Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Luke Bryan – Light It Up

We changed our number but he keeps finding us.


Katie Gill: I’ll occasionally go to bat for Luke Bryan. I’ll maintain that “I Don’t Want This Night To End” is one of the best country songs of the 2010s. So that might explain why I’m not too harsh on this even though, sonically speaking, “Light It Up” brings nothing to the table. But considering the obnoxious headlock that bro country still has on country radio as a whole, it delights me to hear a single from a major country act that’s so wonderfully pathetic. There’s not that much focus on the woman (which is AMAZING). Instead, the lyrics focus on Bryan’s obsession and neurotic nature. “I wake up, I check it/I shower and I check it” is perhaps the most delightfully loserish lyric of the year. And, though he could definitely express more emotion, Bryan actually gives us some vulnerabilities here as he gives this three minute ode to sheer desperation.

Alfred Soto: If you’re lookin’ for country with drum machines and power riffs, Luke Bryan’s your dude. With “Light It Up,” the Georgian sinks his frightening teeth into a pro forma lust-to-love whose tinkling keyboards will reassure fans startled by Sam Hunt (Hunt is Carly Rae Jepsen by comparison).

Stephen Eisermann: If someone sent me this song after a fight thinking it would lead to reconciliation… they’d be wrong. Bland, barely country, country-pop mid-tempos will convince next to no one that you should come reconcile. 

Ian Mathers: Odds are, uh, better than average that I’ll find at least some (if not most) of this broheim’s other schtick tedious-to-reprehensible, but something here is working for me. Maybe it’s that I hadn’t guessed a country song in 2017 called “Light it Up” would be about “neurotically” (his word!) waiting for texts after a fight instead of self-aggrandizingly getting shitfaced, and that wrongfooted me enough to appreciate that the chorus feels (topic appropriately) burned out from the very first time Bryan hunger-dunger-dangs his way through it (quite appealingly, worse luck). Maybe it’s just that in my mid-30s thinking read receipts is the devil is more relatable to me than the kind of drinking I haven’t long enough that I only rarely miss it. Maybe that “Light it Up” just feels so dang earnest, in a way I’d think even old country gatekeepers harrumphing about writing a song about a dang cellular phone could appreciate.

Anthony Easton: For a performer who is neither entirely nostalgic (though his tribute album to the farmers very much was) nor entirely current (though the ambivalence about whether he was saying Conway or Kanye motioned a way forward) this track, though a little vocally inert, is the best example of technologically modulated desire I have heard. That it slots into the smoothness of Bryan’s usual performances, but evades his usual erotic obsession to work an unsettled, juxtaposed anxiety, is fascinating. Bryan is so good at singing about fucking, and listening to him sing about waiting to fuck is a strangely ingratiating pleasure. 

Rebecca A. Gowns: There’s a fascinating debate in the Youtube comment section of this single about whether or not this is country. The points of discussion branching off from that include: what is country music? If this doesn’t qualify as traditional country music, is this just pop country music? Does “pop country” music exist as a category, or is that a false label for what is simply the most recent iteration of country?  Does it need a steel guitar or a fiddle to qualify as country? Does it need deeper lyrics? Or does the mere presence of Luke Bryan on a track instantly qualify it as country music? I find this discussion infinitely more fascinating than the song itself, which is the sonic equivalent of a mall kiosk selling wood iPhone cases.

Katherine St Asaph: I figured we’d get a fusion of brooding nocturnal atmospherics and Lonely Island-esque parody of the Technology of Today (what if the ol’ lighters-up refrain was about screens, man?) I figured it’d be fucking weird. I did not figure our benefactor would be Luke Bryan. Brad Paisley, maybe. Extra points because brooding nocturnal atmospherics are always preferable to the slabs of overcooked steak that are most country radio choruses, or because you can just see Luke scrambling to disown this next album cycle, and the schadenfreude is delicious.

Jibril Yassin: It’s fascinating to know that two years since Luke Bryan discovered cell phones, he’s still fixated on what they do and their impact, much like the best Old Guys do. Writing a stormy ballad about millennial anxieties while grifting it to a clean stadium sound is befuddling but his commitment to getting the details right — the importance of texting at the right time! checking your phone too much is bad! also selfies! who taught Luke these things? — pushes this past parody status. 

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3 Responses to “Luke Bryan – Light It Up”

  1. Okay so though – unless I’m missing an intermediate stage (and/or some subtlety of the US’s frequently masochistic relationship with cell phones), both halves of “Every time I unlock my screen, I hope I see / one of those red-lipstick I-miss-you pictures” mean it’s a smartphone, right? Which makes “I always got it on me” odd, because that’s what you do with smartphones? Unless he’s got a smartphone, and data, but literally no other apps apart from the one that lets him contact his girl.

    Which is really hot, right?

    Also loving how he won’t let the guitar solo any time at all before returning to the main theme of please please text me.

  2. Not sure what you mean Andrew! Why is it odd? I understand “I always got it on me” as less like, he physically has it on him, in his pocket, like we all do, and more like, its presence weighs on him emotionally and mentally. Also something something country cowboy didn’t use his phone much more before this girl was on his mind.

  3. Would this be the first time I took a country song too literally? It would not :/