Sam Hunt is arguably the artist that pushes the most boundaries in country music. I know here in the UK he has been the subject of debate after debate usually leading with ‘this isn’t country’. Personally, I put my hands up to Mr Hunt. At the end of the day, he knows how to write a damn catchy hook. ‘Downtown’s Dead’, Hunt’s new single, is no different and it’s an absolute banger!
Kicking off with a dream-like sequence, highly edited backing vocals, and a twangy Latin-type guitar riff which is one of the hooks of the song repeated throughout. The verses are pretty stripped back, focusing mainly on the heartbreak lyric. In true Sam Hunt style, we dive into a bass drop for the choruses, similar feels to Sam’s previous hit ‘Break Up In a Small Town’. This bass drop chorus results in the song becoming the aforementioned ‘banger’, bound to become another summer smash for Sam.
‘Downtown’s Dead’ was in fact written with the same team of writers as Hunt’s last release, ‘Body Like a Back Road’ (Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne and Zach Crowell), but as is obvious to hear, we don’t have the same happy-go-lucky vibes with this new song. ‘Downtown’s Dead’ is a break up song with a slight twist, Hunt is singing from a very vulnerable place, telling of a broken-down relationship that clearly is not the choice of the male, the lyrics pull at your heart strings and you develop a huge sympathy for the character – “as long as you’re still in my head, there ain’t no way that I can paint a ghost town red”. The protagonist sings of feeling intensely alone, even amongst ‘the bright lights’ of a city, hence the title ‘Downtown’s Dead.’ I got to tell you, I’m a complete sucker for a good old lonesome song, so Sam you’ve got me with this one.
Hunt dips his toes into several genres – Pop, RnB, Country and you could even say Rap, be it mildly. He does raise the controversy spectrum, but I would imagine he gets it worse for debuting in the country genre in the first place, you know what we’re like? With ‘Downtown’s Dead’ being the first we’ve heard from Sam since the hugely successful ‘Body Like a Back Road’, he really did have a lot to live up to, but in my opinion it’s nice to hear the more mellow side of him. This new release could be the sign of a new body of work from Sam, perhaps a new album later this year. Who knows what the critics will think, and in all seriousness why should he care? I’m sure his multi-genre-embracing fans will be ecstatic at the news of Sam Hunt’s return.