What’ve we got here? Why, it’s a CONTROVERSYBOMB!
Ramzi Awn: A bold experiment with a few good ideas, “Drinkin’ Too Much” employs dark moments of candor to highlight a muddled mix.
Olivia Rafferty: The heart and soul of country music is storytelling, which is why this track works so well. “Drinkin’ Too Much” shifts the typical country subject of alcohol abuse to the context of sad man R&B, aka Drake’s genre. The spoken verses contain a rawness that could only be conveyed with that style of delivery, and the lyrics themselves are so vivid. Lay this over a subtle blend of 808s and slide guitars, and you have a solid attempt to influence the direction of country music. Let the genre-mashing begin.
Anthony Easton: John Prine, in a recent Rolling Stone cover story, spoke about how Dylan’s Nashville Skyline broke apart country music for him (he was a folkie at the time): “Man, there’s something there where their two paths crossed. My stuff belongs right in the middle.” This is also in the middle: between soul and hip-hop, between the drinking and heartbreak of Nashville and the fame-wasted ennui of Kanye and Drake. But it’s also at the bottom: the bottomed-out production, how Hunt trips over details, how he extends stories, how he never quite brags about his money, how his self-loathing bubbles up like swamp gas. It’s the opposite of all those party songs, the opposite of Moore and Eldredge and Gilbert. It has a singular voice — a songwriting voice, but also how he sings, a gravelly push that reinforces his production choices. It is the smartest thing he has done, and maybe the most heartfelt.
Alfred Soto: I’m no country corn pone. I like electronic whooshes and the kind of manipulation of space more common on Drake or “Climax”-era Usher, but Sam Hunt can’t even talk-sing without his sockless boat shoes tripping on his ill-lettered cadences. He comes off like a lunkier Chainsmoker, in the market for any hook that’ll get him on the radio and laid — two of his more admirable virtues. Find better songs, dude, and don’t try so damn hard.
Thomas Inskeep: This non-single posted on SoundCloud is the audio equivalent of a viral video, and like many viral videos, it’s also essentially a journal entry set to music. Frankly, it’s not up to snuff: this is him doing his rhyming couplets (he loves rhyming couplets) with a woozy rhythm track from Pro Tools or whatever. It also sounds a lot like a demo for Justin Bieber. Most of all, this is slightly creepy oversharing; I want a Silkwood shower after listening to it.
Elisabeth Sanders: Everything about this is deeply embarrassing, and that’s why I love it. While I can’t pretend I like this as much as anything off Montevallo, it makes up for it with “I wish you’d let me pay your student loans,” and I’d like to submit this as a great entry into a music category I’d like to call “voice-memo pathetic-wave.” (The other artist in this genre is Mike Posner with his great, deeply pathetic album At Night, Alone.) The song approximates, sonically and with almost nauseating accuracy, the feeling of being just too drunk enough that the room is spinning a little, being very sad about something that might be your fault in a crowded place at 2 in the morning. BEEN THERE, SAM.
Jonathan Bradley: In which Sam Hunt pens a letter to Montevallo‘s Courtney From Hooters On Peachtree and proves himself to not be country music’s Drake, but rather its Mike Skinner. The hook is the weakest part; it doesn’t resolve Hunt’s thoughts but elides them. (The austere “8pm” take works better and is worth a point or two more.) There is frisson in a lyric that pushes too far past the fourth wall, threatening to combust as it reaches the event horizon — for the non-country, non-rap examples to which “Drinkin’ Too Much” draws nearest, look to emo acts like Cursive’s The Ugly Organ or Say Anything’s “Every Man Has a Molly.” “Hope you know I’m still in love,” Hunt closes, except it’s a correspondence that is only intimate the way a performance is, and so his words are combustible as well as heartfelt. The sour sense that this song bears too much truth is its most compelling point but also its most repellent; Hunt is too casual in his exhibitionism.
Will Adams: It feels right; we’ve reached the level of bleakness in our pop music that songs can now just be actual shitposts with first draft choruses tucked in.
Katherine St Asaph: Did we need another country “Marvin’s Room”? In every country review I keep harping on artists telling the same generic story addressed to the same imaginary sorority girl, but here’s a lyric and addressee that are certainly not generic or imaginary, and I’m not sure what to think. If Sam Hunt’s byline didn’t scare off the traditionalists, the first vocoded note is almost deliberately scheduled to shoo away the rest (none of the subsequent vocal is so blatant), leaving a smaller audience of fans and an explicit audience of one specific, named girl. There’s something inescapably creepy — voyeuristically creepy for the listener, manipulatively creepy for the artist — about this, this couple chords and a tirade. Most of his target demographic will hear this as romantic, but for those unfortunate enough to have been stalked, the details are so familiar as to be textbook: presenting her with his un-rebuttable imagination of her life, in which she stages the Everytime video every time she wants to cry, in which there’s nowhere else in Georgia she can buy peaches, in which everything reminds her of him, or at least does now; reminding her of her debt while holding Montevallo money over her head; apologizing for boosting her profile while writing her name into a huge triumphant chorus; pondering “whether it’s OK to lie” while careful to mention none of the indiscretions that got him there — merely their consequences, which now seem unreasonable. Better to address this as fiction, then — like most “autobiographical” songs by celebrities, somewhere between songwriting exercise and publicity stunt, because you don’t cross over into pop and stay without some dating drama. What’s left is slapdash: accurate-sounding candor spewed over a couple identikit country choruses, each piece well-crafted but only assemblable by a real-life happy ending. Which is the point, and the problem.
Megan Harrington: Too much of my instant dislike of “Drinkin’ Too Much” hinged on the preposterous way Sam Hunt apologized for (more or less) doxing his then ex-girlfriend, now fiancé Hannah Lee Fowler on his debut album Montevallo, only to turn around and close the song by singing her name. In case there were any straggler fans out there who hadn’t quite put her identity together, I guess. It was incongruous in a way that grated on me until I realized that it was the perfect synecdoche for the song, one that indulges overwrought production as 40 as it was country and several different singing styles, including plain old talking. It’s right there in the way he names her his first fan and then cheats on her, the way he dismisses her sisters as “matchmakers” but hopes her dad still prays for him. Real life is messy and filled with leaps forward followed by half-steps back, relationships are chaotic and confusing, and Hunt captures all of it, ending hopefully with a (sort of, he hopes) romantic pledge to win her back. And it (sort of, I think) worked?
Crystal Leww: The first time I heard “Drinkin’ Too Much,” I did not like it. I did not like the 40-esque production, the sad sap lyrics, the way that Hunt called out his ex-girlfriend. Then I listened to the 8pm version, stripped of the production flourishes, and figured that it was just the production that was bugging me. The lyrics were sad, but they were so specific: peaches in Pelham, a hotel room in Arizona, and that devastating, heartbreaking “hope your dad still prays for me,” a reminder that breakups are the deaths of families, too. I’ve never liked the comparisons to Drake — Drake is someone who has clearly never been in an adult relationship with a real woman rather than a built-up image of a woman, but Montevallo and “Drinkin’ Too Much” feel like they’re about real adults who have genuinely loved each other and created lives together. I still like the 8pm version more, but I’ve come around on the full version. It’s dramatic, but I appreciate the attempt to appeal to a broader audience, and it highlights that Hunt’s lyricism shines through anything, even snaps and strings.
Josh Langhoff: A prof used to tell us, “People who are sorry weep bitter tears.” I don’t buy Sam Hunt’s sorrow. Nor do I buy that this song has a melody or a beat, that it has any connection to country or R&B, that this is the same Sam Hunt who did “House Party,” or that picking peaches is anything but the pits. More schnapps!
Katie Gill: Look, I’m sorry, I can’t hate this. With the exception of that “I hope your dad still prays for me” bit, the verses are awful, not singing but the Sam Hunt Spoken Word Poetry Hour. They swing between endearingly hokey and the awful Nice Guy sort of patronizing that was the entirety of “Take Your Time.” But the chorus is AMAZING. It’s so silky and smooth, perfectly mixed, and Hunt shows that he has a halfway decent R&B(ish) voice. But the two never really meet. The transition between verse and chorus is awkward every time, as the buttery-smooth chorus butts up against the not very smooth speaking voice of Sam Hunt.
Joshua Copperman: I keep singing this title to the tune of Twenty One Pilots’ “Ride”, attempting to remember what little melody this song has (“I’ve been drinking too much, help me…”). Until the bridge — which would make a better chorus — nothing is worth remembering: not the strings, not the drum machine, and especially not the single strum of guitar to signify that it’s still country. What made “Marvin’s Room” work was the honesty and subtextual self-loathing that Drake would spend the rest of his career distilling. This seems less stream-of-consciousness and more trying to write stream-of-consciousness, which rarely works as well and results in lines like “I wish you’d let me pay off your student loans.” The dramatic piano ending makes clear Sam Hunt’s lack of shame in copying Aubrey, but that just makes him sound even less authentic, even though the backstory contains more than enough drama for something genuine.
Edward Okulicz: The first time I misheard the line as as “I’m sorry for making the album Montevallo,” but this sketch wouldn’t be a repudiation even if he were sorry for that. And it’s really not that much more than a series of lyrical fragments and a chorus, but I find myself nodding along at some parts, and being frustrated at the lack of detail in others, and going to the “Personal life” details of his Wikipedia article to see the resolution. So that means it’s fairly compelling for its limitations.