Some would argue it has been a dereliction of Saving Country Music duties that the name Eric Paslay has failed to be exclusively featured here for your reading edification previously. When you’re populating lists of mainstream artists that traditionalists or independent-minded fans might find appealing, this ginger-headed 30-something from Abilene, TX signed to EMI Nashville is an easy candidate to include.
However Eric Paslay, like many of these critically-lauded mainstream artists, presents a difficult and dualistic face. Just because something is good for the mainstream doesn’t mean it’s good in general. Truth is, even the worst acts of what the mainstream has to offer can impress you with a few of their album cuts, just like some of the best can let you down with their singles. Shuffle Eric Paslay into the latter category.
Though the heavily-acoustic instrumentation of Paslay’s lead single “Friday Night” was hard to not tap your toe to, you got the sense pretty quickly that you’d heard this song before, and by artists who are usually preceded by a hyphenated “Bro” qualifier. “Song About A Girl” was an even worse offender, and even though Paslay’s self-titled debut album had some really choice cuts like “Country Side of Heaven,” you were worried that as soon as you got behind this guy completely, he could reveal himself as a Florida Georgia Line starter kit.
But maybe as Bro-Country begins to wane, an artist like Eric Paslay will find himself in the cat bird’s seat. If you’re looking for an artist with proven commercial success and youthful appeal that can still deliver some substance, Eric Paslay fits the mold.
Eric Paslay’s self-titled debut album was somewhat infuriating in how it made you want to hate it just as you were warming up to it (or vice versa), but the gem of the project was a song called “She Don’t Love You.” And lo and behold, the song has found itself on deck as the singer’s third single, and one that is already sharing the Top 20 in country radio and climbing. With a new video just released today (3-11), the song could continue to surge as country attempts to answer the question “What’s next?” and hope that it’s something of more substance.
“She Don’t Love You” is a classic contemporary country song, from the structure and the instrumentation, to the way the lyrics resolve in a manner that will be universally resonant many years from now, just like all of those classic country songs we still love to listen to today. This is the type of song careers are built from, regardless if this truth turns out to be recognized by a wide audience.
This is a songwriter’s song first and foremost, penned by Paslay and Jennifer Wayne from the group Stealing Angels. How the perspective of the song shifts at the end to go from a song focused on either the girl herself, or a man who may find himself enamored with her, to a song about heartbreak and loss is the type of dedication to songcraft we just don’t see anymore from really any sector of the music world. The timing of the final words creates such an aching environment rife with anticipation and tension, and the way Paisley allows you to realize where the story is going before it goes there is downright sinister.
The video is a worthy compliment, at first feeling somewhat clichÃ© with the pretty girl and the crumbling, abandoned building where it seems most videos are shot these days. But the way the plaster starts to replace itself, and the illusion of the theater putting itself back together as the story resolves shows an understanding by the videographer at what’s at the heart of Paslay’s narrative.
It’s one thing to write and record a song like this. It’s another to see it ultimately be successful, which is where “She Don’t Love You” seems to be headed.
Two guns up.