When country music is evoked in contemporary conversations on genre and themes, people tend to make assumptions. Modern country songs are joked about as tending to veer into two areas of lyrical content: partying with your big truck, or being extremely depressed over lost love. While this is something often made in jest, there is still plenty to be said about the truth in the joke concerning the genre discussion. Outliers such as “Old Town Road” bring in subgenres to beef up the production and target demographics, but without such deft production techniques, a lot of modern country music seems to fall by the wayside. One exception to this rule is Vineet’s latest single “City Roads.” Balancing a classic melancholy country-rock lyrics tradition with an updated, modern hip-hop beat might just be the smartest thing done in country music this year.
“City Roads” starts with a slow, acoustic verse — there’s an expected nature to the opening, but the rug is almost instantly pulled out from beneath listeners as the beat drops and a swift tempo change transforms all expectations. Mixing acoustic rock, Vineet’s great country singer vocal emulation, and modern hip-hop is a bold balancing act that pays off subtly and smartly. The cleverness of blending two styles of music with lyrics that could find themselves at home in either genre the song is borrowing from is a great little touch in a track full of great little touches — “City Roads” attempts to do for the modern country genre what Nelly and Tim McGraw did with their brilliant genre-defying “Over and Over” nearly two decades ago, and while Vineet doesn’t reach such monumental heights (have you seen Nelly’s YouTube views?), the attempt being made is still admirable and Vineet delivers an outstanding and memorable crossover hit.
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As far as it goes as an addition to Vineet’s expanding discography, “City Roads” is sure to satisfy fans new and old. Vineet has made a name for himself experimenting with genres and sounds, with entries such as “Turning Back Time” going full electronica and “I Pray” veering towards hip-hop above all else. There’s practically no predicting where Vineet is going to go next, and that’s what makes him such an engaging and promising voice in music.
You could get a techno dance hit or a funk-driven throwback jam, and the result is always pretty much guaranteed to get stuck in your head. “City Roads” serves as a great epilogue to Vineet’s album Nine (9 Thrilling Stories. 9 Optimistic Songs) as it delivers on something a little new for Vineet in the way it tackles a song with an overall unhappy, though important, message. The inclusion of an upbeat hip-hop instrumental blended together with guitar and harmonica brings the song to new heights as it offers a musical timbre unlike most anything currently in the mainstream. No lyrics are tackling big trucks and tractors, and there are plenty of morose lyrics to be had, but that’s what gives Vineet the space to create a song unique to country music — there’s an independence here you can’t get anywhere else, with enough heart for at least five songs.