Different Man, by Kane Brown
Thus far I have been largely familiar with the successful career of Kane Brown as a singles artist, and it must be admitted that he has turned in some excellent singles that demonstrate he is not only successful as a country act but also has some pop ambitions with some of his material, which has ended up on the Year-End Billboard lists several times. The first two successful singles from this album–which at seventeen songs and nearly an hour of material, is a pretty sprawling one–show Kane Brown as being interested in shoring up his country support with the searing and sadly all-too-relatable “One Mississippi,” one of my favorite hit songs of the year so far, and the cheery if a bit cheesy “Like I Love Country Music,” which received a quick push to #1 and looks to be a contender for the bottom ten of the Year End list for the Billboard Hot 100 as a whole along with the previous single. Does the album as a whole hold up though? Let’s see.
“Bury Me In Georgia” opens with bells, fiddles, and a swaggering attitude that points to Kane Brown’s examination of wanting to be buried where his roots are, in North Georgia just south of the state line, a rather sobering reflection on mortality. “Different Man,” with Blake Shelton, reflects on the difference between feeling called to be a musician rather than being a blue collar, and what sort of differences are entailed in making that choice. “Like I Love Country Music” shifts the tone with a happier song that still manages to reflect in its own way on the state of country music and Kane’s feelings about it. “Go Around” opens with a lovely fiddle solo and lyrics about problem drinking and a hesitant relationship where the girl has a lot of baggage. “Grand” has some moody trap production and lyrics that reflect gloomily on the showbiz life and the relationship one has with one’s fans and one’s close friends and family as well as drinking. “See You Like I Do” offers upbeat boyfriend country about seeing a woman as beautiful who struggles to see the beauty in herself. “Thank God,” featuring Katelyn Brown, shows Kane Brown appreciating his partner for her love and forgiving attitude towards him, and seems like an obvious potential future single. “Leave You Alone” provides a beautiful (on another obvious potential boyfriend country single) reflection on lasting love that seems destined to be a prom or wedding song. “Riot” brings back the swagger and the threat of violence and a muscular rock guitar solo that the album began with. “One Mississippi” then follows with a reflection of an on-again, off-again relationship full of problem drinking and unfortunate behavior, with an undercurrent of deep melancholy. “Drunk Or Dreaming” offers a vibey confusion about the difference between hoping for the start of a loving relationship at a bar or the fuzzy thinking that results from drinking too much. “Losing You” offers a moving ballad about the narrator’s fear of losing his partner, despite not being afraid of a lot of other things. “Whiskey Sour” offers a gloomy story song about what could have been a marriage relationship that ends in disaster and in, perhaps predictably, more problem drinking. “Pop’s Last Name” shows Kane Brown reflecting on the life lessons taught by his father and his gratitude for his father’s legacy. “Devil Don’t Even Bother” opens with a fiddle and a tale about a brutal maneater who delights in causing heartbreak. “Nothing I’d Change” then reflects on the joys of fatherhood and contentment in love and family. The album then closes with “Dear Georgia,” an ode to his background and travels that points to his continued appreciation for his home.
This album is a remarkable one, opening and closing with reflections on the singer’s home state of Georgia and filled with mostly serious songs about problem drinking and a consistent metatextual tendency that these songs have in reflecting about the way that life can be described by country songs as well as having the artist reflect on the complexities of his life as a musician. The album is not only complex–in its portrayal of women, in the various styles of music explored–but it also makes that complexity part of the way that the album is constructed and part of the overall theme. How is Kane Brown a different man? He appears not only interested in showing the tension that exists between artists being honest about their lives and feelings and their populist goals in appealing to blue collar listeners, but also the tension between the different artistic choices a contemporary country musician has to make who sits at the intersection of neo-traditional country music, popular appeal with a hint of trap rap, and boyfriend country, showing the authenticity of an artist’s feelings and the strain that results from the complexity of contemporary life. A cohesive tone of gratitude and reflectiveness fills the album, and it shows Kane Brown to be a complex man, but a relatable one all the same.