When it comes to popular music, every generation has its goat. And no, we’re not talking about the hip social media acronym for the “Greatest of All Time.” We’re talking about the sacrificial kind—the one synonymous with an ornery horned land animal that eats your garden and shits everywhere. It’s the band that’s too ubiquitous to “just ignore it if you don’t like it.” It’s the one that sucks up all of the worthy attention from much better bands to the point where responsible citizens must criticize them with full-throated vehemence. It’s the band that seems to be completely immune to self-awareness, and sings directly to the sensibilities of the great American meathead. It’s the one that seems to be super popular, but everybody you speak to positively hates. And in this generation, that band is Florida Georgia Line.
It happens to be that producer Joey Moi has been responsible for two such goats, with Florida Georgia Line proceeding Canadian butt rockers Nickelback in his production stable. And now whether we like it or not, this pair of tractor rapping doofus bags have gone on to define this generation’s version of “country” music for millions, despite the protestations of many. Florida Georgia Line is so bad, they’re considered a guilty pleasure even by their superfans. No self-respecting individual would ever profess their support for this outfit. It’s the reason the CMAs regularly pass them up for awards, despite their sales being some 20 times that of Brothers Osborne. And still, despite the embarrassment they have become, they’re wildly successful.
We can, and we will say that Florida Georgia Line and this new record ain’t country, because as an overall assessment, they ain’t. Southern pop perhaps, with country music tokenisms like passing notions of steel guitar garnishing some of the tracks similar to a delicate sprig of thyme or a freshly-picked mint leaf deftly placed upon a steaming pile of diuretic stool. That said, Can’t Say I Ain’t Country probably is the duo’s most country record to date, as they promised it would be. It’s probably also not the worst record they have released. That distinction likely remains secure with their second record, Anything Goes. But don’t take either of these pronouncements as plaudits. They are simply symptoms of the low bar these two knuckleheads have set for themselves over the last half dozen years by running the good name of country music into the everloving ground.
As disturbing of a notion as it is to even consider some mainstream country performer attempting to dabble in a “woke” version of the music, (see Keith Urban’s misfire called “Female” as an example), putting Tweedle Do and Tweedle Dum on the case is an even more daft idea. This was illustrated in one of the album’s early tracks, the mawkish and list-tastic “People Are Different.” Don’t be fooled into thinking FGL’s “Women” with Jason Derulo is some ode to the gentler sex. It’s an insult veiled in social awareness. The Cruise boys talk about how they need to “get one” in the song like a woman is a pair of Air Jordans or the latest 4K television. And even if the trajectory of “Women” would have been on target, it still in no way would have atoned for degrading tracks on the record such as the Brian Kelley-led “Sittin’ Pretty,” the radio single “Talk You Out of It,” or arguably the worst song of Florida Georgia Line’s already vile and monstrous career, the aggressively offensive “Swerve.”
Screw trying to speak to the plight of women. The statutory implications of a line like, “Does your daddy let you date?” coming from the 32-year-old Tyler Hubbard, combined with the objectification and indolent writing of phrases such as “…with that booty in them pants” means you might get
#metoo’d in your office space simply by listening to “Swerve.” And if you think those concerns are being too prudish, try to not be offended as a country fan by the music of this song, which sounds like the 8-Bit sound bed of a boss level in a 90’s Nintendo adventure game.
But that’s about the worst that Can’t Say I Ain’t Country has to offer. Most of the stuff here is nowhere near passing grade, but there is a lot of standard Bro Country braggadocios radio douche stuff that’s probably not worth getting too steamed over, and is what you expect from an outfit such as Florida Georgia Line—stuff like “Y’all Boys,” “Small Town,” and “Can’t Hide Red” with Jason Aldean. The lead single from the album “Simple” had us worrying that they’d go full Mumford & Sons on this record, which luckily didn’t happen, though it would have been an improvement on what they turned in here. Surprisingly, one of the most tolerable and most traditional songs on the record is the title track, as well as the decent “Speed of Love” that would have worked as a 90’s radio hit without the hands claps. But even then these songs carry the same list-like lyrics, boastful attitude, and stereotypical notions of what “country” is that degrade the music and generally insult the listener.
There also are a few moments when Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard actually do act like the married, 30-somethings they are. Stupid whistles and hand claps aside, “Simple” feels personal to them. So does the swaying and bluesy “Told You.” But these passable efforts are so demonstrably buried on a 19-track anchor of one vapid offering after another, there is no rehabilitation to be had. This includes the incredibly-useless “skits” by some dude named Brother Jervel. When you listen to a Florida Georgia Line song like “Cruise” or even “Swerve,” you can picture in your brain the kind of assholes you knew in high school who probably enjoy this tripe. But even they have to be crooking their head to the side like when a dog hears a funny sound at these skits tracks. They’re not funny in any sense, not even in a folksy or cornpone sort of way. They almost feel insulting to the same type of sensibilities Florida Georgia Line is trying to appeal to with the title of this record.
Shaking our little balled up fists at Florida Georgia Line and registering our protestations upon their efforts has done little to stem the tide of their undue and inequitable popularity. However we must continue to hold faith in the much more cool-minded and objective assessment that history bestows to all popular music, which eventually relegated acts like Nickelback and others to their rightful place. Hopefully Florida Georgia Line will suffer a similar fate, and sooner rather than later. And Can’t Say I Ain’t Country—despite the effort to rewrite the narrative for themselves with the title of the record and terrible “woke” tracks—will only be another entry into the evidence file of their undeserved success.
1 3/4 Guns DOWN (2/10)