moment to pick up their guitars & jam out some solid hick grooves any ranch-hand would gladly put on as they got ready to hit the saloon for the night, pumped up by the old-school charms of hoedown-centric tunes – Basically, they’ve gone back to the farm with songs like the titular “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country,” a killer track that gives you spunky Honky Tonk guitar tones with that plucky attack sound over soaring vocal melodies you just want to live out your vagabond dreams through, living out your days tossing barrels of hay around whilst the local singles ogle you from afar. My personal favourite is “Speed Of Love,” which turns up the steam a bit to give an overwhelmingly over-processed yet completely drenched in classic Rodeo Country stylings banger, driving forth with fast shuffling drums & ripping guitar riffs akin to Tia Carrere’s iconic “Ballroom Blitz” from Wayne’s World, all performed alongside pedal-steel lead lines, chromatic chord progressions with a Blues Rock twist & a spectacular road-hog sensibility that makes you wanna drive an eighteen-wheeler off into the sunset whilst high on that wacky-tobacky with a hint of reprocessed cocaine for good measure, a real ruffian of the highway back in the late-eighties – If that’s not quite your gig, you can always turn to the The Penguins “Earth Angel”-like high-school dance ballad “Told You,” what with its beautifully heartwarming, church-like melodies & very percussion-heavy instrumentation that relies on a soothing shuffle beat with off-kilter improvisation to make you feel like you’re in an intimate environment of undying love & adoration, head draped over your lover’s shoulder as the world fades away leaving only the two of you floating in ecstasy; Y’know, one of those cute little dream sequences from all your favourite 40’s-era Action Comedy flicks like Back To The Future, yeah? I do have to admit, though: For all the splendor they’ve shown by returning to a more anachronistic sound, Florida Georgia Line can’t quite escape their hyper-stylized, almost robotic sonic aesthetics, particularly when it comes to the vocal arrangements, as their harmonies are so unbearably synthetic & processed it’s unsettling; Like, I’m all down for a bit of compression & pitch adjustment to make your vocals cleaner & punchier than they are normally, but the harmonies herein are so blatantly manufactured that it makes you question whether these guys can actually sing on their own at all, each choral layer merely a duplicated track layer with a harmonic modulation effect applied to make it seem like a barber shop quartet were singing with one-another even though that couldn’t be further from the truth – It’s a little detail that most listeners would probably overlook whilst claiming Florida Georgia Line is actually performing to the highest degree of mastery, but for anyone with an ear for sound design & musicianship it’s actually rather distracting, just one in a long line of production techniques the group uses that can easily drown out the fantastic analogue instrumentation peppered amidst the album.

Breaking The Habit In One Way Or Another

After all the generic bullshit Florida Georgia Line have put us through over the years, I’m astounded this album is packed with as much phenomenal songwriting as it is, ‘cause they certainly haven’t made any of that clear to audiences through marketing, literally hiding all of their genuinely skillful mixes in the shadows whilst promoting the most generic, soulless, lackluster singles they can to appease the mainstream radio audience. While we’re off judging them for generic numbers like the Bebe Rexha-centric “Meant To Be,” they’re busy producing thrilling Country Pop numbers like “Y’all Boys (feat. HARDY)” that convey a delightfully Country Rock-ish edge thanks to the inclusion of industry up & comer HARDY, delivering frenetic palm-muted guitar riffs with intricate percussive rhythms you just don’t get in modern Country tunes, setting them apart from the crowd whilst remaining just relatable & trendy enough to matter; They even take vaguely-interesting artistic risks by getting creative in the various interludes dispersed throughout the album, performing hilarious skits about a guy contacting the group’s phone line & leaving the most random voicemails you could imagine, each more tantalizing than the last in a way that makes you say ‘yo, these guys are actually charismatic as fuck’ – It’s not often that I admit when I’ve been wrong, as the act legitimately shaves years off the contract I made with Satan to send this world into disarray nearly 600 millennia ago, but y’all, I fear I have to apologize wholeheartedly to every member of the band in earnest. I’ve spent years absolutely shitting on Florida Georgia Line whenever I got the chance, seeing them as no superior a duo to Country music’s dirty old uncles Big & Rich or any of those other Caucasian southerner bands who’ve capitalized on Black culture to become megastars in their own right despite having no real talent to back up their claims to fame, but that opinion has been continually proven wrong just by me taking more than a surface level dive into their body of work, even more apparent in the totally baseless adversity I had towards Can’t Say I Ain’t Country before I actually had a chance to enjoy the music they’d produced within; They’re still gentrifying Caucasians who enjoy the accolades & attention of black culture without shame, but I can at least see through the act down to the musicians who’re waiting just beneath the surface, begging so earnestly to be seen for the human beings they are, just a couple of guys who love to party & play music for nothing more than promoting good vibes – So, yeah, I’m a god damned fan of Florida Georgia Line now & I’m absolutely appalled by the revelation, but these guys have really turned their career around with this album in ways that help erase so many of the missteps they’ve made in the last decade.

The Tale Of How Florida Georgia Line Reshaped Country Music As We Know It

In popular media, there’ve been countless instances of underdogs facing insurmountable odds to change public opinion of a certain genre, from Trap instrumentation invading all manner of music to become the hottest sound in the industry to once-sidelined pre-teen musicians suddenly ruling the market with an iron fist in the internet age, proving you’re never too young to leave your mark on this world in a big way, but perhaps the most astonishing curveball was how quickly Country music erased its stereotypical redneck image in the early-teens to become one of the most profitable & critically-acclaimed genres of the modern era. For what must’ve been decades, Country existed as this niche genre you only listened to if you were born on a farm or lived in the red-belt of America, every Tom, Dick & Nancy who claimed to be an open-minded audiophile confidently stating ‘I listen to every genre of music…well, except Country, of course’ as if that somehow gained them entry to the cool-kids club; I mean, I can distinctly remember driving with friends on exceptionally long car rides through the more rural parts of California where acceptable radio stations were few & far-between, said companions willingly deciding to listen to the Regional Mexican radio channels if their only other choices were Country or static, illustrating how vehemently people in the noughties kept their distance from the genre for fear of looking like an inbred simpleton who supported the Republican party. All of this changed in 2012 when Nashville, Tennessee natives Florida Georgia Line dropped their first formal studio album Here’s To The Good Times, forever cementing Country Pop as a genre capable of appealing to mainstream audiences with gusto thanks to a focus on feelgood vibes, genre-bending crossover tracks & a less-stereotypical southern charm that actively sought to break away from the hoedown aesthetics of their predecessors – You could undoubtedly make the argument that prior Country Pop acts had already done much of the heavy lifting from 1995 to 2007, as Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson & Big & Rich essentially spawned the whole ‘we get down & dirty but can be sensitive at times’ aesthetic, but as these groups aged & audiences turned ever-more-youthful we started seeing an aversion to cowboy hats & side-mouthed twang since it typically represented old-world ideals steeped in misogyny & hatred, a vibe millennials were having absolutely none of once their voices were formally recognized as the driving force of the internet generation, giving Florida Georgia Line the perfect opportunity to shake up the system with a formula more attuned to modern, sexually-liberated, disenfranchised youth culture. While this saved Country music from imploding upon itself at the start of this decade, the band aren’t without fault as they simultaneously birthed a movement that would almost destroy Country once again come 2018.

Written by camjameson from Extraneous Routes / Mar 15, 2019

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"Florida Georgia Line"

Active

    2010–present

Label

  • Big Machine, Big Loud Mountain

About

Florida Georgia Line (sometimes abbreviated as FGL) is an American country music duo consisting of vocalists Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. Their 2012 debut single "Cruise", which remains their most popular song, broke two major sales records: it was downloaded over seven million times, making it the first country song ever to receive the Diamond certification, and it became the best-selling digital country song of all time, with 24 weeks at number one, until it was surpassed in July 2017 by Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road". "Cruise" helped to pioneer a style of country music known as "bro-country", which incorporates production elements from rock and hip-hop music, and tends to cover subject matter such as partying, drinking, driving trucks and romantic attraction. Much of their subsequent music has been tagged with the "bro-country" label as well.
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