Before we get started on Florida Georgia Line’s latest single “‘Round Here,” let’s quickly revisit how this duo continues to completely dominate the popular country music landscape here in 2013. Their blockbuster single “Cruise” remains at #1, not only threatening to become the biggest song of 2013, it could become the biggest song in the history of country music.
Sure, the unparalleled dominance of “Cruise” on Billboard’s “Hot Country Songs” charts, as well as their digital songs and streaming charts is partially due to Billboard’s recent chart rule changes that overvalue crossover songs, but these charts are still richly steeped in activity data that doesn’t lie. Other crossover artists like Taylor Swift and Hunter Hayes have not be able to enact this type of chart dominance under the new rules, and now the “Cruise” parent album Here’s To The Good Times has also scored a #1 position. Florida Georgia Line might own the first half of this decade when all is said and done, if not more.
The duo’s 2nd single “Get Your Sine On” has likely run its course, peaking at #5 on Billboard’s “Hot Country” chart, and now falling back to #13, and since all of Florida Georgia Line’s strength has been accomplished with very little radio play recently, it was probably about time to release the next single. So here comes “‘Round Here,” an immature and vapid composition, but probably the least offensive of the duo’s first three single offerings. It’s also might be one of the weakest commercially from what is still sitting on the Here’s To The Good Times album. Songs like “Dayum, Baby” and “It’z Just What We Do” could be just as big as “Cruise,” unless at some point the entire Florida Georgia Line concept runs its course. But with another single already commanding such attention (in “Cruise”), you might as well keep your best powder dry.
Like pretty much every Florida Georgia Line song, “‘Round Here” works in a very similar formulaic fashion. You take an easily-identifiable pop culturally-relevant lyrical hook (“that’s how we do it ’round here.”), add some inane cultural artifacts to fill out your verses (hammer and a nail, stacking them bails), have the chorus rise in the vocal register, and boom, you’ve got yourself a commercially-viable hit.
The wrinkle with “‘Round Here” is that the duo uses it to pander to the blue collar side of the culture war by portraying themselves as average workaday joes in wholesale confrontation with their actual personal narratives, crucifying any thoughts of authenticity. Not an uncommon exercise in pop country whatsoever, but a fresh tactic for Florida-Georgia Line, while the question of what the short-haired Brian Kelley actually does in the duo remains elusive.
What makes Florida Georgia Line so powerful is their complete lack of scruples. Most every performer, even pop performers like Taylor Swift want to be regarded favorably as artists; to be seen for their substance just as much as their popularity. Even when a performer like Tim McGraw releases an obvious vie for radio play like “Truck Yeah,” they justify it to their conscience by telling themselves it is a vehicle to create revenue and renewed attention for their more heady material.
But Florida Georgia Line has no regard for any of this. They are tooled to be popular and make money, period. Substance be damned, they will sling out whatever will sell, and buffer themselves from any criticism or self-loathing from the oodles of money they can strip down and wallow naked in. This is Florida-Georgia Line’s market advantage over their pop country competitors. They’re out to prove that substance and critics don’t matter anymore.
What Florida Georgia Line’s harshest critics hate to admit is that their music is catchy, giving it universal appeal amongst the American consumer. It doesn’t immediately stimulate a gag reflex like when you can tell an artist is straining for attention. While performers like Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift are chasing what is relevant in music by releasing songs that are outside of their element, Florida Georgia Line is defining what is relevant by staying true to their concept, however transparent and shallow that concept might be.
The duo’s one vulnerability may be that they’re even a little too true to their sound. If we see a precipitous Florida Georgia Line downfall, it could be from a lack of variety in their sound. And history shows, when you have a band that gets this hot, the chances for burnout increase because the public is more apt to turn on them. This has to be a dialogue within the Big Machine Records headquarters with the overwhelming success of “Cruise.”
I don’t see “‘Round Here” being a blockbuster, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be something new for radio, while their next blockbuster waits in the wings to pounce on American’s gullible ears, and to terrorize real country fans.
1 1/2 of 2 guns down.