Jason Aldean released his newest studio album, Old Boots, New Dirt on Tuesday. The album, which features fifteen tracks including the smash hit “Burnin’ It Down” and current single “Sweet Little Somethin” offers classic Aldean tracks from start to finish. Diehard fans will argue that Aldean continues to progress as an artist, and doubters will knock the similar sound of many of the tracks. However, when the final chord fades out there’s no debate that Aldean has once again released a commercially successful album.
Jason Aldean has twelve number one hits to his credit and few other top five hits. He was recently named the best selling digital artist in country music history. There’s no question that he sells records and singles like none other, but what about the music. Even the biggest Aldean fans are beginning to notice a sense of complacency. Live shows begin to feel like concert movies as Aldean moves from track to track rarely letting the moment or the crowd affect his demeanor. Vocally he continues to improve, but musically there’s no progression.
The true mark of a good artist is the ability to adapt on their own. Fans who note “Burnin’ It Down” as a sign of Aldean changing with the times should consider who wrote the song; Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly of Florida Georgia Line. It’s not Aldean changing the drum beat into something you’d hear on a pop station rather his band and producers. The current single, “Sweet Little Somethin” offers no such progression. It’s a song that you could have put on either of his previous albums with ease. Sure, his vocals may be marginally stronger, but again, musically there’s nothing new.
Nothing new seems to be exactly what Aldean is comfortable doing, or at least what his management feels is best. Perhaps, that’s because Aldean is Broken Bow Records’ cash cow. Unlike other labels Bow relies heavily on Aldean for their income. Music is still a business and there’s no better artist from a commercial standpoint. Songs like “Two Night Town” and “Tonight Looks Good on You” give the fans what they want and continue to sell. There’s no boundary pushing present here the way that Eric Church did on The Outsiders or Kenny Chesney did on his previous album Life on a Rock. Church may be the most progressive artist in the industry, but even Chesney stepped outside his comfort zone for an album.
Aldean has enough hits to do just that. Despite the occassional criticism about his live show there’s really no debate that he doesn’t need new music from a touring standpoint. He has successfully compiled a collection of hits that can be played for as long as he wants. So on this sixth album, there was an expectation that he would push the envelope. Step outside the box and offer a sound that we hadn’t heard before. Instead, Old Boots, New Dirt is more of the same — a collection of party songs with big guitars and stereotypical country lyrics mixed with power ballads with simple chords and commercially appealing lyrics. At the end of the day, it’s nothing special. It’ll produce multiple number one hits, but there’s nothing you haven’t heard before.