Luke Bryan is Good at Getting Serious

Luke Bryan will bring the good times to RodeoHouston on Thursday, but Bryan's catalog reveals an artist in touch with more than simply beer drinking and honky tonkin.
Luke Bryan will bring the good times to RodeoHouston on Thursday, but Bryan's catalog reveals an artist in touch with more than simply beer drinking and honky tonkin. Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Luke Bryan’s appeal is fairly evident. Bryan is handsome and charismatic, a guy who really personifies stage presence. Even for those who don’t get the bro-country movement, it’s hard to deny Bryan as one of the best country entertainers of his era.

Bryan and his team write catchy tunes, and these songs typically revolve around a combination of romance, dancing under moonlight and knocking back beers. Simply put, Bryan is here for a good time, and he hopes you are too. This approach has not only yielded hit singles aplenty and made Bryan a superstar in the process, but has also entertained millions of fans around the globe.

That will no doubt include a packed house at NRG Stadium on Thursday night, as Bryan once again plays RodeoHouston. Coupled with performances from Bryan, Garth Brooks (twice!), Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban, and Brad Paisley, this year’s Rodeo concert lineup is arguably the best in the event’s nearly 100-year history.

So, yes, Bryan makes good party music for fun-loving party people; even skeptics have inevitably come around on his brand of country. And, yet, a longer look at his catalog – particularly of late – reveals an artist who dabbles in far more than tailgates and tanlines. Turns out, Luke Bryan had a serious side all along.

This bears mentioning because Bryan’s latest single – “Most People are Good” – is probably the most socially conscious track the singer has ever released. Yep, turns out Bryan went out and got woke just in time for his yearly trip to the Rodeo.

“Most People are Good” is not Bryan’s most successful song; far from it. Whereas many of his previous tracks have reached the top spot on the Billboard Country Radio charts, “Most People are Good” peaked at No. 4 – a relative disappointment for an artist of the commercial caliber of Bryan. And while Bryan didn’t even write the song – it was a group effort between David Frazier, Ed Hill and Josh Kear – he’s far from the first country artist to release hits that he himself did not pen; see the aforementioned Brooks, George Strait, Tim McGraw, and many more.

That said, “Most People are Good” is a logical step for Bryan, who rose to fame on the strength of party anthems and crowd-pleasers, but an artist who – now into his 40s – is maturing a bit. “Most People are Good” features Bryan relaying uplifting statements and conveying an air of positivity – an ever-increasing rarity, it seems – about what he sees in the world today. Kids should stay kids. Mothers are saintly. People should be able to love whomever the hell they want. These are all worthwhile points, and it’s why “Most People are Good” ranks among the most accessible, pop-friendly tracks Bryan has ever released.

Now, for those unfamiliar with more than a few of Bryan’s biggest hits, this is no recent thing. If anything, some of Bryan’s best, most introspective songs come from early in his career. Take “Do I,” for instance, a gut-punch for anyone in the midst of a stale relationship or those whose significant other has stepped out. And subsequent single “Someone Else Calling You Baby” is the unofficial postmortem to "Do I," when the dust has settled and both parties have moved on in their own way.

And, then, there’s “Drink a Beer,” perhaps the best song in the Luke Bryan canon. Penned by a pre-fame Chris Stapleton, “Drink a Beer” tells of a lost loved one. Details are scarce, and that’s probably no accident, considering “Drink a Beer” was likely written to make people cope with various stages of loss. From a good friend to the family dog, Stapleton – ever the accessible songwriter, as evidenced by his own catalog – penned a track for a wide audience, and Bryan – as Luke Bryan does – gets the point across as few in the modern-day country scene can do. Even those who despise Bryan and his bro-country ilk – a vocal audience, for sure – may find it hard to knock a song the caliber of “Drink a Beer.”

Bryan will likely keep it fun and light-hearted at the Rodeo on Thursday night, and this makes sense. Rodeo concerts feature family crowds and abbreviated sets and are best reserved for radio hits and sing-a-longs. However, Bryan will no doubt find his way back to the Houston area soon enough (he sells out the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion every time he plays it).

When he does, and particularly in support of his most mature album to date (last year’s What Makes You Country), that date will provide Bryan a better opportunity to showcase what many find to be a newfound serious side. Turns out, it was Bryan’s best side all along.
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale