Country Jukebox Jury LP: Florida Georgia Line – Life Rolls On

No matter what I say about this album, it won’t stop Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line (who are on Big Machine) being millionaires, with their own line of whiskey and a bar on Broadway in Nashville. Cruise must have brought thousands of blokes into country music, reversing the Taylor Swift effect and making country music muscular. Along with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt, Nashville made stars of guys with smirks and a Southern charm.

With Morgan Wallen caught being very stupid, the whole era has abruptly ended; Luke Bryan is about to star in another series of American Idol, Sam Hunt spent five years making an album which COVID-19 didn’t allow him to tour and Aldean is stuck making the same song over and over again while his wife stirs her own controversy with her sympathies to confederate flags. Rolling Stone magazine called her a ‘country-wife political conspiracist’, naming Brian Kelley’s wife as kin.

All this infighting has flared up and FGL will explore solo projects this year. We’ve had the horrible song Undivided which Tyler sang with label mate Tim McGraw and we’ve heard much of Life Rolls On before. Joey Moi was busy helping make Morgan Wallen a number one recording artist so Chris Young’s guy Corey Crowder was on hand to pilot this fifth album.

I was immensely disappointed with the 6 Pack EP from last year. I repeat here what I wrote back then.

Beer:30 is a joke. I think Tyler knows it’s a joke: ‘It’s beer (pause) thirty and I’m (pause) thirsty’. His delivery is lower in pitch than usual and this is what country sounds like when it goes all rap. Thomas Rhett did this with Vacation.

Ain’t Worried Bout It is a Peach Pickers song, or at least Ben Hayslip and Dallas Davidson from the collective. This means it’s a down home southern boy tune with trucks and the Lord and Friday night and coolers. Plus, ‘my baby’s here’. The chorus rocks and the vocals are sweet. After all those Joey Moi guitars it’s synths and beds for FGL now.

US Stronger is a patriotic anthem that arrives into the marketplace as Joe Biden is preparing his campaign against the President. Without discussing politics, FGL blether on about America. US Stronger is what FGL sound like when writing a Shane McAnally song.

Shane worked on Second Guessing, the song that resulted from FGL’s appearance on Songland, the NBC show which is live A&R on TV. On the show you see the original song performance, the reworking and the final product. Griffen Palmer presents a slow acoustic driven song which Shane applauds when the kicker comes in the chorus: ‘I ain’t spent one second guessing’. Shane in fact gets angry at a hook. We know it’s a good song – Griffen also wrote Keith Urban’s new song Polaroid – and the guys from Songland just punch it up.

The reworked version rejigs the opening lines and speeds up the delivery to make it sound like an FGL song, or FGL as written by Shane McAnally. It’s a wedding song that is perfect for two men who used to cruise and who now want to dedicate their lives to their wives.

Countryside, meanwhile, is an outside write from three writers who I guess are on FGL’s imprint Tree Vibez. It puts an acoustic guitar loop over an electronic drum loop. ‘Downtown looks a little busy’ so let’s go to the countryside. It sounds like Thomas Rhett and we get ‘dixie cup/ giddy up’ as a fun rhyme.

Since the release of the first six tracks there have been three more. Long Live, New Truck and Life Rolls On are all forgettable, the first two are truly execrable and worse than Beer:30. The title track reaches for the status of a carpe diem song but we know about how we have to seize the moment and live like you were dying.

Canaan Smith co-writes Good To Me and Long Time Comin’. The former is a peppy four-chord song about how ‘God’s been good to me’ for bestowing blessings on them, like sunsets; the latter is a Backstreet Boys-type ballad about wanting to ‘make up for lost kisses’ that is surgically targeted at grown-up Backstreet Boys fans.

There is also an interlude, just one rather than four and instrumental rather than comedic as it was on their last album. I can only imagine it is separated out so people don’t skip Ain’t Worried About It when it comes on a Spotify playlist – it should really be called Intro To Ain’t Worried About It. This is just a reflection of how people listen to the music.

Hard To Get To Heaven is set over the same two chords as Niko Moon’s track Good Time, but the formula works again. ‘You loving me is a miracle’ is boyfriend country slow jam from the bros that is deathless filler or, in modern parlance, it’s skippable. Life Looks Good (‘sitting next to you’) sounds like a Blake Shelton album filler track from ten years ago, though that doesn’t make it bad. It’s written to a formula and the formula works.

Hardy had a hand in most of the last FGL album and, with a lot of his efforts going into his album A Rock (which is much better than Life Rolls On), he helps out on two tracks. Always Gonna Love You is a list of things the guys will love like a woman attached to a lethally catchy chorus (classic HARDY), while Eyes Closed also has Ross Copperman on writing credits. Ross is best known as Brett Eldredge’s guy and this has slow-jam vibes. Like Sam Hunt’s famous song, FGL compare bodies and back roads; indeed Sam sang of how he was ‘driving with my eyes closed’ so this is effectively a pastiche.

As for I Love My Country, it’s 100% Short Skirt Weather by Kane Brown, to such an extent that the writers of that song are credited here too. It’s smart for FGL, like boybands, to take a break after the fifth album. One Direction lost a member for their fifth then were allowed to break for solo projects. If you look at FGL as a boyband who make country music, you will understand the phenomenon better than looking at them as a country act.

Which of BK or T-Hub will be Niall Horan or Harry Styles? It’ll be fun to find out.

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