Chris Young may have the best voice in country music, mainstream or otherwise. Not only that, but he’s also an evocative performer who can add a sense of authenticity to a record. Over the years, he has produced a number of fine recordings, including the likes of “Drinkin’ Me Lonely”, “Neon”, and “Lonely Eyes”, all of which encapsulate traditional country with a modern tinge. Unfortunately, that talent has been mostly lacking for two album eras now (i.e., his last two projects, A.M. and I’m Comin’ Over). If one was hoping for a return to his roots, they’ll be let down, as Young’s sixth studio album, Losing Sleep, is largely a retread of been-there-tried-that themes.
Young does impress vocally, as he always does. Of course, this only makes things more frustrating. The likes of “Leave Me Wanting More” or “Hangin’ On” or “Holiday” excel in vocals only, but all say, almost literally, the exact same thing. They paint a shallow, one-dimensional image of a relationship. We learn little about the characters, or really anything, as the plot rarely goes further than “a man and a woman spend intimate time together.” Nowhere is this more emphasized than lead single and title-track “Losing Sleep”, which comes off as phoned-in country/R&B radio filler. Almost every track follows this same formula, and while they all own a sense of melodic credibility, they also blend together to the point of being nearly indistinguishable.
It isn’t all bad, however. Pre-release track “Where I Go When I Drink” is a stellar neo-traditional gem that allows all of Young’s best qualities to shine. It’s well-written, effectively produced, and his voice is given room to have an impact on the listener. It’s a riveting effort that holds up against the best work of Young’s discography. “Blacked Out” is similarly strong, in it’s acoustic-based production and engaging structure and melody. It’s these efforts that helped break Young on to the scene, and he would be well off to further pursue these kind of recordings.
These two gems aren’t enough to save the album, however. While not an unlistenable effort at all, Losing Sleep is disheartening in that it blatantly panders to commercial interests. Chris Young doesn’t have to do this. His biggest hits of late have been “Think Of You” and “Sober Saturday Night,” which both boast captivating lyrical content and/or rich traditional production. In an era where authentic country is back on the rise (see: Luke Combs, Midland), Young has failed to rise above middling pop-country, and failed to separate himself from the pack creatively.