Country Jukebox Jury LP: Cole Swindell – Stereotype

Luke Bryan’s fellow Georgia boy and merch guy wrote Rollercoaster and Beer In the Headlights for him. He also penned Thomas Rhett’s song Get Me Some Of That and This Is How We Roll for Luke and Florida Georgia Line.

Cole Swindell was thus able to transition to a stage performer who has had tons of hits which have been firmly in the bro-country pocket. Will we hear Chillin It, Let Me See Ya Girl, Ain’t Worth The Whiskey, Middle of a Memory, You Should Be Here (dedicated to his late father), Break Up in the End or Love You Too Late in ten years’ time?

Cole will never be an A-lister, although he does headline a tour this year, but he looks country and sounds country and shifts units and fills up an undercard. His 2018 album All of It was immediately forgettable so I had middling hopes for Stereotype. He’s even hopped on the duets trend with a Lainey Wilson collaboration called Never Say Never, which is let down by tedious production choices and sounds like a Luke Bryan reject with a string section. I also don’t like the way the singers trade phrases rather than lines.

Cole also hopped on the Hardy trend, roping in his vocals on the fun Down to the Bar. Indeed, Hardy was in the room for several of the tracks here because he is so hot right now. The opening one-two punch of the title track and Every Beer sets the scene: the former is a list song in disguise as a dictionary definition with a smooth chorus and a lyrical twist where Cole praises his ‘turnin’ up my stereo type’ of girl; Every Beer (‘could be your last one’) is one of those Advice Songs which have long been part of country music: Live Like You Were Dying, People Are Crazy, Buy Dirt, Janice at the Hotel Bar and on and on. It’s a good trope and now Cole has his own Advice Song.

The album’s plodding first single, on which Cole sung about his last Single Saturday Night (a Hardy co-write), was at least a clever turn of phrase, while Girl Goes Crazy is a three-minute movie which would make a good music video. Verse one: guy messes around a booty call. Verse two: girl throws drink on that guy. Middle eight: sympathy for our heroine because of the ‘stupid boy’. It’s a conversation starter.

Thomas Rhett was in the room for She Had Me At Heads Carolina. Why just refer to an old song when you can rewrite it and say ‘she’s a 90s country fan like I am’? It’s another conversation starter but, by God, I hope this isn’t a trend as it reveals the bankruptcy of modern Music Row songwriting. Whatever next: I’m a friend in a low place? I sat in George’s chair? Fuggedaboutit, but don’t let me prejudice you. All those songwriters moving to town and they hear a song from 1996 brought out of retirement. Maybe it’s a way of telling youngsters there’s no future in songcraft.

Dustin Lynch didn’t even have room for ballad I’m Gonna Let Her on his recent record, which was full of tempo tunes which make money, so he passed it across to Cole, who is an identical product to DL. Sayin’ You Love Me is so inferior to anything on Ernest’s new album that he should take his name off the credits to that song. It also includes Grady Smith’s bugbear as the lady is ‘doin’ that thing you always do’. At least we get some punchy drums on How Is She, which might be the sequel to Break Up In The End.

As you would expect for a Commercial Country record, the big guns all show up to write with or for Cole: Miss Wherever had Luke Laird in the room, who may have brought the lyrical turn in the chorus but can’t save a narrow, pointless melody; Scooter Carusoe was there for the lovely Some Habits, which sounds like Kenny Chesney, in which Cole says that lying in bed with his beloved is a good habit; and both Rodney Clawson and Randy Montana give Cole the album closer Walk On Whiskey, which begins with the line ‘I bet I sound like a broken record’.

This hooks the listener even before the album’s best chorus, full of pathos and fear and humanity. The song, in fact, is far too good for Cole Swindell. Luke Combs would sell the hell out of Walk on Whiskey.

A final thought. Even though girls appear in most of the songs on Stereotype, Never Say Never co-writer Jessi Alexander is the only woman in the album’s writing credits, which is pathetic for a major-label release in 2022.

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