Why do artists never take my advice? They’d be SO much better off. Joking aside, ‘I Can’t Change The World’ was a pretty big flop for an artist of Brad’s stature and I wasn’t particularly keen on it or predicting its endless success either. Unfortunately, what country radio will never discover is that there are far better (and more commercial) tracks on ‘Wheelhouse’, which Brad for whatever reason simply won’t release (‘Outstanding In Our Field’, ‘Pressing On A Bruise’, ‘Tin Can On A String’, ‘Runaway Train’, ‘Those Crazy Christians’, etc). ‘The Mona Lisa’ marks the fourth (and probably last) single from the record, and while it is not on my list of songs I would love to see released, it’s a step in the right direction success-wise for Brad.
Things certainly took a dip after the awesome ‘Beat This Summer’ was taken off the airwaves, and a big key to Brad continuing to delight both fans and casual listeners is the fun, upbeat tracks. His personality and artistic approach is simply more suited to songs that aren’t ballads, which is not a bad thing as he is excellent at making every one of these different from the last. I do feel, however, that while ‘The Mona Lisa’ may boost him commercially and reinstate him as a mainstay at top 40 country radio, it will be forgotten in time to come. Every artist releases singles at some points in their career that audiences are destined to largely forget. They blend into the background, the wallpaper of the charts, have a spurt of success and then tail off when looking back over a decade or two (or three).
The real problem with ‘The Mona Lisa’ is that it’s decidedly… generic. I mean, not for radio at this moment in time, as it’s full of bro-country and truck songs, and this certainly isn’t one of those. But for Brad, who has a diverse and creatively brilliant back catalogue (in my humble opinion, ha), a choir-accentuated down-strum led anthem that builds into a commercial country/rock track with a bluesy guitar solo just isn’t all that new. Of course, it’s catchy, and there’s evidence of messing around with vocal effects in the production, with a perhaps achingly religious ascension and descension melodically and a driving beat that moves the song on pretty speedily.
Lyrically it touches on the familiar (spotlighting how amazing his woman is), but also pushes things a little by switching gender roles and placing the woman at the place of control and dominance, literally making Brad fade into the background. The central theme of ‘The Mona Lisa’ is that Brad’s job is to love his romantic partner, and that’s all, while she runs the show. That’s this song’s saving grace really, the fact that it twists what one would expect and is explicit in exactly how this adoration for a woman manifests itself, in the changing of traditional gender stereotypes and societal roles. For country music, I suspect that this is subtle enough to slip in without the more old-fashioned realizing they’re listening to a basically feminist song.
So for me, I’m conflicted. ‘The Mona Lisa’ was fun for me at first but got old very quickly, and even after many, many listens of ‘Wheelhouse’ that didn’t happen so much with the other tracks. It will give Brad a commercial boost and I approve of the lyrics providing an antidote to “little tanned hotties in daisy dukes sliding on over here and handing their men a beer before lying down on a blanket by the lake to screw”.
Otherwise, I don’t know. It doesn’t really hit my spot (ha). Sorry Brad.