“We should probably go to work / I mean everybody does / Instead of sittin’ out here in the middle of nowhere / Working on a pretty good buzz”—Billy Currington, “Bad Day of Fishin’”
Billy Currington’s big hits off his last album were a treatise, “That’s How Country Boys Roll”, filled with stock representations of the masculine country life, and a somewhat clever, “The Gambler”-esque yarn where an old man, a millionaire in secret, leaves his money to the young guy he shared a beer with, to prove his theory that “People Are Crazy”. Both songs are cutesy, while playing up the beer-drinking macho-man angle. The first single off his new album Enjoy Yourself, “Pretty Good at Drinking Beer”, takes those qualities as its basis, within a pretty loose framework, missing the fact that storytelling was the most appealing aspect of “People Are Crazy”. In this song, he’s not good at housework, car work, or much of anything, except he’s “Pretty Good at Drinking Beer”.
That humorous projection of everyone’s inclination to do nothing that’s not fun is one of the main modes Currington is in throughout Enjoy Yourself. The opening track “All Day Long” makes slackerdom into a come-on: “Dance for a while / Lay and be lazy.” Essentially, let’s do nothing during the day, so we can make love all night long. “Like My Dog” tries to be cute about men not understanding women: “When I leave the seat up / He don’t think that it’s rude / I want you to love me like my dog does, baby.” In other words, women should be less emotional, have fewer opinions, love him without any questions, and, um, something about petting. That song and “Bad Day of Fishin’” are musical representations of t-shirts or plaques people hang in their basements. They are also front-porch song-jokes of the sort that other artists might tack onto the end of an album, as “bonus tracks”, just for kicks. You can figure out from the title where “Bad Day of Fishin’” is headed: yep, “A bad day of fishing / Beats a good day of anything else.”
Currington’s other mode is straight-up ballad singer, playing the heartthrob singing love songs. Those two modes are not mutually exclusive. In the ballads, there still is an emphasis on rest and relaxation, like on “Let Me Down Easy”, which has the would-be lovers standing on the beach, setting up terms and making promises. On another song, Currington’s idea of a “Perfect Day” with his lover involves a day at the beach, a quiet trip out in a sailboat.
The love ballads do lend the album an interesting other story, though. “Perfect Day” is really a dream, from the point of view of people living busy lives in the city, wanting to escape “the ratrace”. “Until You” has a similar backdrop. He’s up late at night, when the hectic city has finally quieted down. He’s watching her sleep peacefully, with love, but also hoping that their lives can have some of that calmness. So perhaps this whole relaxation obsession is more about the album being a collection of hopes and dreams, a wish for a simpler life, where emotions aren’t complicated and life isn’t busy. Take the album’s overall theme, “Enjoy Yourself”, then, as a hope for humanity, a vision of the world where everyone’s just hanging out near the water, drinking and dancing and loving each other. “Come on in, the water’s fine.”
The shame in all of this is how generic the vision is. On a songwriting level, Currington has dropped any real storytelling emphasis or attention to specific details. On the whole, it seems like he’s betting on his easygoing persona to win over audiences and keep him at the top of the charts. He hopes that making listeners smile or think, “Yeah, it would be cool to be on a beach drinking beer right now,” is good enough to get all over the radio. He’s probably right.
Currington’s ace in the hole, though, is “Love Done Gone”, sure to be a hit. It’s the most pop song here, with “ba ba ba” sing-along backing vocals and a bright horn section echoing the tune. It also might be the most extreme manifestation of his don’t worry/be happy impulses. It takes the old “love’s gone away” country-music chestnut and puts an upbeat face of nonchalance on it. “Sometimes we’ve gotta just go with the flow,” he tells his newly brokenhearted now-ex, and face the fact that “love done gone” and there’s nothing they could have done to stop it. You win some, you lose some, isn’t the most convincing way to break up with someone. In the right light, this attitude sounds like a rather slimy justification for moving on to the next girl. “Love just blows away like the wind, baby, what can you do?,” essentially. Or to use his specific similes, love melts like snow or just disappears, like coins in a slot machine. It’s an age-old dirtbag move, hiding behind sunshine, flowers, and a fantastic country pop hook. Has the “summer of love” returned?