I’m still trying to figure out what to think about Sam Hunt’s new album.
On one hand, Southside is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Sam – heavy on the pop and R&B, light on the country. But there are some songs on the album that give us glimpses into how great a full-fledged country album from Sam could be.
The first one that comes to mind is obviously “2016.” It’s far and away the best song on the album, and no surprise, it’s also the most “country.”
But another one that stands out for me is “Hard to Forget.”
Sure, Sam tried to bridge the gap between classic country and pop country music by sampling Webb Pierce’s “There Stands the Glass,” but when the familiar R&B drum track comes in, it becomes clear which side of the spectrum this song falls on. And in my opinion, it’s the wrong one.
Ok, so hear me out… how great would it be if Sam had released “Hard to Forget” as a straight up, classic country song?
The lyrics are undeniably country, and to me they’re some of the best on the album. Just look at the chorus and tell me that if you were reading these lyrics without having heard the song you wouldn’t think it was straight out of the ’90s:
You’ve got a cold heart and the cold hard truth I got a bottle of whiskey but I got no proof That you showed up tonight in that dress Just to mess with my head So much for so long, out of sight, out of mind Girl you’re looking so good, it’s driving me out of mine Aw you’re breaking my heart Baby, you’re playing hard to forget.
That’s a damn country song right there. Ok, we might have to take a few of the “girls” and a “baby” or two out of there, but you get the point.
And if it were George Strait or Alan Jackson singing this song back in 1997, or maybe Jake Owen or Luke Combs doing it as a throwback to that 90’s country style, this song would be at the top of my playlist right now.
Imagine if Sam’s version sounded more like this version from YouTuber Jake Willis. Throw a little fiddle and pedal steel in there, and with this kind of arrangement, we’d be cooking with peanut oil.
Now Jake here is just covering songs in his bedroom. There’s not a lot of production going on, but his take on the song is spot on. I’d listen to that kind of music from Sam Hunt All. Damn. Day.
But instead he chose to take the great lyrics from this song and put them over the same drum beat, the same pop sound, that we get from all the rest of his music. And that’s unfortunate, because “Hard to Forget” would have been an incredible country song.