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Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and Senior Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

Luke Bryan Amps up Country Music with ‘Kill The Lights’

{Image Credit: UMG Nashville}

There is no bigger name in the country music industry today than reigning Entertainer of the Year, Luke Bryan. The 39 year-old Georgia native celebrated his 13th No. 1 hit last week when the debut single “Kick The Dust Up” from his fifth-studio album, Kill The Lights topped country radio airplay charts.

Releasing last Friday, Kill The Lights trails 2013’s stellar record Crash My Party, which debuted at No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 Albums and Country Albums charts. Becoming the third best-selling album of 2013, Bryan’s fourth studio album sold nearly 2.5 million copies and produced six No. 1 singles—four of which sold at least 1 million copies and are now certified platinum. Since his debut in 2007 with I’ll Stay Me, Bryan has not only skyrocketed to the top of Nashville’s most successful performers by delivering No. 1 hits and filling stadiums year-after-year, but is recognized as one of the country music industry’s most respectable power players.

Throughout his rise to headliner status, Bryan was one of the more adventurous country artists to fuse a cliché dirt-road-country track with modern pop elements in hopes to reach larger audiences. While the combination of hip-hop, rock, pop, and electronic music to old-school country has triggered dislike and a “civil war” of sorts among critics, journalists, and fellow industry artists, the “bro-country” sub-genre that Bryan so spotlessly delivers is continuing to thrive thanks to its growing popularity with millennials. As music evolves in various genres over the years, it’s implied (and inevitable) that such a progression will move into the country category as well.

While Kill The Lights might allude to Bryan shying away from country music and diving headfirst into pop, there are strong, country-sounding elements present in this new record.

The first track, appropriately titled “Kick The Dust Up” is a simple song lyrically about turning a cornfield into a party, but fuses numerous genres to create a sound that embodies the style of Bryan. In many ways, it feels like a sequel to Crash My Party’s “That’s My Kind of Night.” The sleek title track, “Kill The Lights” follows and feels like an 80s track, reminiscent of beats treading along Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” There is an urgency in Bryan’s voice with this song—a maturity in those standard party songs he croons. It takes on new meaning, especially since he retired earlier this summer from the spring break party scene with his last record, singing now to, “live it up while we still can.”

{Image Credit: UMG Nashville}

After two thumping party tunes, Bryan opens up with the tender and sensual, “Strip It Down.” Playing the piano accompanied by a pleading chorus injecting a lover’s earnestness (“Let’s whisper, let’s don’t talk”), the track feels like an old 90s country love song (complete with lit-up candles). It’s sweet and could definitely find its way into one’s ‘knockin’ boots’ playlist.

Home Alone Tonight” featuring Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town is a mid-tempo ballad about two strangers meeting and trying to forget their heartbreak. It’s a fun and sexy track, letting both artists shine with alternating lines in verses that feel like a dance between the two and one of his most compelling bids into crossing over with genres. The bittersweet track is definitely one to look out for on the album.

Before heading into the halfway point of the album, Bryan breaks it down with “Razor Blade.” The fifth track feels contextually similar to “I See You,” his last single from Crash My Party. Tackling disappointment when seeing an old love, Bryan’s vocals on this particular song resonate with anyone who has been down that road with lost love. It’s certainly another track on the record to keep an ear out for with its cool evening beats.

Ironically, “Fast” is a mid-tempo track and fits perfectly into the midway point of the album. Serving more classic country appeal, this dreamy coming-of-age number about how time catches up with us is a golden tune. With lyrics like, “Sand through the glass sure falls in a hurry/All you keep trying to do is slow it down, soak it in,” it helps cool down the pulse of the record. Feeling almost as a reminder to Bryan and listeners, the trajectory of the rhythm and reflective nature heard in this track written by Bryan, Luke Laird, and Rodney Clawson makes it a true leader of the record.

Bryan’s back to impelling rhythms in his seventh track with “Move.” The dance track brings Bryan’s “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” to mind and will have your hips moving and shaking as he sings, “Boots on, stomp your feet/It’s like you’ve been waiting on me to/Move like you do.” The heavy beats with the guitar riffs are sexy and smooth, and very evocative of the intimate and smoky bar scene. It’s a flawlessly fun track and one to really swing along to.

Just Over” is a melancholy mid-tempo track applying Bryan’s smooth charming voice to the story of someone who can’t convince an ex to take him back. The alternative rock tune plays on pop sounds with the use of warm guitar sounds, while highlighting through the bass his romantic aggravations. “Love It Gone” follows and is the total opposite of the eighth track. Reminiscent of 90s country, it’s much more light and airy, flirtatious and incredibly confident with love. With lyrics like “Got a whole lot of love that I’ve been saving/And a bottle of wine that’s been waiting” against a smooth, summery beat, it makes for a romantic frolic in a countryside setting.

Way Way Back” is another strong contender in Bryan’s submission to crossing over into the pop and rock genre. The tenth track opens with new wave keyboards and offers a fresh sound to the country crooner’s catalog. With subtle dance beats and bubbly pop rhythms, Bryan glides towards his signature country drawl throughout the song with lyrics like, “Let the moon shine through/Kissing you like yesterday.”

{Image Credit: UMG Nashville}

Bryan slows it down with the ever-tender and heartwarming love song, “To The Moon and Back.” Though simple in its lyrics, it’s an immaculate love song, tremendous in its meaning and ideal for that exceptionally special moment. It will surely send chills down your spine and have you tear up. With a lonesome guitar and smooth vocals, what more could one ask for in a love song? A track like this highlights Bryan’s voice effortlessly, proving there is nothing he cannot sing.

If there is one thing that Bryan loves more than singing and performing to sold-out stadiums, it’s living (and loving) the country life by hunting and fishing every day. In his twelfth track, “Huntin’ Fishin’, and Lovin’ Every Day,” Bryan sings a laid-back anthem for the country boy at heart. The upbeat and mid-tempo track is rich and the perfect “prayer that a country boy prays.”

Bryan ends the album with “Scarecrows,” a graceful painting of rural life the way the country megastar sees it. The track is summery and poignant with reflective lyrics like, “Just like the scarecrows, even when the wind blows/We keep our boots and our roots in these cornrows.” It’s a feel-good, breezy number that strengthens Bryan’s nostalgia and showcases his velvety tones. The final track plays out as an enjoyable conclusion to this new chapter in Bryan’s latest record, dancing between old country beats and instruments, with a new age pop tempo and direction.

While the thirteen-track record produced by the dynamic father-son duo, Jeff and Jody Stevens can be found in-stores and online, there is a deluxe edition of Bryan’s album (exclusive to Target) that contains three new songs, titled “Corner Booth,” “Buddies,” and “Little Boys Grow Up and Dogs Get Old.”

Corner Booth” is an upbeat track, somewhat similar sounding to songs off the spring break collection. “Buddies” feels like another sequel, this time to Bryan’s track “Blood Brothers” off Crash My Party, though it has a much simpler feel and is a tad underwhelming. “Little Boys Grow Up and Dogs Get Old” feels like a lullaby in a honeyed and cutesy, tearjerker kind of fashion that borders Disney’s Old Yeller.

Since his debut in 2007, Bryan has enjoyed huge crossover success with the mainstream audience, going on to earning various honors and awards. Continuing that very trend with his super successful discography, Kill The Lights is a fun record that excels at being a model of modern country music. His latest effort might seem like it falls into the similar tone of past albums (particularly Crash My Party), but it has a more stripped down contemporary feel, with a strong sense of maturity and adaptability. Overall, Bryan is a fun-loving, congenial artist who ensures listeners have a good time with his music. It’s a well-intentioned record that plays to a longing we’ve all felt in our younger years, while effectively reminiscing through the romance of a residual but accelerative life.

With Luke Bryan’s reputation skyrocketing in the industry and fast becoming a household name among listeners and fans, Kill The Lights is destined to see even greater commercial success than its predecessors in the coming months.

Luke Bryan’s Kill The Lights is now available to buy in-stores and online, and streaming on Spotify. Keep up with the country sensation over at Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and his official website. Luke Bryan is currently on tour across the United States. For dates near you, check out his tour page.

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