Kill the Lights, the fifth album from country superstar Luke Bryan, is all about going hard: working hard, drinking hard, loving hard, playing hard, fishing hard, even remembering hard (if you can figure out what that means). Bryan spends almost as much time revisiting memories of youthful indiscretions as he does chronicling adult varieties. But there’s no shortage of passion here, some of which gets channeled in healthy directions.
Some of it in not-so-healthy directions.
“Kick the Dust Up” celebrates hardworking farmers (“All week long it’s a farming town/They’re making that money grow”), while “Scarecrows” describes how growing up on a farm shapes a person’s identity in powerful ways. “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” is about exactly those things: “That’s the prayer that a country boy prays/Thank God He made me this way.”
“To the Moon and Back” is a beautiful vow of faithfulness designed to withstand whatever storms life unleashes (“From the coast is clear/To a hurricane/Yeah, I’ll be right beside you/ … To the ends of the earth/To the moon and back”). “Fast” knowingly laments how quickly life seems to fly by and how we should try to relish every moment. In that context, Bryan compliments his wife’s beauty: “Lookin’ at you lookin’ out the window right now/Those eyes, that dress, that smile, that laugh/If I could hit pause I would somehow/But it doesn’t work like that.” His parents thought he and his wife married too young and wouldn’t make it. “But we did,” he says proudly.
“Strip It Down” recognizes the importance of rekindling physical intimacy in a marriage. In an interview with Billboard, Bryan said of the song, “We get busy in our lives. Me and [my wife] Caroline will be at dinner, and we’ll be looking at our phones texting people. You know, sometimes you just have to strip it back, and I think everybody can relate to that.” But …
… the song includes suggestive lyrics that should have been left inside the intimate confines of the singer’s marriage (“Like a needle finds a groove/Baby, we’ll remember what to do/ … Everything I need in them white cotton sheets/Dirty dance me slow in the summertime heat/ … I just wanna love you so bad, baby.”) In similar positive/negative territory with regard to marital intimacy is “Love It Gone,” on which the things that love makes disappear are a spouse’s cares and her clothes. “Way, Way Back” narrates the story of a couple that’s been together a long time taking a trip down memory lane. Literally, the kind of lane where you park and make love in the back of a truck. Bryan says of their early days of passion, “Me and you got caught up in/A little wild and young, kinda reckless love.” (He’s hoping another sensual excursion in the truck might help them rekindle that old flame.)
Far more casual hookups get track time here too. On the title tune a guy says of the woman riding in his truck, “I saw you and it lit me up” as he drives deep into the backwoods for sex (“In the middle of nowhere/Skin on skin, don’t care where we’ve been/ … Baby, trust my hands”). Meanwhile, “Home Alone Tonight,” a duet with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild, is about two people who’ve both recently broken up with someone and are drowning their sorrows to dull the ache. Along the way, they decide to “get revenge” by sending their respective exes pics of their spontaneous hookup partner (“We’ll go shot for shot ’til we forgot what we came here to forget/ … So put your drink down and throw your camera up/Flip it around and snap a payback picture/Send it to my ex, I’ll send it to my ex and send ’em both a text/Saying we ain’t, we ain’t going home alone tonight”). “Move” ogles a woman’s body (“Oh girl, look at you/Legs and your hips/ … D–n, you turn it loose”). The song also says she “learned the talk of the Bible belt,” but we see that the education exercises little influence over her current choices. “Just Over” tells the story of a man who wrongly thinks a night of passion will be enough to salvage a relationship with a woman who is in fact leaving him. “Razor Blade” compares falling in love to walking drunkenly down train tracks and getting smashed by a locomotive.
“Kick the Dust Up” eschews trendy, expensive bars for sippin’ moonshine out in a field with friends. “Scarecrows” includes memories of getting drunk as underage kids.
Luke Bryan is in familiar country territory here. As so many artists in his genre have done before him, he sings admiringly of the virtues of country life … and of its vices, too. Marital faithfulness, hard work and a shout out to God get mixed in with fond memories of underage drinking and carousing, which leads to quite a lot of sex (both marital and casual).
I said of his 2011 album Tailgates & Tanlines, “Luke Bryan makes growing up, getting married and working hard in a small farming town sound pretty good. He also makes getting drunk and hooking up with attractive, half-dressed women he’s just met sound pretty good.”
And he’s still makin’ all that stuff sound pretty good. Bryan may offer a tad more perspective on life and love and marriage this time around. But don’t make the mistake of thinking his personal marital bliss has tamed his lyrical wild side.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.