Jason Aldean is a couple of years younger than me, give or take.
Listening to “Macon”, (one of two records he’s going to release in the next six months or so) you can’t help trying to find the similarities. The truth is, though, there aren’t any. Beyond one: Aldean, me and just about any bloke on the planet, frankly, is always worrying about the one that got away.
It’s a formula that works too. Here’s some facts, Jack: “The three-time ACM “Entertainer of the Year” continues to hold his ground making modern albums with an old-school soul while bolstering [sic] 25 No. One hits, 15 billion streams and more than 20 million albums sold. Notably, seven of Aldean’s previous studio albums have been certified PLATINUM or more and he has the most Top 10 song on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, more than any other artists since making his chart debut in 2005.”
That’s taken from the bio that came with the record, but it tells a few truths: 1) the formula works and 2) the purists can sneer at the streaming thing, but you only get to do that if you write song that connect, in a massive way.
In many ways, “After You” the opener here, is your gateway to this world. If you like the blue collar, small town sounds, even if you live thousands of miles away, then Aldean’s your boy. Frankly, there’s nothing to not like here. It sounds like the million dollars it’ll earn, the chorus is massive, and the theme universal. Oh and the guitar solo is pure hard rock. To cover all these bases in about three minutes – and do so with a guitar sound that’s bigger than The Edge in U2, that’s a skill.
“Over You Again” is more of the same, kind of. There’s an idea in my head that’s been there since the start, and its this: If Nickelback did country. I reiterate that I am a huge Nickelback fan, for precisely the same reasons (I nearly wrote for all the right reasons, but that was a little too on the nose). They write superb, universal and catchy songs. So does Jason Aldean.
“That’s What Tequila Does” does the same thing, essentially, but does it slower, while “Small Town Small” seems like it’s the anthem. Middle America with its middle finger up to the world. “Keep the blue collar, the sweat on your dollar” he urges, and of course its rhymes “y’all” with “small”, and why not? These are is his people, this is his crowd, this is music….as Kiss might have put it.
The fact that his duet with Carrie Underwood has over 34 million Spotify plays (at the time of writing) rather underlines my point about connection. And if “If I Didn’t Love You” doesn’t strike a chord with you, then you’re a liar.
“Story For Another Glass” rather enjoys the idea so does it again, and “Heaven” rather takes the Bryan Adams version and not so much make it Aldean’s own, as much as acknowledge that Adams nailed the thing so why change it.
“This Bar Don’t Work Anymore” is such an obvious hit single that its not even worth discussing, beyond that – as I keep saying – this is how to get big songs in 2021. “The Sad Songs”, though turns it on its head, and does so brilliantly, before “Watching You Love Me” is a gentle, backroads way to finish off. A thing of beauty, its both stripped down and a huge statement all at once.
That might be the end of the new stuff, though, but “Macon” is about the past too. The five live songs from the past are not tagged on or “bonus”. No, they are integral to the plot here. Listen to “Johnny Cash”, “She’s Country” or “My Kinda Party” (“I think its time we kicked this bitch into overdrive,” he says before playing it) and you’ll hear it too. Everything that makes “Macon” great has always been there.
And, this is, basically an unstoppable force. Whether you like it or not, “Macon” is going to give Jason Aldean another billion seller. He knows it. To paraphrase Motorhead: he knows how to do it, and does it real well.