Big & Rich

Did It for the Party

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There's a hint of melancholy to the title of Did It for the Party, as if Big & Rich were taking stock of their life and decided they were only in it for the good times. The actuality of Did It for the Party is decidedly less textured, but it is certainly the work of mavericks who've mellowed yet still refuse to give up the ghost entirely. Along with the title track, there's "Congratulations (You're a Rockstar)," "We Came to Rawk," and "Funk in the Country," every one a purported anthem of revelry, but they -- like the rest of Did It for the Party -- are wrapped in a heavy gauze that mutes the mood. Such a shift toward the middle makes sense since Big & Rich revived their commercial fortunes on 2014's Gravity by embracing the middle of the road. They're still in that comfortable, familiar lane on Did It for the Party, but this sequel is undone by the duo doubling down on polish while halfheartedly insisting on living it up on the margins. Pros that they are, they do manage to churn out a couple of ingratiating numbers -- the chipper waiting-room love song "Wake Up Wanting You" and "Smoke in Her Eyes," an effective re-creation of late-'80s arena country -- but that facility with craft also means the sentimental moments are too sticky, particularly when they're imparting life lessons. This move toward the mawkish is a bizarre turn for a duo who once celebrated the trashiest elements of junk culture and, strangely enough, this saccharine streak does indeed make Did It for the Party feel oddly wistful.

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