A plant’s roots remain firm in the ground and develop overtime as it’s nurtured. They don’t disconnect and dance away to other types of life growing around them, nor do they begin developing a second kind of crop. Keeping connected to and cognizant of our roots as individuals is what sets us apart from others and if we forget our roots or intertwine them with other plants, our appearance and reputation changes.
Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, the artists of Florida Georgia Line, planted their seed in 2012 with their incredible release of “Cruise” in Here’s to the Good Times. Not only did it water their seeds, it quickly blossomed their plants into one with roots firm in the country soil. Specifically though, the album as a whole remained country with sprinkles of rock and pop. This again, is why in the genres for their music, it reads “country”. Other albums such as Anything Like Me or Anything Goes also exhibit fertilized elements of pop, rock, and a touch of hip-hop, but it was always country (their roots).
With their latest release, Dig Your Roots, it is quite apparent that FGL has become another country group to sell out to pop. The music in this album is generally original and contains rhythmic runs, but its lyricism and core aren’t intact with its roots. “Dig Your Roots”, the second song off the album, is loaded with buds blossoming with pop. FGL’s change of tone in the chorus attempts to conceal this with a methodical key change, but the opening of the song gives it away with its pop melody. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong or off-putting about the title track, but for hardcore country lovers, this song is as bitter as pulling an apple off the tree before it’s ripe. “Lifer” is another example of Hubbard and Kelley popping too much pop into a country song. As much as the banjos and slow drums try to conceal the fruit of pop music, they can’t. Breathy harmonies with love song styled verses branch out from the country roots and deliver an entirely new genre from country: pop.
In addition to selling out to pop, featured artists on Dig Your Roots also helped tangle country’s roots with other genres. Ziggy Marley and the duo intertwined Jamaican roots with their trio “Life is a Honeymoon”. Bongo drums, a walking bass, and a calypso environment have little in common with a country album. This style also is not a strong complement to the vocals of FGL, as its overall style and rhythm grow far from Hubbard and Kelley’s roots. “May We All” is another example of a featured artist tweaking the elements of FGL. Tim McGraw (characteristically speaking) tends to have songs on the slower end of the tempo spectrum, which impacted this trio as well. Despite the presence of country being there for the most part, the genre was nowhere near as vibrant as it is with Florida Georgia Line’s other albums. Furthermore, the addition of a southern rock guitar vamping in the interludes of this piece may continue to frustrate country fans with an element that sticks out like a rotting tomato. “God, Your Mama, And Me” is the final production with a featured artist in Dig Your Roots. The Backstreet Boys completely tied their dance-pop and background falsetto harmonies into FGL’s country album. Drumming in this piece sounds similar to “I Want It That Way” and the supporting vocals are also familiar to “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”. As with the rest of the album, these three songs aren’t bad or a “must skip”, they just have too many conflicting elements for a country lover to reminisce in.
Other than leaning towards the gospel section, “H.O.L.Y.” is a fantastic representation of the talent that FGL has. The acoustic guitars and traditional timing of the drums develop a feeling of pure beauty and peace. Their message “You’re holy, holy, holy, holy/I’m high on loving you, high on loving you” is gifted with love (a message in country’s roots). Descriptions in this message oozes appreciation and glorification for a woman and Hubbard & Kelley’s vocals are in a fantastic spot in their registers. “Wish You Were On It” is a pure country piece that keeps FGL’s roots intact. Only country fruit grow on this song and their flavors are crisp with every beat of the drum, juicy with the key changing vocals, and delicious overall. If Florida Georgia Line fixed a large portion of his album to sound like “Wish You Were On It”, there wouldn’t be a large problem with their album. To improve upon a 6, they should incorporate more themes than soul love, have more variation of country rhythms, and should remain in its roots. By overplanting pop and R&B, Huggard and Kelley are slowly diminishing their core and will soon become another band like Dan + Shay or The Red Hot Chili Peppers to sell out to the wrong genre.
Country I Big Machine Label Group