Scotty McCreery promised a more grown up version of himself on his sophomore album, and the majority of See You Tonight embraces themes typical of a soon-to-be twenty year old college sophomore along with a contemporary country orientation suited to country radio’s current target demographic. Whereas the youthful love songs of his debut album felt a little more innocent, Scotty shows more understanding of attraction, libido, and heartbreak on See You Tonight. He leaves behind residual goody-two-shoes constraints in favor of a more carefree, sneak-away-&-stay-out-all-night-and-make-out attitude on several summery jams and ballads. But he also shows his interest in the kind of country music that speaks to life’s journey, and the fact that he closes his sophomore album with two such songs illustrates both Scotty’s recognition of the current country market and his wish that it would return to its story-oriented ways.
Under the studio stewardship of producer Frank Rogers, the uptempo tracks on Scotty’s sophomore album feature a heavier, driving contemporary sound distinguished by occasional jug band accents. In fact, most of See You Tonight is a study in reconciling the pop and rock sounds in contemporary country with Scotty’s traditional leanings. Scotty’s voice anchors all of the songs in his home genre and shows undeniable improvement in the sensitivity of his phrasing and interpretation. In fact, the most notable aspect of Scotty’s sophomore album is probably Scotty’s development of a personality as a recording artist. His performances bring individuality to songs that for the most part would fit on any modern country male’s album.
“Now” gets the album off to a country-rockin’ start, running through a variety of typical rural party locales (from a parking lot to a “hillbilly yacht” to a “rundown bar”) over some catchy guitar grooves before its anthemic chorus announces Scotty’s readiness for a crazy all-night party, wherever it is. Listeners will have to decide whether they buy the idea of Scotty being the hell-raising party kind. But to be fair, this is the kind of song that makes much more sense coming from a college sophomore than it does from country stars twice his age. Scotty uses his deep voice to make the lyric believable, and this is a song that will likely play well live. “Feelin’ It” extends the carefree vibe into the summertime setting, with silly but playful rhythmic verses (“Pop tops popping, flipflops flopping, drop tops droppin’ down/Raybans rayin’, waves are wavin’, ladies are layin’ out”) and a singalong chorus.
“Can You Feel It” also brings together a rhythmic groove created by washboard-like percussion and a drum loop with fiddle, banjo, a Jew’s harp and a rocked-up chorus. The result is the environment for another rather lusty song about an all-night getaway with his woman. The Jew’s harp is also prominent on “Buzzin’” in which Scotty casually tosses off lines about people indulging various vices or stimulants (alcoholic, smoked, and even religious) while claiming all he needs to get the same feeling is some loving from his girl. The chorus and guitar solo of “Buzzin’” are reminiscent of the typical Brad Paisley chorus, and the chorus also cleverly features a revival-ish feel to go along with its “revival” reference. Those connections were likely brought in by long-time Paisley collaborator Frank Rogers (who cowrote the song in addition to producing Scotty’s album). The language of these uptempos isn’t especially elegant or eloquent, but the production, melody and vocal combine to give each track personality.
The final upbeat tempo track of See You Tonight, “I Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend” is a jaunty tune built on stereotypical gender roles (she likes her chick flicks, he likes his sports and so on), and it’s about the dynamic between two people who clearly like each other as more than friends but haven’t taken that next step. Well, Scotty finally makes his move in the song. The song’s energy dips a little with a repetitive bridge that goes nowhere, but it serves its purpose as another song about in-the-now, carefree young attraction. Fittingly for a guy his age, Scotty doesn’t sing too much about lifelong, deep love or commitment on See You Tonight. The title track/lead single is another love song about seizing the moment and throwing caution to the wind. Love is mostly about possibility, as it should be to a 20 year old.
In that lane, “Get Gone With You” is a sweet, midtempo contemporary country love song where a boy tries to persuade his girl to run away with him, maybe for a few days, maybe forever (not seriously). Scotty’s vocal restraint lends itself really well to his tender, awe-struck interpretation – not only is he wooing his lady, he is kind of swooning himself over how she makes him feel. How far Scotty has come from the endearing and humorous awkwardness of his debut album standout, “Write My Number On Your Hand.” Scotty also finds success in restraint on “Blue Jean Baby,” a song that takes the increasingly common country trope of the hot girl in tight blue jeans and turns it into a full-blown, groovy midtempo that’s as much about that girl’s love affair with that particular pair of blue jeans as it is about how attractive he finds her in them. The melody brings out the blue-eyed soul in Scotty’s voice, a quality unheard on his debut album.
Although a lot of See You Tonight is about the thrill of young love, Scotty also shows his increased maturity as a singer on the album’s heartbreak songs. The ironically titled “Feel Good Summer Song” features some of See You Tonight’s most descriptive lyrics as it follows a guy looking to avoid festive, sunny scenes that remind him of good times with the woman he lost. He just wants wallow in his heartbreak for a little while. Scotty takes to this pop-leaning tune with well-placed steel guitar accents really well, showing increased depth, modulation and control in his upper register singing and delivering a completely believable emotional performance. Cowritten by J.T. Harding, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne, the song doubles as a critique of country radio’s glut of upbeat party songs, as Scotty asks “But how can I get over you when every station is playing a feel-good summer song?” The message here is similar to the one in the McAnally/Brandy Clark-penned Wade Bowen single “Songs About Trucks,” and represents another strike by McAnally and his collaborators against the one-dimensionality of country radio at this time.
Meanwhile, “Forget To Forget You” is See You Tonight‘s sole power ballad, and a song from the point of view of a guy who can’t quite ditch his lingering feelings for the woman he has lost. He gently warns her that he may slip up and text her or send her flowers like he used to, but it’s just because he “forget[s] to forget” her “sometimes.” It’s a lyric that might come off as creepy in the wrong hands, but Scotty’s interpretation conveys the sense of a guy who is fighting himself and his memories more than anything else. As he tries to tell himself in the rhythmically catchy chorus, “it ain’t nothin’ but a habit, I can break it, I can shake it, I can make it on my own.” He begs his ex not to think of him as the “‘God I gotta get you back’, ‘probably never gonna get over you’ kind.” Except, of course, that’s exactly how he sees himself right now. It’s a well-played, “opposite day” style of lyric, and Scotty delivers it with conviction and emotional intelligence.
That conviction brings us to a trifecta of songs that seem to reflect the kind of song Scotty would like more room to sing. Scotty opens See You Tonight’s closing track, “Something More,” a song he cowrote with his producer Frank Rogers, by singing, “By now I think I’ve heard every line there is to hear about a truck, And I’ve got the point that the beer tastes good when you’re down on your luck.” He goes on to say “And don’t get me wrong, a summer song sounds good when you’re on the shore,” but sometimes he yearns to hear that something that means “something more.” What follows is a list of examples relating to family, faith, friendship, health, birth, marriage, and death. It’s a somewhat surprising closer coming from a relative newbie to the scene on an album with no shortage of summer songs. But after all, the point of the song is the need to balance out the fun with something more meaningful.
“The Dash” is a country/pop ballad that lends some of that balance to See You Tonight. Set at a memorial service, the bulk of it is devoted to the message of the preacher delivering words of comfort to the grieving, “It’s always too soon, it’s always too fast. There’ll never come a day that you don’t want him back. It ain’t about the numbers chiseled in concrete. It’s how they live their lives in the dash between.” It’s a simple, maybe overly simple message on its own, but one that resonates thanks to what we learn about the man who passed away.
The military angle is arguably an easy, overused, and emotionally manipulative way to tap into patriotic feelings and reach an audience that has traditionally had a strong connection to country music. So in some ways, it’s not a surprise when we learn that the man being memorialized passed away in service to his country. But this isn’t a cheap, exploitative grab at the heartstrings so much as it is a concise way for the songwriters to convey an essential plot point – the man who passed away did so young. So the preacher’s message that “it’s always too soon, it’s always too fast. They’re always too young, it’s always so sad” directly addresses the premature-ness of the loss. His point is that grief is unavoidable no matter the age of the person who passed, and so in this moment, he is trying gently to redirect the mourners’ feelings to a celebration of what the man accomplished in the years he was with them. Somehow, out of a pile of well-worn tropes, songwriters Preston Brust and Kyle Jacobs weave a genuinely moving and universal message of comfort, and Scotty delivers their song with belief and understanding.
Meanwhile, the standout track on See You Tonight sees Scotty challenging himself to convey the point of view of a traveling man with some years behind him, reminiscing longingly about his now far off North Carolina family and roots. “Carolina Moon” is gorgeous, traditional country poetry-in-song and features a lovely, haunting harmony vocal from the great Alison Krauss. With a chorus that goes:
Now the years have blown by me like the wind through the pines.
But the song of the South is ever sweet as homemade wine.
Oh how I miss those mountains when the laurels are in bloom,
And the Southern stars are dancin’ ‘round the North Carolina moon.
the lyrics of the Jon Randall Stewart and Ronnie Stewart-penned song are simply on another level from anything else on See You Tonight and most contemporary country songs. Scotty delivers a respectful, loving interpretation of a song he is very smart to have claimed for himself, and his rendition of this song will only become more meaningful as he grows.
The Bottom Line
See You Tonight may traffic in some of the typical language (good-looking girls, tight jeans, summer, parties, coolers, tailgates, etc.) and trends of today’s male country but the album nonetheless feels reflective of Scotty’s personality and point of view thanks to the investment of his vocals and nimble production choices by Frank Rogers. What the songs may sometimes lack in originality and progressiveness is offset by Scotty’s success in placing his individual stamp on the material. The result is a confident, cohesive album with listenable uptempos interspersed among well-written, well-sung ballads, and enough emotional meat and lyrical substance to balance the carefree fun. Most notable about See You Tonight is Scotty’s growth into his voice, which has developed several new facets since his debut album including a strong, tender upper register and some real soulfulness.
Between that development and his increased sensitivity as an interpretive singer, See You Tonight feels like Scotty grown into a “real boy” or, more accurately, his own multi-dimensional man. Given the space to operate in the commercial country scene, there’s no reason he can’t excel among the people already on the field.
Album Highlights: “Carolina Moon,” “Feel Good Summer Song,” “Forget To Forget You”
Single Choices: Among the uptempos, “Feelin’ It” is kind of dopey but very catchy fun for the summer. If country radio continues to favor rhythmic rock-leaning material, “Can You Feel It” could fit the bill. Among the ballads, “Forget To Forget You,” “Feel Good Summer Song,” “Get Gone With You,” and “Blue Jean Baby” should all work well.