Gary Allan — “Nothing on but the Radio”

Charted: 9.18.04

Peak: #32

“Nothing on but the Radio” is the sexiest country song of the decade, and I wish that was saying more. Contemporary country music do have its sex issues–wouldn’t be so quintessentially American otherwise. Its stars’ discomfort when skin starts to show can be kind of cute: the men often overcompensate with bad comedy or bounce around like giant inflatable penises; the women try to dignify the situation with Celine-lunged romance, indulging in 1000 watt candle-lit fantasies for the undersexed.

Country’s chief pitfall as a mood-getter-in is rhythmic. Too often, “sexy” country music is all boom-boom-boom and no going back to my room. The classic exception, of course, was Garth, who succeeded by ratcheting the intensity up a notch without overdoing the macho. The neo-classic exception may be Brad Paisley, who succeeds by ratcheting it down a notch without blanding out. Gary Allan falls someplace in between.

Allan survives from song to song: he’s hardly immune to eww (try “I’ll fill those canyons in your soul,” from “The One”), but he a nice stretch around mid-decade, with “Tough Little Boys” (“They grow up to be babies again”) and “Songs About Rain” (which lists some without growing tedious). And though he’s just an OK singer, with a voice that errs on the squishy and pinched side of neo-trad, like if Steve Earle fronted Third Eye Blind, here he lays on the sexy talk nice and thick, some like some black sheep Bellamy Brother. And, as though to remind us he cut his teeth fronting a Bakersfield country outfit, “Nothing on but the Radio” sinks into an actual groove (more than a little borrowed from “Gimme Three Steps”). If more contemporary Nashville was like this, you might actually be able to fuck with the radio on, though I still think the commercials might cool you off.

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