Country music is a genre largely rooted in feel-good melodies and guitar riffs that leaves listeners with the strong, yet sometimes undesirable, urge to go driving down a two-lane back road.
On his 11th studio album, Love and War, Brad Paisley attempts to shift his style away from twangy country vibes, beer and trucks to create an album that provides space for him to comment on the perils of the internet and treatment of U.S. veterans.
The new album, his follow-up to 2014’s Moonshine in the Trunk, also sees Paisley collaborating with a wider variety of artists, including rock legend Mick Jagger and R&B superstar Timbaland.
Paisley also collaborates with John Fogerty, the former lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival — a successful solo artist in his own right — on the title track “Love and War,” which chastises American treatment of veterans.
For Fogerty, this is nothing new, as he has previously addressed the topic of war on songs such as “Fortunate Son” and “Deja Vu (All Over Again)” during his career as a performer.
On “Love and War,” Paisley and Fogerty go back and forth singing, “They send you off to die for us/ forget about you when you’re done,” painting the all-too-real picture of veterans who come home and are left out on the streets.
Love and War also includes the track “Selfie#Theinternetisforever,” a social commentary on our ability to turn everything into a selfie opportunity — even our grandmother’s funeral, as Paisley points out.
On the song, Paisley pushes the idea that “the internet is forever” — something you probably realized a long time ago when those drunk pictures of you started circulating and then didn’t stop — by singing “you oughta be ashamed.”
While the social commentary on Love and War is out of the norm for today’s pop-infused country, the biggest change for Paisley is the inclusion of Timbaland.
As an artist who typically stays true to country music’s roots, Paisley’s attempt to merge genres is a welcome one. However, unlike his country counterparts Florida Georgia Line, Paisley’s trial falls flat.
The two Timbaland-featuring songs, “Grey Goose Chase” and “Solar Power Girl,” are both severely lacking Timbaland’s vocals. The songs do, however, boast improved production (courtesy of Timbaland) and serious guitar riffs.
While the album does contain its fair share of social commentary, there are also the typical feel-good country songs that Paisley is known for, such as “Today” and the road trip-ready “Drive of Shame” with Mick Jagger.
Love and War shows Paisley shifting away from his typical style of music — something country music fans should be excited for — but not to an extent that really provides insight as to what will come next for the country superstar.
Although it has good songs, the album leaves listeners wanting more from Paisley — an artist who has shown the ability to create music that doesn’t adhere to norms, but chooses to keep the same repetitive sounds in his music.