Listening to rising country star Hazel McQuade’s new single It Ain’t Me should inspire both a rueful laugh and a ring of guilt if you’re anything like the stereotype played out in the song. The single’s risqué cover art is enough of an indicator that terms like good taste need not apply. Nonetheless, the song as a technical achievement is masterful. Released by an indie label, the sound mixing is seamless and the guitar riffs and ballads on a grand piano crackle. This is aided by McQuade’s masterful vocals, at once tackling material that is decidedly youthful in its fixations and ruminations, yet possessing intonations that harken back to the greats a la Union Station, Ted Nugent, or the early days of Zac Brown Band. There’s a confidence in McQuade’s vocal masteries that elevates the track all on its own, a welcome relief in an era where the words autotune, autocorrection, and synthesizing dominate the making of for Billboard 200 hits.
The story depicted in the decidedly raunchy, yet snappy and rapid-fire rhymes and song lyrics reinforces the track as both contemporary in its focal points if somewhat ugly in said focal points’ specific fixations. It’s a love letter to living life in the fast lane, eschewing anything when it comes to responsibility, morality, decency, or – for that matter – unexpected fatherhood. Where PC lyrics reign supreme in the form of artists like Taylor Swift or Harry Styles, It Ain’t Me serves as both a diversion and something of a throwback.
It’s clear McQuade isn’t out to make you like him on the fly, but there’s something distinctly irresistible about him nevertheless because of his unapologetic, I don’t give a d*mn attitude in the spirit of the old guard such as a Clint Eastwood or young Kurt Russell. Such displays of imperfection and representation of more traditional brands of masculinity feel rare these days, appearing often with the flashing red light of self-aware apology or source of fun. McQuade does neither, simply inhabiting the persona with gusto that melds well with the song’s kitschy if decidedly old-school country twang thanks to a rock-and-roll-style drum set, whining guitar riff, and staccato-like performance on the grand piano in the back of the room.
In spite of said perspectives, McQuade likely will still have mass commercial appeal outside genre fanbases if he continues to hone his surprisingly sharp, narrative focus. Not a lot of songs feel like a story, and it’s here as a songwriter McQuade arguably cannot be denied his opportunity to shine. Despite punchy zingers and some cringeworthy gags, he paints well-rounded, three-dimensional pictures of issues plaguing Bible Belt country through contemporary lenses. McQuade’s graphic cover art is needlessly on-the-nose with respect to all this. The comedy he brings courtesy of his lack of filter feels almost Dunham-esque, decidedly un-country when it comes to standards instituted by the old guard. But such openness also boasts accessibility and even to some extent vulnerability, so it will be interesting to see how McQuade continues to play with this.
The music of Hazel McQuade has been heard all over the world in partnership with the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Radio Promotions Division. Learn more https://musikandfilm.com
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