I listen to each Florida Georgia Line album with a feeling of inevitability. I’m always waiting for something that surprises me, something a little more out of the box. I admire what they do, and they’ve been incredibly successful doing it, but you’ll never see me listening to an FGL album from start to finish. It soon becomes a little too repetitive for my liking.
Having said that, I had a degree of optimism in the lead up to this album. We were hearing promising things from Brian and Tyler, who assured us that they were aiming for a more “mature” sound.
(From an interview with ABC) “We’re at a good place in life and I think when the world heard about Florida Georgia Line, we were at the beginning of a lot of changes in our life, and we’re just that age,” Tyler reflects. “It’s bound to happen. We’ve met our wives. We’ve bought houses. We kinda went from boys to men. The world began to open their eyes and see us when we were boys and then they got to experience the change in our music as well.”
‘H.O.L.Y.’ got things off to a decent start. The smash-hit #1 single was a taste of what Florida Georgia Line could potentially be; strip back the screaming electric guitars and bro-country lyrics and you have a fairly pleasant, slightly ‘country’ track. It wouldn’t be Florida Georgia Line without an artificial back beat so I suppose we can forgive them for that. Lyrically, it’s an improvement on “girl you know you’re the life of my party, you can stay and keep sippin’ Bacardi” and it was a sign of a potentially more accessible sound for the country traditionalists.
So, upon hearing ‘Dig Your Roots’ for the first time, I was mildly optimistic. ‘Smooth’, although the FGL haters will rip it to pieces, is that guilty pleasure track that is actually very infectious. Top marks for effort on the ‘country’ thing too; the track begins with a catchy banjo riff that creates the backing throughout the whole track. It’s a merging of old-style FGL with an attempt to make their brand of ‘bro-country’ more current. They just about get away with it.
It’s unusual to hear Brian Kelley singing lead on a number of tracks. He does exist folks, but it’s difficult not to notice the significant studio alterations on the vocals at times which is disappointing. ‘Lifer’ in particular sounds so artificial and auto-tuned. It has to be said, they do set themselves up for a grilling with the anti-FGL bloggers. The Sam Hunt-style rapping on the title track ‘Dig Your Roots’ doesn’t help their case. But, once again it’s another potential radio hit, and they’ve had a bash at a more sophisticated, meaningful song writing style. Not unpleasant by any means.
New single ‘May We All’ is an interesting one. Tim McGraw, Mr “I’m a little more ol’ Hank Williams than that trendy crap”, contributes with guest vocals. This is the man that also released the atrocity ‘Lookin’ For That Girl’ which still haunts me to this day. Admittedly, it’s not the worst track this album has to offer, but Tim’s ‘country boy’ image does have to be questioned at times. It’s a typically bouncy, radio-friendly pop track that would only suit Florida Georgia Line. No doubt country radio will lap it up.
‘While He’s Around’ is by far the highlight of the album. If, like me, you’ve been crying out for a raw country track from the duo, this one hits the spot. Brian takes the lead once again, backed by simply an acoustic guitar, pedal steel, dobro and a gentle drum beat. This is more like what I was expecting from the rest of this “mature” album. ‘Grow Old’ follows, another stripped-back attempt at traditional country with Tyler taking the lead this time. A very listenable track about the ups and downs of growing old, and teaching the kids the ways of life. If they produced material like this on a consistent basis, their longevity in this post-bro-country climate would be ensured, but to throw these in as a curveball on an incredibly R&B, pop-based album is slightly confusing. Loyal FGL fans probably won’t be too keen.
It doesn’t last very long. ‘Heatwave’ is the final track on the album and is a traditionalist’s worst fear. The computer has certainly been in good use for this one. There’s absolutely nothing remotely country about it; it’s a dreary, disappointing end to the album with more fabricated production, in case you hadn’t got your fix by then. But don’t let this be a reflection on the album as a whole.
I feel the same way about this album as I have with the previous two FGL albums; it has its good and truly awful spots. I’d never choose to sit and listen to the whole project. However, it will no doubt set them up for another year of radio success as there are a number of potential hits. I just worry about how long country fans will persist with them pushing the boundaries. Time will tell.