Will Adams: Sounds like my kind of house party: not too crazy (maximum twenty people… guess who’s a homebody!), the music simple and genre-broad enough for anyone to enjoy, turned up just loud enough to rouse up the whole chorus if you want.
Maxwell Cavaseno: Sam Hunt is the culmination. He is the one million comparisons of rap & country, both positive and negative, finally come into human flesh. Sam Hunt is currently copping weed from some dude in his hometown, asking if they’ve heard 56 Nights (his dealer is still stuck on that J. Cole). He strongly opposed his fraternity putting up a confederate flag in the pool room, and he has an awkward freestyle video somewhere due to get leaked in the next three years. All of this is conjecture, but it is unmistakable the ease that Sam Hunt holds in treating country as a vehicle, not as a definition or a home. This kid has a future outside of his genre sure enough, and you can see it leaking out of him. It’s gonna be very interesting to see if he holds it back or unleashes for the world to react.
Anthony Easton: This is doing less well than his first two singles, but I think I like it the most. It’s his voice, which positions an absurd proposition into a reasonable request. The smooth voice and the R&B-lite production move this into a suburban seduction, but most of the points reflect how efficient that seduction is. Also, best chorus of the year.
Megan Harrington: It’s important to remember that, as much as Sam Hunt looks like a stylish gym rat, as much as his lyrics favor Drake’s paradigm of romantic sadness and unabashed lust, as much as his production works to incorporate hip hop and R&B — he’s not rebelling against country music or its strictures. In a post Taylor Swift world it’s easy to see defectors everywhere, but artists honored at the CMAs are country artists, no matter their eclectic approach or Billboard success. So, “House Party” has some turntable scratching which is historically out of place in Nashville — much like cellphones and the internet, it’s ridiculous to imagine that only the coasts have experienced the rise of rap as a pop phenomenon. My point is and remains, what quantifies country music is the desire to document small, human moments. Quiet nights that get loud. Small towns that suffocate and nourish equally. The banality of love. “House Party” is country even if you like it.
Alfred Soto: Are those record scratches? Somebody’s been listening to “MMMBop,” not hip-hop, probably co-producer Shane McAnally. Sung with confidence — this is the man behind “Take Your Time,” a country tune with spoken word passages that remains one of the year’s oddest pleasures.
Thomas Inskeep: Apart from some strummy-ness, this could practically be an Selena Gomez single — it’s even got faux-scratching. I guess what non-country fans (like, oh, The New Yorker) find appealling in Hunt is that he’s not “restrained” by the typical conventions of country. My problem with him is that he’s barely country at all; this might as well be mid-level Top 40, which also helps explain why he’s crossing over so handily.
Patrick St. Michel: Those record scratches sound so goofy, like someone trying to sneak “trill” into every conversation. But that silliness is probably the point, right? This is a song built around one joke turned incredibly sweet. Sam Hunt is silly, working in a roof-is-on-fire reference as he talks about having a “house party,” yet still comes out the other side looking like a guy who just really wants to spend time with someone. He took melodic cues from that Owl City song with Carly Rae Jepsen and somehow made it work. Dude is a loveable cornball here.
David Sheffieck: The scratching is just icing on the corny cake, but the entirety of “House Party” is a delight: silly and romantic fluff, the kind of thing you wish you’d gotten an invitation to until you realize the song’s been welcoming you in the door all along.
Leela Grace: I don’t want to leave my house either. I talk a lot about Sam Hunt and mostly what I say (yell) is “WE’RE GETTING MARRIED” but I’m pretty sure that’s the goal.
Brad Shoup: As befits a gender-flipped “Birthday,” Hunt offers kindness without expectation, generosity without condescension. Its shit-eating gears grind crazy fast, it’s a singalong rush, and it’s my favorite single — or at least the one that sounds closest to a classic — so far this year.
Katherine St Asaph: “Sneakernight” by someone who wishes he was more Tom Petty but knows he’s more One Direction. But not enough; One Direction — or bro-country, if you wanna crack open those worms — would know what to do with a chorus.
Josh Langhoff: Every Sam Hunt single makes me sadder for sleeping on his debut last year, because Hunt is clearly the LFO of our day. (That’s Lyte Funky Ones, their 1999 debut immeasurably more vital than those frowny Warp guys I’ve never heard.) “House Party” matches the polyrhythmic guitar snap of LFO’s “West Side Story,” and while Hunt doesn’t make Shakespeare puns or find endless rhymes for “Capulet,” LFO’s musical invention had nothing on this dawg of the frathouse of Montevallo. I mean — crazy eyed drunken me forcing you into a corner here, somewhere between beer pong and Risk tournament — have we fully grasped this song’s significance? Hunt’s gonna go top 10 country singing a full chorus over nothing but drums and scratching. He’s doing it with a nonchalance that Big & Rich, smashing away at genres, never managed; he’s singing with less effort and more authority than the LFO guys. Like its subject, “House Party” innovates without fuss and delivers pure pleasure.