Some of you paused to read this in hopes of a scathing review. After all, haters of what country radio became since the turn of the century tend to dismiss Jason Aldean as yet another wanna-be rapper “bro” who’s been spoon-fed algorithm-friendly lyrics about a nameless “country girl” – which, of course, rhymes effortlessly with “world.” This isn’t completely true, even if new album 9’s most played song so far, “We Back,” sounds like Monster energy drink tastes.
Despite living down to low expectations on a couple of songs, Aldean’s refreshingly mature at times on his latest album. Tracks capturing his sensitive side, including “Got What I Got,” “Came Here to Drink” and “I Don’t Drink Anymore,” suit a 40-something-year-old dad, in a good way.
Even when Aldean checks off several hometown nostalgia tropes on “Dirt We Were Raised On,” he never sounds like a pop-country self-parody. It’s as if so-called “bro country” hardly existed in 2019, aside from Zac Brown’s horrible Patrick Swayze song.
Beyond singing multiple songs about whiskey and rural Georgia, Aldean wisely changes with the times on a couple of tracks. For example, elements of “Some Things You Don’t Forget” sound comfortably similar to Blake Shelton’s chilling, hillbilly goth hit “God’s Country.” Aldean’s lyrics about remembering a former flame break no new ground, but they’re better than the rhymes about tractors expected by the Macon native’s detractors.
There’s an even better song, if hearing “We Back” every time you tuned into CBS to admire Kirby Smart’s bowl cut hasn’t scared you out of giving Aldean a fair shake. “Blame It on You” mixes traces of Aldean’s arena rock ambition with the throwback, storyteller-driven radio country of Luke Combs, Jon Pardi, Miranda Lambert and other “okay to like” artists. It’s the closest thing on the album to Aldean’s best song to date, 2018 single “You Make It Easy.”
The good outweighs the bad on 9. If you want to find out for yourself, don’t worry. The “authenticity” police won’t come to your house.