The entirety of mainstream American music is screwed. I’m not just talking about country music here. Look at rock music for example. Anyone willing to start a “Saving Rock Music” outlet up, step up to the plate. Rock music right now is like a M.A.S.H. unit. Dave Grohl was one of the first to go down and have to be wheeled out to center stage in a guitar throne to perform. Axl Rose stole the idea when one of his wheels blew out, and then when Brian Johnson of AC/DC got sidelined due to health problems, the gimpy Axl Rose and his rock throne got drafter to take Johnson’s place.
It’s like a war of attrition just getting rock concerts down the road these days since no new blood is getting pumped into the genre. The decrepit Hollywood Vampires are out there playing casinos and state fairs, and Steven Tyler’s fellow Aerosmith buddy Joe Perry just collapsed on stage, ending up in the hospital. Who are the fast risers in rock, Imagine Dragons? I’d call rock music in 2016 the walking wounded, but they’re not even walking anymore, they’re sitting.
The implosion of the rock genre, especially on radio, has made country a haven for rock stars looking to keep their careers relevant, ultimately spreading the cancer of declining careers to the country format as well. If Steven Tyler’s move to country had anything to do with inspiration or influence, you won’t hear much of it on this new record. This is about launching a solo music career in hopes of receiving radio play, and Big Machine Records’ CEO Scott Borchetta is once again attempting to live out his hair metal fantasies vicariously through label signees (see the Mötley Crüe tribute record debacle, and the recent signing of Cheap Trick).
Steven Tyler is 68-years-old. Ageist country music radio was never going to give him a chance. Country radio won’t even play George Strait and Garth Brooks anymore. They won’t even play Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe. So what in the world would posses anyone to think Steven Tyler’s lot would be any different? Yet Tyler and Scott Borchetta have been trying to shove a round peg through a square hole for over a year now, while not even cracking the Top 30 on radio.
Remember when Garth Brooks decided he was bored with country music, and wanted to launch and alter ego rocker in eyeliner named Chris Gaines? You know what the best decision Garth made during that entire debacle? He stopped. He stopped trying to push something that music fans clearly didn’t want any part of, and something that was polluting his brand and legacy.
But Steven Tyler has not stopped. If Tyler showed up to Nashville over 1 1/2 years ago inspired to do something authentic, that was mostly whitewashed out of the project months ago. What it was replaced by was pathetic, transparent efforts to pander to country radio for a super hit to get people to pay attention to the whole “Steven Tyler gone country” experiment, and failing miserably at this task. Anyone who’s paying attention is just as apt to be pointing and laughing as they are tapping their toes.
The first single “Love Is Your Name” wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t anything that anyone could have expected to gain serious traction in country music. After that stalled, here came the incredibly derivative and insulting “Red, White and You,” and it’s imbecilic line, “Free Fallin’ into your yum yum.” The song performed even worse than “Love Is Your Name.” Say what you want about Steven Tyler, but he possess one of the most iconic voices in all of American music history. And to hear it intertwined with fatuous Bro-Country material and Music Row production is a travesty of the highest order.
So whatever faith you might have had for Tyler to take what seemed like a bad idea from the start and make something worthwhile was slim to none by the time this record was finally released. Yet We’re All Somebody From Somewhere is not a terrible record. Trust me, there are much worse efforts looming out there in country music as we speak. The best way to summarize this effort is to call it an unmitigated mess.
The aptly-named “My Own Worst Enemy” is the five-minute song that starts off the record, and is not half bad at the beginning, finding a sweet sentiment and leaning on the songwriting and Steven’s vocals to carry the tune. But for a few seconds in the swing through the chorus, someone decided what this song needed was a superfluous, cliche electronic drum beat for about five seconds, usurping the mood the rest of the song looks to create. And if that doesn’t do the song in for country fans, perhaps the loud, rock outtro that comprises the last quarter of the song does.
A similar fate befalls the grungy, sludgy “Hold On (Won’t Let Go),” which starts off very interesting and organic, but decides to work in an overlaying electronic ticking that is a place apart from the rest of the mood. Multiple instances on this bloated, 16-track, hour-long record, you wonder just what the hell they were thinking in the control room, especially when they insist on layer upon layer of surplus instrumentation, saddling what are sometimes decent songs, and even smart approaches to setting a desired mood.
“It Ain’t Easy” might be the best song on the record, and is decidedly country with plenty of mandolin, fiddle, and steel guitar, yet still seems disjointed in the way the instruments seem to be competing with each other as opposed to complimenting the composition. But it is one of numerous instances where Steven Tyler actually shows a bit of direction and inspiration that the reactionary haters will overlook on their way to telling you how terrible this record is.
But there’s also a host of bad songs that can’t be denied, and pull asunder any positive efforts We’re All Somebody From Somewhere boasts, starting with the title track, and punctuated by “Red, White and You.”
Perhaps the record’s most unfortunate moment comes at track 14 (if you make it that far), and the song “What Am I Doing Right?” The song, and even the approach on this one are fine. But to hear the 68-year-old Steven Tyler sing lines like, “Kiss me know while we’re still young” and put himself in the place of a timid and sweet 16-year-old boy getting laid for the first time is unbearable. Steven Tyler was the sexual id of a generation. Now he’s cutting songs that sound like something on an early Jonas Brothers record. Yet then he turns around an refers to female genitals as an edible. He’s all over the place on this record like a venereal rash he picked up from a transvestite on Aerosmith’s 1987 Permanent Vacation tour. The song “I Make My Own Sunshine” sounds like something Kelsea Ballerini would reject for being too fluffy. “Hold On (Won’t Let Go)” sounds like it was inspired by Scott H. Biram.
The final two tracks punctuate how this record could have been halfway decent with a little direction. His “country” rendition of “Janie’s Got A Gun” is probably more what Aerosmith and Steven Tyler fans were hoping from this record, and his cover of Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart” isn’t half bad either. Few have accused Steven Tyler of not being a good singer over the years, and despite his advanced age, the pipes haven’t lost any luster or range. It’s just the messiness of the whole thing that has doomed this project. It feels like three records crammed together. If Steven Tyler came to Nashville with any direction, it got lost in the process, and instead of shining a spotlight on it, the radio singles have acted like an anchor on the project. The fact that they ended up with 16 songs tells you they tried all kinds of different directions, and ultimately weren’t happy with any of them.
We’re All Somebody From Somewhere is not a complete washout, and it certainly isn’t any good when taken in total. It’s just an oddity of the “country” music legacy that a few will enjoy, most won’t bother with, and will ultimately be forgotten in the here-and-now rush, and will be looked back upon by history as, “Ha! Remember that time Steven Tyler released a country record?”
1 1/2 Guns DOWN (3/10)
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