Luke Bryan Releases Country Pop Album ‘What Makes You Country’

From topping both country and pop charts to landing as a judge on the rebooted “American Idol,” few country stars can claim to have the crossover appeal of Luke Bryan. He’s a rare breed of recording artist, the kind that makes earning a platinum certification look easy. Along with everything the country star has accomplished so far, and at 41, the Georgia party-boy is back with his latest album, “What Makes You Country.”

Though not exactly a term Bryan embraces, since getting a foothold on the songwriting circuit, Bryan has been a flag bearer for the bro country brand of country music that puts an emphasis on big trucks and cold beer. Bryan’s last album alone serves as a textbook example with countless songs about hunting, hangovers and rear-shaking making up the bulk of the record. “What Makes You Country” opts to travel that same path, briefly tempering its sound with snapshots of sensitivity. Still, it’s an easy road to go down, with no forks or hairpin turns in site and Bryan seems content to keep moseying down the same highways. 

“What Makes You Country” is business as usual. The album’s muscular title track wastes no time before big tires and guns claim the spotlight while guitar and banjo duke it out in the background. “Drinking Again,” the album’s nod to “pop-toppin’ long-neckin’ honky tonk friends,” is another sing-along that wouldn’t be out of place at the bar.

Much of “What Makes You Country” feels like an old dog trying to learn new tricks, with flourishes of pop and even R&B creeping into the album’s sonic makeup. What the album packs in recycled melodies it lacks in authenticity. Songs like “Out Of Nowhere Girl,” “Light It Up” and “Hungover In A Hotel Room” sound as though they are pop song leftovers.

With much of the album feeling like an audio blur, the album’s saving grace is the country megastar’s sensitive side on songs like “Most People Are Good,” where he flies in the face of a historically discriminating genre with lyrics like “I believe you love who you love / Ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of.” 

What Makes You Country” is available Dec. 8 on Apple Music.