Chris Young has worked his way up from a Nashville Star winner to one of country music’s brightest stars by releasing songs that stick true to his traditional roots yet are just mainstream enough to be played on today’s country radio. With “Tomorrow” becoming his fastest rising and career defining single, Young released his third album with RCA Records titled Neon.
When interviewed about Neon Chris Young was often found describing an album that pushed the limits of what he’s known for doing. He talked about how this album found him experimenting with new genres like R&B, soul, and a bit of pop that he would fuse together with his traditional style of country. It seemed like this album would be more experimentation and less “Chris Young.” Thankfully he must have been exaggerating how much experimenting would be performed because Neon is country to its core.
The album has all the makings of a country album. With songs about drinking (“Save Water, Drink Beer”), love (“You”), heartache (“Tomorrow”), and plenty of name dropping (Conway Twitty, Johnny Lee, Haggard), this album is country at its finest.
The 10 song set opens with the steel filled, uptempo ditty “I Can Take It From There.” The song’s subject matter about ignoring the party scene in order to stay home for a romantic night brings up comparisons to Chris’ first number one single, “Gettin’ You Home.” “Grab a couple glasses and a bottle of wine…baby while you’re at it just let down your hair and I can take it from there,” sings Young as he instructs his significant other what to do in order to set the mood.
The album’s opener is the first of seven songs Chris helped write which is the most he’s written for a single album. Among the seven is the album’s lead single, “Tomorrow,” which finds the narrator dealing with the struggles of ending a relationship he knows isn’t going to work but is having a tough time executing the breakup and instead putting it off until “tomorrow” so he can give in to her one last time. The song has struck a chord with listeners who have made it one of Young’s most successful singles thus far in his career.
“Tomorrow” is definitely one of the album’s many highlights but Neon’s best song is its title track. “Neon,” written by Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Trevor Rosen, is a country ballad that describes neon as a color. When dumbed down the song sounds like a dud but in reality it’s a uniquely written song about a bar. “The sky in Cheyenne, Wyoming is just about as blue as it gets, and if you ain’t seen a Santa Fe sunset, you ain’t seen red…I’ve seen it all from the orange of fall…but my favorite color is neon.” The opening lines do an incredible job describing the colors of blue, red, and orange as well as setting up the chorus:
…neon the light they always leave on
A weekend on the rocks
An old school jukebox
With a little Johnny Lee on
It’s the buzz I love to be on
Put a double on your troubles
The light at this end of the tunnel is neon
The song’s production is also one of the strongest on an album that is produced to near perfection. “Neon” is filled with loads of beautiful steel guitar, an incredible piano riff, a light electric guitar line, and the slight humming of a fiddle which blend together to make a phenomenal traditional country song.
It’s extremely difficult to release an album that, in my opinion, has no flaws and Neon is no exception as it includes its fair share of “fillers.” Starting with the rowdy “Save Water, Drink Beer,” a song about a city that is experiencing a bit of a dry spell, it’s one of those songs that is rather mediocre in writing and subject matter. “It ain’t rained in four months…that old well is plumb dry, the city put a limit on the water you can buy, we don’t mind, cause ‘round here we save water and drink beer.” Just from the few opening lines of the song you pretty much get the gist of how the rest of the song is going to play out.
The other “filler” tune is the sentimental ballad, “Flashlight.” This song finds the narrator recalling memories he and his father shared while working on the “old Chevrolet” in the garage. Every Saturday they’d find themselves “huddled underneath that hood tinkering around” where his father would share stories and life’s lessons with his son. The son confesses during the chorus, “I sure did learn a lot just holding the flashlight.” The song is incredibly cheesy, but it comes as no surprise to see a song about a flashlight show up on a Chris Young album considering he included a song titled “The Dashboard” on his previous album, The Man I Want to Be.
Though the album isn’t lyrically perfect, it is pretty darn close when it comes to production. Nearly every song is filled with plenty of traditional country sounds like the incredible fiddle and steel guitar. Producer James Stroud does a near flawless job in allowing Young’s traditional roots to shine through all the while keeping the vocal performances and lyrics at the forefront of every song. Stroud and Young even take a risk by using a pop flavored production of strings and piano on the album’s closer, “She’s Got This Thing About Her.”
Vocally the Tennessee baritone has never sounded better. From the rowdy performances delivered on “Save Water, Drink Beer” to the emotional, heartbreaking delivery on songs like “Tomorrow” and “Old Love Feels New,” to the sexy, soulful performances he turns in on “You” and “Lost,” the singer proves that he can sing just about anything and make it sound painfully brilliant.
There isn’t a doubt in my mind that this talented young heartthrob (he was name Country Weekly’s Hottest Bachelor this year) is going to be the next country superstar. Neon is a superb set of 10 songs that must be included in any country lover’s album collection.