Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Kane Brown ft. Lauren Alaina – What Ifs

From middle school to Idol…


Thomas Inskeep: Kane Brown, who gained his primary following via social media (shades of Troye Sivan and Shawn Mendes), has a rich, deeper than the holler voice, and in Dann Huff, a very sympathetic producer. In childhood friend Lauren Alaina, he’s got a backing vocalist who just had her first #1 song on country radio. He co-wrote this clever song, wherein his partner asks things like “What if I leave you?” and “What if this goes south?” and he suggests, in the chorus, “What if I was made for you/And you were made for me?” Brown and Alaina sound great together. This is a little Currington, a little Bentley, and a lot good.

Katie Gill: God, I love this. I’m always a sucker for a country singer with a deep, Johnny Cash style bass voice. Brown’s got one, and he uses it perfectly. Those low notes, that opening guitar riff, the way he perfectly deploys that twang on words like “you” or “burning” — this is the perfect anecdote to the boring country charts. Brown’s immense bass contrasts beautifully with Alaina’s belt. Points off for the bizarre mixing, which threatens to overtake both Brown and Alaina during the chorus — a shock considering that Alaina’s being a little bit extra about the whole thing despite the fact that she has absolutely nothing to do.

Alfred Soto: When writers organize a song around a gimmick as worn as the what-if list, it’s time for me to get pedagogical — a synonym for “pedantic,” I know — and circle every rhetorical question.

Julian Axelrod: “We all know I’m a noxious, aggressively bland country bro. We all know I look like a failed lab experiment to meld all the members of the Wanted and sound like every non-country fan’s idea of country music. We all know I’m the least believable Southern rock heartthrob since Bo Bice. What this song presupposes is: What if I’m not?”

Maxwell Cavaseno: Between the stop-start banjo loops and the BIG HOOK, is this country’s version of nu-metal? I get that the goal is to be a pop-country monster smash, but so much of this feels like blatantly assembled parts, which makes the performances by Brown (especially with his faux-spontaneous ad-libbed bits) and Alaina read really hollow. 

Lauren Gilbert: See, this song almost had me and then “what if one of these days I go and change your name”. No, fuck off, it’s my fucking name. I don’t care that country is a genre of mostly conservative social mores, I don’t care that this is a deeply generic tale of boy-meets-girl, I don’t care that most heterosexual women seem weirdly unconcerned by the prospect of changing their names. It’s still her fucking name, and he can’t make that decision on her behalf. P.S. dude: if you’re going to feature Lauren Alaina, give her something interesting to do.

Will Adams: Another song where the female voice exists only to validate the dude’s presumptions. Him: What if I kiss you? Her: You should kiss me. Before I realized Lauren Alaina was credited, I thought she was just a backing vocalist mixed way too high. Imagine: what if Kane Brown were left to shoulder this song on his own?

Katherine St Asaph: “What if Drake was one of us?” Kane Brown asks, emulating Sam Hunt with more baritone and more autotune. “What if I gave you a generic Southern rock chorus anyway, with the most conspicuously mannered kicker in a genre full of them?” Dann Hunt asks, drowning everyone out. Lauren Alaina probably has a what-if of her own, but no one listened.

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