Chris Young - Neon
By: Matt Bjorke
Chris Young’s debut self-titled album sold well (thanks to his appearance on Nashville Star) but it failed to score a Top 40 hit from the album and then his record label did an unthinkable in today’s country market by green-lighting the recording of a second album that became The Man I Want To Be. The lead single “Voices” became Chris Young’s first Top 40 hit but stalled at 37. Then “Getting You Home (The Black Dress Song)” came out and radio finally relented and made Chris Young a star. The song hit #1 and the follow-up singles “The Man I Want To Be” and a re-release of “Voices” both hit #1 as well, setting up the stage for this album and lead single “Tomorrow.”
Not just a balladeer or ditty singer, Chris is once again working with James Stroud as the producer of Neon. For this album Chris continued to write with top-drawer writers like Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip, Ashley Gorley, Brett James, Luke Laird, Corey Batten, Kent Blazy and Frank J. Myers among others. There are three outside songs including the title track (by Shane McAnally, Trevor Rosen and Josh Osborne), “Save Water, Drink Beer” (Megan Connor, Ross Copperman, Jon Nite) and “When She’s On”(Monty Criswell and Shane Minor). With the lead single just hitting #1 the week of Neon’s release, the time is perfect for Chris Young to go take his career to a platinum artist level.
While “Tomorrow” is a great single (and ballad), there are better sounding ballads on the record, including “Neon,” which showcases Chris Young’s beautiful tenor vocal. A mid-tempo ballad, “Neon” is about the power a bar has on a man. Clever lyrics and a delicious traditionalist melody that recalls classic Strait songs and we have the making of a potential big hit. “Old Love Feels New” is a strong ballad, as is “Flashlight,” a song about the impact fathers have on the lives of their sons. “She’s Got This Thing About Her” is also a beautiful ballad but one’s love for the song will depend on the fact that the song features an ample amount of strings.
As for the up-tempo tunes, Chris really hits a home run on a pair of tunes. The album opening “I Can Take It From There” (Co-written with Akins and Hayslip) and “Save Water, Drink Beer.” Both songs are all but guaranteed to be singles released to radio with “I Can Take It From There” continuing to show that Akins and Hayslip have The Midas Touch when it comes to making hook-filled ear worms that manage to sound like we’ve heard it all before but still offer something different. “Save Water, Drink Beer” has such an obvious title it’s a wonder why the song wasn’t written and previously recorded. It’s a thumpin’ party anthem with clever lyrics and damn fun fiddle fills and honky tonkin’ piano and b3s audible in the mix and in the hands of a different singer this tune may have sounded like a shout-it-out type of song. Still, It feels like a massive hit and is fun to boot. “You” is another song with the classic, country soul groove to it that has helped “Honey Bee” become an instant classic for Blake Shelton and I have a feeling we could be hearing this one on the radio as the third or fourth single from Neon.
Chris Young may not quite be a superstar yet but from listening to Neon, I have no doubts that he’s well on his way to that status as there’s not a bad track on the record and quite a few of the tracks on Neon are simply fantastic.