Review Summary: Jason Aldean bounces back from his lackluster last album and returns to the forefront of the genre by doing what he does best; entertain.
Jason Aldean is one of the biggest names of the modern country music landscape, a reputation palpable to the likes of Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and the rest of the bros that many say have polluted country music. Even as bro country took over to "objectify the hell out of them [women]" as Kenny Chesney said, Jason Aldean stood out as one of the few in the subgenre that was actually churning out quality tunes. That was, until 2014's Old Boots, New Dirt
, an album with too many forgettable tracks and far too few tracks worth playing more than once. Fortunately, he returns to form with They Don't Know
which offers a more balanced amount of experimentation while still taking the Broken Bow Records singer back to his roots.
Now, there wasn't much to suggest that this album would be any different from Aldean's previous albums, based off lead off singles "Lights Come On" and "A Little More Summertime", both of which topped the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Both tracks are executed in solid fashion, but they're perfectly akin to every other radio release in Aldean's catalog, so not much suggested that this album in its entirety would be an improvement from the jumbled mess of Old Boots, New Dirt
. Thankfully, They Don't Know
is an improvement, loaded with tracks featuring solid and more well rounded vocals from Aldean, not as much over the top of experimentation with other genres and of course, plenty of radio worthy material.
The two aforementioned singles that topped the charts are standard Jason Aldean fare. Why they work for an artist like Aldean is they have an anthemic sensibility that is present in almost every single Aldean has sent to the airwaves. And it's present again in these two tracks. The lyrics aren't much to write home about, but Aldean performs them in a well rounded manner and it proves again that he takes his music far more seriously than the subject matter would suggest. "Comin' in Hot" and "This Plane Don't Go There" do a solid job getting listeners into a good mood, respectively by way of playing to the crowd and telling a story. The latter track harkens back to "Fly Over States" off of 2010's My Kinda Party
and it works as well here as it did then. Aldean has honed his craft and this track, like many of its counterparts, has a more traditional country sensibility that was slowly lost over his previous three studio outings.
"One We Won't Forget" is a standard weekend anthem Aldean has sung about a dozen times over. But the production value is much more polished and the track is more distinguishable than past tracks its akin too. One thing this album doesn't surprise at all with is the fact that Aldean once again has no songwriting credits next to his name. In fact, he hasn't written any lyrics featured on an album of his since his self titled 2005 debut. Thankfully, for him however, he surrounds himself with some of the more prominent songwriters in the genre, such as Neil Thrasher and Rhett Akins and they all do a decent job turning familiar themes into fresher sounding tracks.
"In Case You Don't Remember" is one of the best songs Aldean has ever recorded and it's by far the best track off They Don't Know
. Aldean gives arguably the best vocal performance of his career and the instrumentals are a treat. It's a mid tempo ballad about a former flame that ramps up the tempo when the chorus hits. Armed with a whining steel guitar, thumping drums and a guitar solo for good measure, it's a track certainly worth repeating. "All Out of Beer" and upcoming single "Any Ol' Barstool" both do a good job bringing Aldean back to his storytelling laurels. It's a route he's traveled plenty of times before and the familiarity pays dividends.
They Don't Know
is one of the biggest surprises of 2016. I was expecting something far more predictable and tedious out of Aldean, but the album defies expectations, even in moments of predictability. Aldean is singing the right songs to the right crowd and he finally returns to churning out high quality modern country; Aldean earns his reputation as one of mainstream country's biggest superstars by doing exactly what a superstar does; hones his craft, sing the right songs and execute them with all the skills of a polished veteran. Country music has been on quite the rebound this year and Jason Aldean continues the zany trend with an unexpected bounce back to form.