Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Jake Owen – I Was Jack (You Were Diane)

Baby, you ain’t missing nothing…


Jonathan Bradley: A recording that takes John Mellencamp’s immortal twang-and-snap guitar riff and reconfigures its themes of nostalgic Americana and fading romance into a new and original work that — through the intertextual power of memory, canny production updates, and classic FM radio’s ability to make even old sounds eternally new — demands acclaim as the definitive version of this composition. But enough about Jessica Simpson’s “I Think I’m in Love With You.”

Alfred Soto: “Better be at least a quarter as decent as Jessica Simpson’s interpolation,” I mumbled when I hit play. Jake Owen, who in a deal with Yahweh cut his locks in exchange for a Thomas Rhett talk-sing, pretends he was old enough to have listened to John Coog’s perennial as a kid. The despair in “Jack and Diane,” which sounded secondhand and teenage-cynical in 1982, is anathema to Owen. Wonder how the girl who Jake hopes stays sixteen would respond to his fantasies.

Thomas Inskeep: Well, this is certainly in my wheelhouse: not only does Owen reference John Mellencamp’s classic ’82 #1 in both title and lyrics, but he actually interpolates “Jack and Diane” to the extent that Mellencamp gets a co-writing credit. (His influence on the country music genre as it is right now is vast — where’s his tribute album?) The vocal on the verses is sly and knowing; I love the register Owen talk/sings in here. He kinda stadium-belts the chorus, and that works, too. Most importantly, all of the references to “Jack and Diane,” both lyrically and musically, get it right. “You’re holdin’ on to 16 as long as you can, every time that it comes on,” Owen says, and he’s never been more right. At 36, Owen’s old enough now to understand yearning for the past, and that’s what inhabits “Jack and Diane” more than anything. That’s why it was a hit 36 years ago. And that’s precisely why this is gonna be a smash in 2018.

Katie Gill: Oh noooo. Oh noooo. Bro country boring white boy rap over a badly modernized Mellencamp sound? I’ve said this before, but if you’re going to hang your entire song on another song, it needs to a: be as good as the previous song or b: reference the song in a smart and inventive way. This is like Jake Owen tried to write down the lyrics of “Jack and Diane,” only remembered about a fourth of them, and then decided to write a song about the fourth he remembered.

Hannah Jocelyn: Last year an Owl City song came out that sounds suspiciously similar to this song, and that’s never how you want a blurb of your song to start. I’ve always had a pet peeve with the original “Jack and Diane”, guilty of a great opening leading into a mediocre verse (fellow classic rock staple “Life’s Been Good” has the same issue), so points for making that intro the chorus. Except the banjo crowds the actual thing the song’s trying to interpolate! I’m not sure whether I’m glad they didn’t attempt the drum fill or the “let it rock/let it roll” section.

Edward Okulicz: Remember when people said sampling was stealing, was uncreative, was soulless? They were wrong, and sampling a great sounding song like “Jack and Diane” is definitely something one should do. Re-recording it without the elastic shuddering underpinning the riff  — the production choice that made the song jump with force out of speakers — is the very definition of copying while losing the essential soul of the source. And the song on top is boring and sucks, though I obviously still would, Jakey.

William John: It’s not the exhumation of the familiar riff that causes problems here, nor is it the well-worn trope of grafting parable onto one’s personal circumstances. It’s the spiritless vocals in the verses; any momentum, or hope to evoke nostalgia, is drained away by Owen’s apathetic drone.

Katherine St Asaph: An aspiring country singer guest-hosts SNL in a skit making fun of country’s rap dilettante phase, where the joke is that he sounds like Lou Reed. Then the band comes out and they bang out an OK country chorus. Management insists on John Mellencamp’s involvement, and no one is quite sure why.

John Seroff: Thanks for your time; please leave your headshot in the pile by the door, and we’ll call if there’s an opening.

Reader average: [7] (1 vote)

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4 Responses to “Jake Owen – I Was Jack (You Were Diane)”

  1. The header photo… Joshua’s intro… Jonathan’s blurb… folks, this is an all-timer

    also it’s wild that even with a [10] this couldn’t break 4

  2. I just KNEW I was gonna be the outlier here.

  3. I will not stand for this Owl City slander they were pretty good at one point

  4. I’m not (necessarily) slandering Owl City – I’m slandering that particular song