Look, Chris Young has a tremendous head of hair, seems like a super swell guy, and heretofore has never done anything to run afoul of Saving Country Music for any particular reason. But man, listening to this record was like the most non-listening experience ever. That’s about the only way I know how to put it. It’s not that this album is bad necessarily, or wrong. Those things would still be senses one feels and would raise the pulse, even if it was adversely. And that’s not what’s going on here. I didn’t think you could get more generic and Wonder Bread than Cole Swindell, but Chris & Company have figured out how. At least Cole Swindell is so lily white it gives him some modicum of character and uniqueness. With I’m Coming Over, there’s no character at all.
Chris Young’s new record is not Bro-Country, but again, at least Bro-Country angers the blood enough to actually get you feeling something. I’m Coming Over though? You might as well be listening to commercials. That power down mode your brain goes in when faced with the horror of settling into your own deep thoughts, where your eyes sort of gloss over and your mind drifts—this is the state of mind I’m Coming Over induces. The title track comes on the radio, and no, you’re not going to writhe in horror, or shoot the finger towards Music Row for what they’ve done to your fair genre. Because instead of actually listening, you’re going to be thinking about your dentist appointment next week, and how you better clean up the dog doo in the back yard before your wife jumps your butt. You’ll be too much under the spell of a music-induced coma to care whether you like or hate the music or not.
Chris Young actually said in an interview with The Boot, “I’ve just been saying that if you’ve heard ‘I’m Comin’ Over,’ that’s what the rest of the record sounds like.” Truer words were never spoken my friends. I’m Coming Over is pretty much the same exact song over and over, just with minute variations, like when an art class all draws the same vase just from slightly different viewpoints. Nearly all the songs are about love and relationships, and are peppered with these buzzy little references to alcohol. It was like they forcefully tried to make the most symbolically mainstream, most woefully predictable record ever produced in the history of the country music genre, and accomplished this with such astounding success it blends into the background to the point where it might as well not even exist. If you weren’t so apt to completely forget about this music as soon as you hear it, you’d almost be willing to call the feat remarkable.
The lyrics of I’m Coming Over are incredibly whitewashed with clichÃ©, beset with predictable turns, and fall back on often used default hooks. It’s like a living compendium of popular country love song tropes. The vocals are so aggressively pristine and perfect, it’s jarring. Not a speck of dirt, or a drop of sweat could ever be gleaned from these recordings. But most remarkably, and where Chris Young, producer Corey Crowder, and the songwriters really outdid themselves was with the fiercely formulaic approach in constructing the melody to these songs. Each one is so horrifically paint-by-the-numbers in the rising chorus and falling verse template with these ridiculous acrobatic tone steps so incredibly orchestrated, it’s like being mesmerized by the dexterous capability of a robotic appendage. It all comes together like a symphony of algorithmic calculations that banishes any and all traces of soul from this music.
Searching restlessly for any redeemable attribute to I’m Coming Over reaps only a few, anemic rewards. Though the premise is pretty cornpone, the song “I Know A Guy” at least works as a song for human beings to listen to and possibly find something compelling about. The waltz-timed song takes an everyday colloquialism, and builds a pretty standard, but moderately effective country song from it. Vince Gill’s contributions and some homogenized “essence” of steel guitar tones can only barely graduate “Sober Saturday Night” into the “not terrible” category.
But for the few split seconds of respite from this overly-pasteurized antiseptic bath of country pop-like sounds, there’s guitar licks that rise to the challenge of matching the clichÃ© nature of the lyrics and melody, and electronic beats slithering in and out of the production. The one moment Chris Young attempts to go off the page arguably results in the albums most generic moment of all. “Underdogs” screams for the remake of another Karate Kid movie so it can have the perfect vessel to besmirch American culture for years to come with its outdated, after-school-special schlock.
I’m Coming Over is so unbelievably non-offensive, it’s offensive. You have to give Chris Young credit though. He clearly sought to make the same record everyone else is making in country music, and did so perfectly. Nobody else has the guts to make a record like this because they couldn’t look themselves in the mirror afterwards. But Chris Young dammit, he persevered, and is rewarded with not the worst album in country music history, but certainly the most derivative and generic so far.
1 3/4 of 2 Guns Down (2/10)