Album Review – ERNEST’s “Flower Shops (The Album)”
Who could have predicted that the hottest new things in country music would be pudgy songwriter dudes with mononyms. No, this isn’t HARDY. He’s the dorky-looking one with the glasses. This is ERNEST. Their rise is almost as improbable as the other hot trend in mainstream country music at the moment: actual country music.
ERNEST is not as big as Morgan Wallen or anything, at least not yet. But he’s one of the major reasons Morgan Wallen is as big as he is. ERNEST co-wrote 11 of the songs on Wallen’s massive Dangerous: The Double Album. That’s ten more songwriting credits than Jason Isbell had. And Morgan Wallen returns the favor by appearing on the title track of this debut LP.
The resume for ERNEST gets even more dubious from there. He co-wrote Florida Georgia Line’s “I Love My Country,” which Saving Country Music exposed as having stolen the chorus from Kane Brown’s “Short Skirt Weather,” and eventually Kane and his co-writers were added to the credits. That was one of numerous Florida Georgia Line songs ERNEST co-wrote. He also co-wrote Sam Hunt’s “Breaking Up Was Easy in the 90’s.”
Not seeing anything yet to get your country music heart excitedet about this album or artist? Oh, it gets worse from there. ERNEST started his career as a country rap artist, releasing singles like “Dopeman” and “Bad Boy.” He cites EMINEM as a major influence. So why exactly is Saving Country Music talking about this guy?
It’s because Flower Shops (The Album) might strangely be the vessel for one of the most true country songs released in the mainstream in years, that being “Flower Shops” (The Song). We’re not talking Chris Stapleton here, whose soulful voice had us singing his praises, but wasn’t exactly “country,” or Luke Combs whose a level up from Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, but still leaves some to be desired.
When the song “Flower Shops” goes #1 in country—and it will—it will be the most traditional country-sounding song to hit #1 in perhaps decades. And yes, there are more traditional country songs where that came from on the Flower Shops album. However improbable given this guy’s track record, ERNEST (real name Ernest K. Smith) is one of the strongest forces for true country in the mainstream at the moment.
Don’t get your hopes up too much, though. As an album, Flower Shops is extremely hit and miss. About a third of the songs sit in a similar vein as the “Flower Shops” single, about a third sound a bit more contemporary but are still pretty tolerable, and a third are just unabashed list-like panderings to radio play. Depending on where you land on a random shuffle, it can sound like you’re listen to three separate artists. If you’re having a hard time getting a read on HARDY … no ERNEST, then you’re not alone.
Ultimately, this is a young guy out there hustling on Music Row, trying to make a name and some scratch for himself. Clearly he has a talent for songwriting, no matter the style. But he’s a mercenary. You need him to scribble out a radio hit for Sam Hunt or Chris Lane? Sure, he’s your man. But he’s just as liable to release something like “Comfortable When I’m Crazy” that can be found on this album, starting off with its mournful steel moan, and developing like a song not far off from something Waylon Jennings might have sung.
Then you have songs like “Sucker For Small Towns,” which most certainly has a radio vibe to the lyricism, but surprises you with the string arrangement, adding that hint of Countrypolitan to give it a more classic feel, or “If You Were Whiskey,” which is nothing new, but still quite fetching with its steel licks. Steel guitar is all over the place on this record, including in places you wouldn’t expect it, or it may not even belong. “More steel guitar” seemed to be the mantra. When was the last time you heard a mainstream artist piling on the steel guitar as opposed to burying it in the mix?
But then you have songs like “Classic” and “Did It With You” that don’t sound country at all, which means they’d be perfect for country radio. And even some of the more traditional-leaning songs like “Tennessee Queen” and “If You Were Whiskey” still have that list-y style of radio-friendly lyricism that just make many traditional country fans feel a little queasy, even if the steel guitar initially throws them off.
Flower Shops (The Album) never really lives up to the promise of “Flower Shops” (The Song). It’s by far the best track, and the acoustic version is good too. But in some respects, it may not need to. I don’t know if ERNEST is country music’s next superstar. I just don’t know if his voice and delivery is distinct enough, even for the mainstream. He’s a songwriter first, and that’s where his influence may be felt the most. But without question, some of the songs, and some of the sounds of this album are really quite shockingly country.
What we’re hearing on this record may be a precursor; a prescient salvo in mainstream country music’s elongating trend towards more country-sounding songs. Music Row is a copycat campus. And if they see the success of “Flower Shops” and ERNEST, it could be the spark for many other similar songs, just like other more country-sounding singles that led to the success of “Flower Shops.” Where in 2013, all the trends in country were headed in the wrong direction, now they’re heading into the right one. ERNEST is part of that. At least, this album is.
But as an album, Flower Shops (The Album) is just a little too inconsistent to shower with serious praise. But it could very well be a positive premonition for good things to come, and some of the bold efforts this mainstream country songwriter makes in a more country direction deserve praise.
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March 17, 2022 @ 7:43 am
I’m a huge fan of this album, even the songs that aren’t that country. I dare say I like Feet Wanna Run even more than Flower Shops, and that might be one of my favorite country songs in a long time. Comfortable When I’m Crazy, Tennessee Queen, and Sucker For Small Towns also get pretty close for me.
March 17, 2022 @ 7:49 am
Side note: this technically isn’t his debut LP, although I understand why Locals Only feels kinda overshadowed by this, considering that album had basically no promotion and no singles
Kinda wish American Rust was included on this just because I like it so much, but I get that it didn’t fit well with the rest of the album’s theming.
Also sad that the collab album with Hailey Whitters never happened too, but that’s pretty unrelated
March 17, 2022 @ 7:48 am
What’s the deal with all of the albums getting tagged with “The Album” or “The Double Album”? Is it some weird trend that’ll eventually go away or is there some actual reasoning behind it? Whatever it is, it’s turning into a big pet peeve of mine.
March 17, 2022 @ 7:52 am
In this case, it’s probably just because the album has the same name as the hit lead single and they wanted to differentiate between the two. Whether you actually think that was necessary is a different story.
March 17, 2022 @ 8:03 am
That’s kinda what I figured, but it still doesn’t make sense to me. Can you imagine if The Beatles released “Let It Be: The Album” or Metallica’s “Master of Puppets: The Album”? It just comes off as clunky marketing to me.
“Hey man, you listen to ‘Flower Shops’ yet?”
“Yeah it’s a good song.”
“No, the album!”
“But that’s the name of a song!”
“And the name of the album!”
“That’s impossible! How will I know which is which?”
“No worries. The full title of the album is ‘Flower Shops: The Album’!”
March 17, 2022 @ 8:09 am
Can’t say I entirely disagree. Might just be because ERNEST isn’t big enough yet for it to be a guarantee that everyone will make the effort to tell the difference without a distinction, I suppose.
Just a thought
March 17, 2022 @ 8:30 am
“Alexa: Play ‘Flower Shops'”
“Alexa. End. Alexa play ‘Flower Shops The Song'”
March 17, 2022 @ 10:14 am
That’s actually a really interesting insight into the industry/artists adapting to the way people consume music now. Since I don’t use Alexa, that never even crossed my mind. Then again, I’m an old now.
March 17, 2022 @ 8:12 pm
thats kinda why i like albums that dont have a title track (like goodbye normal street), or albums that are named after a deeper cut on the album, not one of the big hits (like diamonds and gasoline), or an album named after a line in one of the songs (like a long way from your heart). or maybe i just like turnpike
March 17, 2022 @ 7:51 am
I couldn’t have agreed more when I heard the song Flower Shops for the first time. I literally sad Holy shit a country song about heartache that sounds pretty dn country. And it’s on the damn radio. Hell it’s even fairly slow in tempo. I was shocked. It’s a huge step in the right direction for the mainstream.
Let’s see if people stick there foot more in this lane I mean right now there is a arena tour with Jon Pardi, Lainey Wilson, Hailey Whitters going on as the main acts. Real Country and actual women singing real country on top of it in a mainstream sound. Hell in Grand Rapids a couple months ago Morgan Wade, Ashley Craft, and Ashley Mcbride all played on the same stage together. I am not saying that Dan and shay and Kane Brown aren’t still making pop music but but there is at least radio caradio country and concerts now where you can go see real country music on a mainstream stage stage that have actual radio impact. Hopefully these are all indicators or a greater trend.
March 17, 2022 @ 8:08 am
Great review as usual, Trig. I for one am really liking this album, but some of the songs do sound like Wallen’s Dangerous album. And btw I do like that album too.
When I first heard Tennessee Queen I thought it was Pardi. Sounded just like him for a sec.
Anyway, I am digging this album and hope that he makes more good music.
Wilson Pick It
March 17, 2022 @ 8:36 am
I guess this is a great trend for people who passively discover music based on whatever’s on the radio in your dentist’s waiting room.
But it’s so easy to seek out independent music these days. So who’s going to be saying “Hey check this album out, one third of the songs are halfway decent!”
March 17, 2022 @ 8:52 am
Not one good song on this thing, sounds just like Morgan Wallen.
March 17, 2022 @ 10:32 am
Even if I agreed that sounding like Morgan Wallen was a bad thing, I’m not really sure how this album sounds like Morgan, obviously other than the song featuring him.
Maybe What It’s Come To sounds like a Dangerous cut, but that’s about it. In terms of both instrumentation and vocals, they have virtually nothing in common. And the only reason they have similar writing is because Ernest co-wrote a solid third of Morgan’s album.
March 17, 2022 @ 11:14 am
Sounding like Morgan Wallen isn’t a good thing. Full stop. The apologists for his music on this site are nauseating. I don’t give a shit about his public statements he’s made, but his horrifically bad music offends me. Trigger acts like he and Luke Combs are some kind of middle ground between good country and the shit on the radio. Nonsense, same old thing in brand-new drag. Its butt country.
March 17, 2022 @ 11:43 am
Obviously we don’t agree on Morgan’s music, but to each their own, everyone has different taste. The fact still is that Dangerous and Flower Shops are not very similar albums. Nor are Ernest and Morgan as artists really, despite their frequent collaborations. Ernest is much less rowdy, clearly leans more traditional, and their voices aren’t alike in the slightest.
March 17, 2022 @ 7:52 pm
For the record, I have said Luke Combs is a good middle ground, but I have no said that about Morgan Wallen, though I do think he’s better than Sam Hunt, or Florida Georgia Line, for example. I would put this Ernest album just a step above Morgan Wallen’s.
Sir Adam the Great
March 17, 2022 @ 9:36 am
The only Ernests I listen to are Tubb and P. Worrell.
March 18, 2022 @ 4:06 am
Sir Adam the Great
March 18, 2022 @ 6:47 am
I knew there was another one…
March 17, 2022 @ 9:45 am
This album surprised me. The first two-thirds (other than “Classic”) were all pretty good, especially from a mainstream artist. The back third of the album (other than the acoustic version of “Flower Shops”) I found to be a bit of a letdown. Still, overall the album is a move in the right direction.
I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the mainstream charts, but what was the last song in three-quarter time to go to #1?
March 17, 2022 @ 9:57 am
What It’s Come To and Some Other Bar are probably my two least favorite songs, so I generally agree that the back end of this album is the weaker one. But If You Were Whiskey is still good, and I like Did It With You as more of a pop rock song.
March 17, 2022 @ 10:03 am
“Did It With You” made the cut of the “good” part of the album. “What It’s Come To” is where the real drop-off comes. I guess I didn’t care for “If You Were Whiskey” because it’s an overworked theme that’s been done better by others.
March 17, 2022 @ 10:10 am
Honestly would’ve even call the worst songs here “bad” especially in comparison with some of Ernest’s peers, but more forgettable or mediocre
Even Classic has kinda grown on me for a subtly catchy groove on the chorus, and that used to be my least favorite song here
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
March 17, 2022 @ 10:48 am
Trig, “Sucker for Small Towns” instrumentaly is a carbon copy of George Strait’s “How Bout Them Cowgirls”… yet Ernest gives no songwriting credit to George’s writers
March 17, 2022 @ 12:07 pm
I’m glad I’m not the only one that caught it.
March 17, 2022 @ 8:16 pm
damn it, i came here to say that. i usually dont pick up on those kinda things but its fucking blatant. i strait up though it was a strait song for the first second or two
March 21, 2022 @ 7:58 am
Yes I thought this too!
March 17, 2022 @ 11:15 am
Trigg, are you going to review Matt Daniels and Jackson Deans new albums?
March 17, 2022 @ 7:54 pm
Reviewing as many albums as I can. Those are on my radar.
March 17, 2022 @ 11:35 am
That song is 100% boring.
March 17, 2022 @ 12:06 pm
The “list song” trend should be addressed. It’s awful. The term “Frankenstein song” is the perfect term I’ve heard for these. They are just stealing from other creations and assembling them together to give some new song life that it shouldn’t have.
March 17, 2022 @ 12:37 pm
Lol. Ernest. Just another cheesdick on country radio.
March 17, 2022 @ 7:56 pm
I addressed it over a decade ago. I called it “Laundry List” country, then Jody Rosen called it Bro-Country, and that is the term that stuck.
March 18, 2022 @ 4:25 am
That was long before I started reading this site. The trend of referencing famous songs is more what I meant. Having a song where you only list off famous song names is the laziest of songwriting and cheapest way to illicit any kind of emotional connection.
March 19, 2022 @ 8:29 am
The idea is very old and can be done well. Whether or not you like Bruce Springsteen his song Highway Patrolman is excellent (“when the band played Night of the Johnstown flood”) another good one is Honky-tonk Stardust Cowboy which actually references three songs in the chorus. It’s a tool of the trade like any other, whether or not it’s used well is up for debate of course. Oh, I almost forgot Desperados waiting for a train! Funny, Johnny Cash did two of the songs I mentioned.
March 17, 2022 @ 12:43 pm
I can name some other good #1s, but yeah it’s a good-sounding track.
March 17, 2022 @ 1:05 pm
Along with Morgan Wallen, HARDY, and Midland, he will be another guilty pleasure of mine. I always play them when I drive around the hills of my hometown. They aren’t on my daily playlist, but there are definitely moments that I enjoy them.
March 17, 2022 @ 1:55 pm
I like HARDY.
March 17, 2022 @ 4:31 pm
March 17, 2022 @ 2:16 pm
Country Radio: What’s the next big thing?
Country Fans: How about actual country music?
Country Radio: Hey, I know – what if…stay with me here…we played an old-school country-type song with country sounding instruments?…
Country Fans: Literally what we’ve been waiting to hear on the radio again for years now.
Country Radio: …and it was a slow ballad instead of another up-tempo song with the same buzzwords…
Country Fans: Go on…
Country Radio: But it should definitely come from one of those one-name guys who write the country rap/up-tempo songs.
Country Fans: … … Why are you like this?
March 17, 2022 @ 3:04 pm
Big Loud is doing something right. Wallen, HARDY, ERNEST, are the hottest things in mainstream country at the moment. Jake Owen is up there too, his last album was just certified Gold. Larry Fleet is doing well and had the collab with Jamey Johnson. Props to them
March 17, 2022 @ 4:33 pm
Just because they’re the “hottest things” (and side note only Wallen is) they aren’t the best or right things for the genre as a whole.
March 17, 2022 @ 8:30 pm
larry fleet is definitely good for the genre though. i doubt he’ll see major radio success, but if jon pardi can do it, who not? their song off hardy’s hixtape could be a hit
March 18, 2022 @ 1:26 am
I agree but it’s a shame because Larry Fleet is really good. If anyone hasn’t heard his Stack of Records album, do yourself a favor and listen to it.
March 18, 2022 @ 6:50 am
oh yeah, i wore out stack of records for a month after it came out. they sent where i find god to radio, great song but im pretty sure stapleton would be the only guy with the star power to make a song like that a hit. there’s a few more radio friendly songs on that album that could probably get more traction, but i guess theyre just not gonna send any more singles to radio by him. flower shops is only a hit because of wallen, and pardi is the only traditionalist bringing consistent top 10s to radio. It sure looks good with parker mccollum and cody johnson having #1s right now, hopefully itll open the door for more major label traditionalists like larry fleet and randall king
March 17, 2022 @ 11:23 pm
They actually are all the hottest things in country. HARDY won songwriter of the year at the ACMs, and his own material is also having major success on radio. ERNEST’s Flower Shops is going to be a smash by the time it reaches number 1 on radio, and his songwriting pedigree shows how hot he is.
Notice how I never said that this is the best or right for the genre as a whole, although I do think these guys do bro-country in a much cooler fashion than others did (because they sing actual country music for a portion of the time)
March 17, 2022 @ 3:58 pm
I just ran through the songs I liked on Wallen’s album and 7 out the 18 were Smith co writes. After 3 or 4 full spins of this ……….yep a few do have that Wallen flavor for sure and that’s alright at least there’s a reason. I still haven’t made up my mind if this will be rotation worthy yet but you can put me in the camp of hating naming albums “The Album”. As Trig comes up with another wonderful description for our favorite punching bag HARDLY….”the dorky-looking one with the glasses”……though not as funny as the all time classic “Country music hemorrhoid” which I still think of every time I see the guy.
March 17, 2022 @ 6:14 pm
Me thinks that nothing pleases some people. Take the wheat and get rid of the chaff. It’s not a bad song and the album has some good offerings. Just be glad the pendulum is “maybe” swinging to the right side. Maybe.
March 17, 2022 @ 8:33 pm
thats a big fat “maybe”. but im hopeful. we’ve come a long way since fgl started their decline
March 18, 2022 @ 2:52 am
Why is his name in all caps?
March 19, 2022 @ 8:33 am
He’s yelling it!
March 18, 2022 @ 6:02 am
Gave it a listen, couldn’t get into it. Over polished computer generated fluff.
An album from a new artist that I did like, and also came out this week, Ben Chapman’s Make the Night Better. Reminds of a mix of Brent Cobb and Sam Morrow with a dash of some Texas Honky Tonk. Would make for a much better Saving Country Music review.
March 18, 2022 @ 7:44 am
I received more requests to review this album than any other in 2022 so far. I review as many albums as I can. The new Ben Chapman album is being considered for review too.
March 18, 2022 @ 9:10 am
Great debut album.