Jason Aldean & the Problem With Other People's Songs"/>
Make no mistake about it: Jason Aldean is the most talented male vocalist in mainstream country music. His 2010 album, My Kinda Party, proved so overwhelmingly popular that its tracks--and videos, often filmed in airplane hangars--charted for well over a year, and did so without sacrificing quality.
James Minchin III
The Macon, Georgia native has a new record out called Night Train, which is virtually guaranteed to be a runaway commercial success. Aldean paid his dues on the southern club circuit, is the real deal live, and rates among Nashville's most likeable artists. But unlike My Kinda Party, which boasted but one hokey cut (the title track), Night Train is a hit-or-miss album, and represents a substantial step back artistically--probably because Aldean is more locomotive than engineer these days.
Before he achieved widespread popularity, Aldean occasionally wrote his own songs. But he put down the pen for 2009's Wide Open, a decent record that stands up to Night Train. At this point, he became a curator of Nashville lyricists, and his gallery was packed with masterworks on the album after that.
Yet even My Kinda Party seemed a patchwork of well-crafted country cliches, and provided little insight into what genuinely makes Aldean tick. A deeply personal track like "Texas Was You," for instance, is rendered dubious because it didn't actually happen to Aldean. Continuing this narrative, Night Train seems like the inferior, undercooked sequel that's hurried to market in hopes of capitalizing on the original's popularity.
If Night Train is the deal Aldean must make to gain the creative clearance to tell his own stories, it's an acceptable transaction. But if he continues down that dirt road, he risks redundancy, and an artist of Aldean's caliber should know better than to let others chart his course.