Album Spotlight: Jason Aldean, ‘They Don’t Know’
Aldean has built a career as one of the biggest artists in country music on the strength of his powerful live shows, and many of his albums feature an amalgam of modern country and hard rock guitar riffing inspired by '80s and early '90s classic rock. That kind of music lends itself superbly to his shows, but he's also wandered around stylistically, offering up proud rural anthems, ballads and most recently, more contemporary pop influences on songs including "Burnin' It Down."
He and his team put all of those elements in a blender and mixed them together for They Don't Know, which in some ways is a return to the swaggering arena rock-country that launched Aldean, but also draws from a number of different influences. The singer has said that he felt his last album, 2014's Old Boots, New Dirt, was lacking in some key rock tracks, and he addresses that right out of the gate on They Don't Know, opening the album with the fist-pumping hard rock of "Lights Come On."
The album's second track (and second single) is the wistful "A Little More Summertime," and it sets the tone for several other more reflective lost love songs, including "This Plane Don't Go There" and "In Case You Don't Remember."
Kelsea Ballerini joins Aldean for a love-that-got-away ballad titled "First Time Again," which seems like a likely hit single that could carry the project through the winter months at country radio. He also gives fans a couple of sexed-up rockers with "One We Won't Forget" and "When the Lights Go Out," and touches on the all-time classic country themes of heartbreak and alcohol in "Whiskey'd Up," "Any Ol' Barstool" and "All Out of Beer," the latter of which features one of the strongest chorus melodies on the album.
Aldean also serves up a strong dose of defiant small-town Southern pride on the title song, "They Don't Know," and throws a little bit of a curveball on "Reason to Love L.A.," a fish-out-of-water track that's ultimately an interesting twist on a love song. The result is an album that's both satisfying for Aldean's longtime fans, and just new enough to avoid outright pandering. They Don't Know is a testament to an artist understanding his audience and working to give that audience exactly what it wants, and while that might not always win awards, it sure sells records.
Key Tracks: "This Plane Don't Go There," "First Time Again," "All Out of Beer," "They Don't Know."
Did You Know? Aldean still works with his longtime producer, Michael Knox, and insists on recording with his live band instead of using Nashville studio musicians.
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