#1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, week of 9/30/16
What it is: The seventh album from bro-country rocker Jason Aldean. “Bro-Country” means country inflected with macho rock and hip-hop attitude. For example, Aldean name-checks himself in the opening song! Hank Williams never would have done that! I don’t think. I don’t really know Hank Williams very well.
Part of the reason I’m able to do this blog is that most forms of media are now readily and cheaply available online. I can listen to most bestselling books off of my Audible subscription, stream a lot of TV shows for free (even legally, I mean), and hear new albums through Spotify. But recently I’ve had to get an Apple Music subscription for both Blonde and Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, and I actually had to buy a copy of They Don’t Know, as Aldean is withholding the album from streaming services for the first month after its release. I’m actually glad to see musicians figuring out how to effectively monetize their work, but it’s a pain in the ass for me.
Anyway, this album is even less interesting than that last paragraph. It’s all generically studio-slick steel guitars over kind of twangy lyrics about partying and romance and, especially, drinking. (See the song titles “Whiskey’d Up,” “All Out of Beer” and “Any Ol’ Barstool.”) I don’t even listen to this kind of music and I feel like I’ve heard this all a million times. The title track chides urban elitists for not understanding rural and/or suburban life (“They think it’s a middle of nowhere place where we take it slow/Aw, but they don’t know”), seemingly gesturing towards the resentment that may be fueling Donald Trump’s presidential run, but if there’s anything unexpected beneath the surface of small-town America, this album sure isn’t revealing it.