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ToC Critic’s Pick: Jake Owen, ‘Real Life’ [Listen]

Jake Owen Real Life Song
Sony Music Nashville

With “Real Life,” Jake Owen again proves that he’s not willing to rest on what’s working or what has worked. The song borrows from his beach anthem spice rack, but doesn’t totally fit in that sub-genre of country music. If anything, it’s inspired by early-to-mid ’90s California rock.

“Real Life” plays it chill, which is to say it’s the antithesis of “Days of Gold,” the lead single from Owen’s last album. That blues-rock driven firestorm was an immediate take-it-or-leave-it proposition. The response won’t be as immediately definitive with “Real Life.”

“I grew up in a real town / Had a prom queen with a plastic crown / And we really did just drive around because there wasn’t s—t to do,” Owen signs to begin “Real Life.”

“We didn’t know we were real broke / Daddy rolled them real smokes / We drank RC, no real Coke / And our neighbor had a pool.”

Sonically, the arrangement complements the languid, kind of adolescent nature of his lyric and delivery. Owen’s brand of nostalgia isn’t poignant. He’s more recalling the rebellious nature of youth in a way that’s more specific to suburbian kids that country kids. That’s not to say his songwriting team is lazy with the lyrics — they make clever references throughout “Real Life” and rely on specific, yet somehow universal stories.

Hit the Waffle House for some real food / But that waitress, she’s real rude / She’s got real problems, we do too / But we tip her anyway,” Owen sings during the second verse. Everyone knows that waitress. Her name is usually three letters long and she often smells like cigarettes. But somehow, you know she’d back you in a fist fight.

“This is real life, in the real world / We ain’t talking to no models, we got real girls / We get real low, we get real high / It ain’t all good, baby, but it’s alright / Real Life.”

The more you listen to “Real Life” the more it will or won’t connect. It’s the song equivalent of the girl you’re friends with all through school but don’t fall in love with until after college. Those girls tend to stick around.

Why Fans Will Love It: It recalls memories of youth that few other country songs have recalled. Plus, it’s kind of funky.

Key Lyrics“This is real life, in the real world / We ain’t talking to no models, we got real girls.”

Did You Know?: When Owen was searching for songs for his new album, he used the rock band Sublime to describe the sound he was looking for.

Listen to Jake Owen, “Real Life”

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