Sometimes I wonder if there's any limit to the number of times country artists can go to the well and draw out albums with the same contrasting themes: God and grandad, beer and babes. I suspect the answer to that hypothetical question is no. And newcomer Kane Brown offers the latest evidence supporting that conclusion.
The 23-year-old Georgia native briefly flirted with fame on Fox's singing competition The X Factor. But he balked at the idea of being shoehorned into a boy band (as the show's producers wanted to do), dropping out and carving out a niche instead on YouTube. His specialty? Covering country songs. Three years later, Brown's parlayed growing online popularity into a bona fide solo career with his eponymous debut album, which topped the country chart and landed in the Top 10 on the mainstream album chart.
Kane Brown is an 11-song effort that veers wildly between wild living and traditional values. We get drinking and leering 'n' lip-locking one minute, and shout-outs to faithfulness, integrity and heaven the next.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
"Learning" is a poignant song in which Brown talks about abuse at the hands of a stepfather ("When I was 6 years old, I kinda wet the bed/My stepdad came in and nearly beat me to death"). It's one of several difficult experiences he's chosen to forgive ("I'm gonna let it go/ … Forgiveness is something we gotta know/'Cause if you hold on forever, it'll hurt your soul"). Later, Brown counsels, "If you're carrying bitterness around on your shoulders/Then just remember what I told you."
Two songs focus on a loving grandfather. "Cold Spot" praises a faithful grandpa who was a humble shopkeeper at a small store: "He worked behind the counter/To them, he was an old man/When my world was crumbling/My grandpa gave me his hand." Tearjerker "Granddaddy's Chair" finds Brown longing to have the character of his beloved grandfather (and alludes to James 1:19, too): "I hope one day I'll be the man you used to be/Quick to love and slow to anger/ … I hope one day I'll be man enough to be sitting there in my granddaddy's chair." The song—and the album—closes with, "Rest in peace, I love you granddaddy."
"What Ifs" strives to convince an anxiety-prone young woman ("You say, 'What if I hurt you, what if I leave you?'") that perhaps the outcome of a relationship will be happily ever after ("What if I was made for you and you were made for me?/What if this is it, what if it's meant to be?/ … And the stars line up, and it's our last first kiss?"). "Better Place" vows a lifetime of faithful affection: "'Til the sky falls and the good Lord calls us up/You're the only girl I wanna love." Brown also promises, "I'm gonna make your world a better place/'Til we're both in a better place."
On "Hometown," Brown sings, "All I wanna do is make my hometown proud." "Comeback" tries to convince an ex to give love a second chance.
"Thunder in the Rain" is all about sex, and it offers up the album's most suggestive lyrics: "Your lips, your eyes, don't wanna let go/Your skin on mine, I'm losing control/ … We're like thunder in the rain." The balance of the song is filled with similarly steamy stuff.
Likewise, "Pull It Off" is about woman who knows how to seduce a man by taking off her clothes: "She puts it on and on and on and on/'Cause she knows she can pull it off/Oh yeah/ … Got me wanting everything underneath." Elsewhere we hear about an "unbuttoned flannel layin' on the floor" as well as "lingerie hangin' out the back of the door." Meanwhile, "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" involves a beach, beer and bikinis: "Little bikinis and white sand/ … Cooler full of beer and a little sun stash." Brown brags about "raising h---" and talks about kissing a girl whose "lips taste like watermelon/Got a daiquiri kiss."
"What Ifs" includes one use of "d--n." Mild profanity also creeps into "Granddaddy's Chair": "I gave you h---, and you gave me the world."
Kane Brown has obviously learned well from his country mentors. He's embraced—and now reinforced—his chosen genre's cognitive dissonance when it comes to glorifying virtue and vice simultaneously. Like so many country artists before him, it's a disconnect that Brown seems quite comfortable with.