Taking a play out of the book of fellow mainstream country music upperclassman Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley has decided to try and stop running with the young dogs by releasing party anthems, and realized that the paradigm has shifted back in the direction where his career first started. Sure you may still be able to launch a new Bro-Country artist and single like Chris Lane’s “Fix,” but you’ll spend twice as much in promotion as you’ll make from the track, and for what—an investment in a trend that’s past its prime?
Even a high-profile collaboration with massive pop star Demi Lovato and the cross-genre spins accrued on Top 40 radio couldn’t push Brad Paisley’s last single “Without A Fight” into the Top 15. So why not take the lesson laid out by many of the recent #1’s and actually release a song that means something? “Without A Fight” was far from terrible, but Paisley’s new single “Today” is much more suited for a mainstream environment that has recently seen #1’s for songs like “I Met A Girl” and “Humble and Kind.”
“Today” isn’t particularly great, but it’s actually aimed at adults instead of children, features steel guitar, mandolin, and fiddle, and if we’ve figured out nothing else about Paisley’s still unnamed upcoming album (of which this is the second single), it appears he’ll at least have opportunities to unsheathe the Telecaster again and attempt to live up to all of the hype behind his guitar playing. “Today” is a song about something, played with real instruments by human beings. Holy shit what a concept.
More specifically “Today” is about how certain days in our lives go on to define who we are, and stick out in our memories with rich texture and emotions that we’ll never forget, and we’ll recall fondly often and forever. As refreshing as this subject matter is, just like “Humble and Kind” and a few of the other surprisingly-performing singles recently, it is just as much sappy adult contemporary as it is country, keeping “Today” from being considered ‘good’ by anyone except those who love to succumb to the emotional interjections that now permeate American popular culture from pop songs to cereal commercials. It used to be sex that everyone tried to use to steer your attention their way. Now everyone’s trying to stimulate the water works.
The primary asset of “Today” is also the song’s greatest vulnerability—a pandering to the overloaded emotional quotient that will make listeners who are actually accustomed to emotionalism being delivered in their music via much more subtle textures wince with displeasure. The video for this song unfortunately emphasizes this point with real-life scenes of soldiers returning home, proposals, weddings, and other such scenarios—not to say that watching the emotion of a child and a soldier reuniting is not a touching thing, but it’s so summarily rammed down our throats in every sector of media already, it’s easy to harbor a resentment.
But on the scales of effort and substance, a song like “Today” surpasses many of its contemporaries, so a more positive than negative conclusion is still in order. And the song is actually performing well out of the chute, once again corroborating the theory that it’s a new day in mainstream country moving forward.