Do you want to make your own commercial country album? Let me show you how.
First off, you need a bloke. Seventeen of every 20 acts that are concocted for mass consumption are blokes. Why not try a former jingle singer from Louisiana whose voice was heard between songs, ads and Bob Kingsley’s script on the Country Top 40? Give him a haircut and hey presto, your star is ready for launch.
Dylan topped that chart with a song called My Girl, which saw him purr, belt and rap in different places. Eighteen other blokes could have put the song out, but Dylan was now in the marketplace. He brought that woman who lost it at a Chewbacca mask out on stage with him, giving him the common touch. Now casual country fans know who this guy is.
Six years after his debut, a second must follow in order to push him to headliner status. Since 2016, Dylan has fathered two kids and has taken three songs into the Top 40: Nothing To Do Town made virtue of the glory in small town life; Nobody praised his fidelity to his wife in a Brett Young/ Dan + Shay way; and New Truck is so similar in tenor to 7500 OBO by Tim McGraw that it’s like when Dreamworks ripped off a Disney movie 20 years ago.
That last track and the driving song Static – ‘making dollars makes good sense’ is a line which is much better than the KABLAM of the drums in the chorus – were both written by four of the hottest writers on Music Row: Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, Hardy and Hunter Phelps. These men know what commercial country sounds like, and Dylan is one of those 18 blokes who can sing the song with passion and vim. Others include Thomas Rhett, Michael Ray, Darius Rucker, Cole Swindell, Lee Brice, Jon Pardi, Scotty McCreery, Kane Brown, Jake Owen, Justin Moore, Jackson Dean, Chris Young, Thomas Rhett, Riley Green, Mitchell Tenpenny, Ernest and Tyler Hubbard.
Mitchell Tenpenny and Ernest (who is hot right now) wrote the excellent Leave Her Alone, a message to a girl’s old flame who left Dylan to swoop in and find her. The ‘too big to fail’ writer Morgan Wallen was one of four who put a song called Amen To That (‘praising the Lord for giving me that woman I’ve been praying for’) on the shelf. The song has three chords and hyperkinetic modern production which will get it on the radio. It also gives its title to Dylan’s tour in the fall.
T-Hub is trying to launch a solo career himself, given the hiatus of Florida Georgia Line, and he’s writing loads of tracks that others can use. In fact, the one Dylan has picked (or which was picked for Dylan) gives the album its title: ‘Pour a drink, YOLO!’ sets the tenor for the album’s catchiest pop song (Thomas Rhett is involved) which is charming and will distract people for three minutes at a time.
In Our Blood is a more ethereal song featuring vocals from Jimmie Allen. ‘We all got hearts and we all feel pain’ unites every human whatever their skin pigmentation. It’s a cool songwriting exercise, with reference to ‘the man on the cross’. There is an awful lot of ‘Sunday morning’ in the lyrics across the album, pitching Dylan Scott as an artist true to his roots. When he’s not getting an amen, he’s with his girl or remembering when he wasn’t with her. He’s not the type to go on a drinking bender then get caught on video saying something that would get him dropped, or at least suspended, from his label, before having a number one album for 15 months.
To his credit, eight of the 16 songs are Dylan Scott compositions that touch on today’s country music matters. Boy I Was Back Then is the token reminiscin’ song that takes the listener back to the time before he met his wife when cops and ‘daddies’ didn’t like Dylan. Good Times Go By Too Fast (‘live it up while we can’) and Killin’ Some Time (‘making the most of what the good Lord gave me’) are the token reminders to focus on the present. Lay Down With You is the token song that starts with a 5am alarm for work and ends in bed with the woman who has been in his thoughts all day.
Can’t Have Mine (Find You A Girl) is an acoustic-driven song about places (the bar, the church) you can find a girl just like Dylan did. Was anybody asking to take Dylan’s wife away from him?! Ain’t Much Left of Me is a waltz that lists all the country stuff he can live without (guns, his home town, trucks) but he sure can’t live without his woman. He rhymes ‘smile’ with ‘side’, which is the weakest rhyme I have ever heard in a country song. And what happens if a bear attacks his woman and Dylan doesn’t have his shotgun?!
Unlike the Cole Swindell album, which had one woman in the credits, Dylan’s has a total of THREE women contributing to the songs. Kelsey Hart was with Tommy Cecil on Hell Out Of Me, one of those songs where the narrator says all the things he was (‘rough around the edges…a dead end road’) before a heavenly angel took the hell away from him.
Emily Landis (who wrote The Good Ones for Gabby Barrett) and Claire Douglas, daughter of Tom, wrote Tough, which is one of those songs which teaches a listener by proxy how to treat a girl. It begins with Dylan counselling his kid to fish, drink, drive, throw and all those other American rural things. His kid’s future wife, and Dylan’s future daughter-in-law, ‘will mess you up’ and will keep him in his place and make him go weak. It’s another writers’ round song that could have been a hit for any of the 18 singers listed above.
Look, the whole point of commercial country is that it exists to make money. It’s not Thinkpiece Country; it is product around which to sell a star and give them something to sing on tour, on TV spots and on 6am radio appearances that are necessary to shift product in an age when money is made out on the road.
It’s the Tim McGraw model, which is apt because Curb Records (to which Dylan is signed) used McGraw as a cash cow. The landscape has changed and Dylan will never be McGraw, but the model remains because it keeps making money, even if we’ve heard every tune before, sung by the same sort of voice.