The title Crash My Party alone is a tip-off that Luke Bryan is quite comfortable residing within the party-hearty persona he's slowly crafted over the course of five years -- ever since he started his pivot away from the traditional country of his 2007 debut. Looking back, it's hard to believe Bryan ever could've been pegged as a possible neo-traditionalist, a singer/songwriter who penned much of his own material and seemed intent on injecting a modicum of twang into his songs. Nowadays, after racking up happy hits like "Rain Is a Good Thing" and "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)," and cannily carving out a position as the country version of James Franco's Alien singing unironic red-state "Spring Break Forever" anthems for booze-soaked bros and gals, Luke Bryan doesn't seem like he ever once bothered with the backwood. With its sly Auto-Tune, diluted hip-hop rhythms, nods to T.I., and rivers of beer, Crash My Party surely doesn't feel as if it belongs to country, not even when Bryan is wooing his paramour with promises of a catfish dinner, and part of that is due to just how darn friendly Luke seems. No matter how many six-packs he sings about swinging or how many parties he crashes, Bryan just doesn't seem like a macho man. He seems like a nice guy, the kind of dude who would never down drinks til dawn, the kind of guy who would grow on a girl, not the one who would swagger over with seduction on his mind. Crash My Party is filled with songs reliant on the idea that Bryan is a blue-collar baller, so fratty that he rhapsodizes about his "Blood Brothers" and wistfully remembers when he and his crew used to run their small town. If Bryan had a voice etched in gravel, perhaps all this would seem like too much barrel-chested boasting, but as he sings in a voice as plain, flat, and friendly as the plains, all his celebrations of the conformist class seem cheerful. They also seem slightly cookie-cutter. There's a reason for that. Bryan, at least for now, has given up the idea of writing his own songs (only two here bear his credit), and has chosen material that's either hard and hooky or soft and sentimental, giving them all productions that gleam in unrelenting sunshine. Under the guidance of producer Jeff Stevens, Bryan sneakily incorporates all manners of modern sounds -- not enough to distract but enough to make an impression, particularly in how the rhythms suggest pop and dance, how Bryan's flow can mimic hip-hop without rapping, and those little Auto-Tune flourishes pop up throughout -- which also doesn't make the singer seem particularly country, but he does seem savvy, somebody who embraces what real redneck living is about in 2013. Everything here, from the sound to the songs, is about improving the brand of "Luke Bryan: Party Bro" and if he never seems to inhabit that role, he's nevertheless able to sell it.
Crash My Party Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine