The benchmarks a Song of the Year winner must meet, and the stress test it must endure is more strenuous than any other in music. We’re not looking for some infectious fanny shaker here, or even a song that might stir an emotional moment. That is what the Single of the Year is for. But a Song of the Year winner must have the ability to change lives, change the world, or change perspectives on the world, and through the sheer power of its words. It’s just as much a literary enterprise as it is a musical one.
From the outside looking into the world of country music, nothing is cited more as a negative stereotype of the genre than songs that exploit the bleeding heart subject matter of fallen military service members, and other such staunchly patriotic songs, which at times have veered straight into outright jingoism in the genre’s history. When some people think of country music, they don’t think of Willie and Dolly. They think of Lee Greenwood and Toby Keith.
Similar to Bro-Country and its reliance on list-like lyrics, it’s not that the patriotic formula for songs is inherently problematic in itself. Our troops deserve to be toasted for their service, and our fallen heroes canonized in song. It’s the overdone, and often overwrought nature of these songs, and the exploitative objectives of them in the commercial context that often inspires the hatred for them, and many songwriters with any shred of credibility, dignity, and self-awareness to steer clear of the subject matter entirely, often to the detriment of this important compositional subset.
And so for a songwriter known foremost for his utmost integrity, and for crafting a career behind alternative programming to mainstream country and its monetary concerns to even attempt a song along these lines is quite remarkable, and a formidable undertaking. The pitfalls are so grand, and the well-worn clichés are so prevalent, it’s like navigating a mine field. The task is Herculean. And to pull off what “French Summer Sun” does, it truly makes it a song for the ages.
Eroding the credibility of many of these songs is the fact that the authors or performers often never served themselves. In this particular song, the narrator does not enlist like his forefathers, but Jason Eady actually did serve in the Air Force for six years, learning Arabic, and then being shipped all over the world as a translator. Much of Eady’s time in the service can’t be talked about now because it’s classified.
It’s fair to mention that this song is not for everyone. Some don’t like the spoken lyrics. Some will just think it’s overly sentimental pap, partly due to this subgenre of songs being so soured over the years. Some might just find it outright boring. And that’s okay. This song is not for everyone. Song of the Year winners rarely are. They’re just too good to find global appeal.
Also important to mention is this song was co-written with Drew Kennedy, who quietly continues to put together one of the most important songwriting careers in Texas music today, collaborating with other top-caliber songwriters such as Walt Wilkins and John Bauman, and finding the sweet spot between quality and appeal with performers such as Josh Grider, Wade Bowen, and Randy Rogers, not to mention his solo career.
The field of Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year Nominees for 2021 was pretty incredible, and they all deserve a strong level of credit for enriching our lives in 2021. Jesse Daniel’s “Gray” is another life altering song. So is Kiely Connell’s “Disappear.” Joshua Ray Walker and Emily Scott Robinson have both previously won Song of the Year, and very well could have again this year. And before you complain the nominees weren’t country enough, go check out “I Don’t Trust My Memories Anymore” by Cody Jinks. John R. Miller’s song “Faustina” enjoyed a strong write-in effort this year as well that deserves to be recognized.
But “French Summer Sun” is one of those songs whose power just can’t be denied. Is it a song you’ll listen to over and over? Probably not. Because the first time you hear it, the message it conveys hits so hard, it embeds itself into the very fiber of your being, and will never leave. That is why it is a Song of the Year. And we will revisit it for many years to come as a high water mark for storytelling.
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“French Summer Sun” is from Jason Eady’s 2021 album ‘To The Passage of Time.’