Chris Young’s team made an interesting choice releasing his third studio album toe-to-toe with what is the most anticipated album of the first half of the year, Blake Shelton’s “Red River Blue.” It was pretty obvious that with as hot as Shelton is that he’d take the number one spot instead of “Neon,” but Shelton’s album was moved up from the original plan of a Fall release. The former Nashville Star winner has a voice that makes him seem older than just 26. Currently on tour with Jason Aldean, Young’s career is ready to really start heating up.
The Tennessee native won Nashville Star in 2006; the same reality show program that Miranda Lambert lost in its first season. The first single from this album, “Tomorrow,” has become a big hit for the star who is finally starting to find his own style and come into his own on this album. In fact, it may very well end up being one of Young’s career defining hits. His vocals on the song, which is third on the album, might be his strongest single to date. If he had been put up against any other artists’ release he would have had a number one album.
Three albums in, and it looks like Young is finally comfortable with who he is as an artist. Every track on this album highlights his distinctive twang and deep voice. “Tomorrow” was the perfect lead-off single for the album, drawing attention to his voice and singing style. In his past two releases, Young experimented with his image and wasn’t sure how to make himself stand-out from all the other male solo artists occupying the charts. He never really had a sound of his own. Until “Neon” anyway. While his past releases weren’t terrible, they were quite mediocre compared to this effort. Co-writing seven of the tracks on this album may have gone a long way to help him find his own identity in what he sings.
The first track on the album is “I Can Take It From There.” The song, co-written by Young, Rhett Atkins and Ben Hayslip, is pretty likely to be the next single from “Neon.” The cute up-tempo shows off his rich very-country voice. The flirty little song is a strong way to kick off the album, and will easily fit into playlists with today’s country radio stations.
“Tomorrow” is the first single off of his album and has the potential to be his fourth consecutive number one. He’s raised the bar with himself with this release, a stand-out track on radio right now. It’s no wonder why it’s the fastest-rising single of his career, the quality of this release is just so much stronger than his last few singles. You can tell that he actually feels what he’s singing in the ballad, and it goes a long way in the enjoyment of the single.
Another stand-out track is the next one, “Save Water, Drink Beer.” A fun little drinking song, it has single potential. In this song, Young playfully admits his love for the alcoholic beverage, which is sure to be another drinking anthem on radio. This will be a great song live, and is sure to be a fan favorite in his concerts. The energy in this song doesn’t take away anything from Young’s vocals, who are just as great here and not overproduced in the slightest. It’s the perfect contrast to the slower, but still pretty, ballads on the album. Young is actually selling shirts with the song’s title on them online in his official store.
Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne and Trevor Rosen wrote the title track for the album. “Neon” is one of the stronger tracks on the album, although I’m not sure if it’s a radio-ready track. It does it’s job perfectly though: to showcase Young’s unique, strong, and standout voice that keeps him apart from other male singers out right now. The song is a mix of honky tonk with contemporary country, and even though there are stronger choices for singles on the album, it could still survive fine on its own if released.
“Old Love Feels New” is the first romantic tune of the album. In this song, Young sings about how no matter how long you’ve been in a relationship with someone you love, you always find something new to love them for and fall in love with them over. It’s a song about true love, about finding your soul mate and how you know when you’ve found your true love.
“Flashlight” is about the advice his father has given him and how he doesn’t think his dad realizes what he’s taught him and how much it has effected him today. If Young is looking to release another single that touches people like “Tomorrow,” this would be the number one choice from his strong album. Once again, he isn’t the flashiest singer on this song, but that’s what makes the track so likeable: that Young doesn’t try to impress anyone with crazy vocals, but with his quiet confidence. It’s a pretty song about a father-son relationship that is often overlooked on country radio today which has its share and then some of mother-daughter love stories.
The closing track, “She’s Got This Thing About Her,” opens with just Young’s vocals and a piano. It was a perfect way to end the album, with his improved vocals and new-found sense of confidence in his singing ability. The beautiful ballad brings in a string section after the first chorus. Once again, it highlights the twang and country voice he has and how strong it’s become since his 2006 Nashville Star win.
Overall, this album is Young’s strongest to date. His rich, perfectly twang-ed vocals are showcased consistently through every track. While he may have been helped by one or two uptempo tracks, he’s still got a great album behind him. Young fans will not be disappointed, and people looking for an album with good lyrics and strong vocals may want to look into getting “Neon.” The only thing holding it back is that there’s only really one high energy track on the album with “Save Water, Drink Beer.” His third studio album definitely would have benefited with another track similar to that one. “Neon” is still a very solid effort from Young, who would have had, without a doubt, a debut at number one if it wasn’t for the red-hot Blake Shelton.
“Neon” came out earlier this week on July 12th. He’s currently on tour supporting Jason Aldean.
RATING: 8 out of 10
DOWNLOAD: Tomorrow, Save Water Drink Beer, Flashlight, Old Love Feels New.