So far in our Song of the Summer search we’ve familiarized ourselves with the indie-rockers, the rappers, and the pop stars going for the gold. Now we move to perhaps the most divisive category: mainstream country music (people still say, “I listen to everything but country,” right?). Recent years have seen Taylor Swift obliterate all preconceived limitations on a Nashville-bred star’s mass appeal; is there a Southern gentleman or lady ready to follow Swift down crossover radio-hit lane this season? By the way, Lady Antebellum is MIA here despite Need You Now owning the second spot on the Billboard 200 because its title track has been owning the airwaves since last August and follow-up single “American Honey” is a little too mellow for SOTS, even by country standards. That said — what are we missing?
Brad Paisley, “Water”
Country music is great for SOTS because it loves to junk all that boring inchoate feeling stuff for down-the-line, storytelling explicitness. Here, Paisley recounts his seasonally appropriate “love affair with water” in all its many forms, from kiddie pools to wet T-shirt contests. Coincidentally, Paisley is also the guy behind “Alcohol.”
Jerod Niemann, “Lover, Lover”
This cover of Sonia Dada’s minor early nineties hit “You Don’t Treat Me No Good” has landed Niemann an unlikely country hit. Not unlikely because of it how it sounds — it’s a lighthearted breakup song with a comfortingly familiar finger-picked guitar line — but because it is a Sonia Dada cover.
Kenny Chesney, “Ain’t Back Yet”
Chesney’s country-rock ode to the touring life is professionally executed and already impacting the charts, but does feel a bit mailed in. Considering it’s a tack-on to a reissue of a greatest-hits collection, that is only appropriate.