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Chris Stapleton, ‘What Are You Listening To?’ – ToC Critic’s Pick [Listen]

What Are You Listening To
Mercury Nashville

Chris Stapleton’s debut single as a solo artist isn’t timeless, but it’s from a time that’s poised to make a resurgence in the next few years. ‘What Are You Listening To?’ is what you’d get if Marvin Gaye came back to life and moved to Nashville. The singer’s pedigree keeps it country, however.

Stapleton is a very talented, very unique vocalist. At first listen, one is reminded of James Otto‘s ‘Just Got Started Loving You,’ but this song is more sensitive, and Stapleton’s voice more delicate.

What are you listening to / Is it a cover band in some college town bar / Where it’s na, na, nas and air guitar,” he sings during the chorus. The words fall from his lips like goodnight kisses, but there’s a natural pain in his performance that adds to the heartbreak.

Or is it something to get you through / Just a sad song playing on a radio station / Tears still falling, hearts still breaking / ‘Cause you’re hanging on / Or is it a love song about someone new / What are you listening to.”

As the lead singer of the Steeldrivers, Stapleton was praised for his traditional bluegrass delivery and Americana sensibility. ‘What Are You Listening To?’ couldn’t be further from that sound. It’s a R&B-influenced country song — or maybe even a country-influenced, soul song. In just a few bars, he distinguishes himself from everyone else on the radio.

I’d like to believe / That you’re just like me / Trying to figure out how a good thing goes bad / But I don’t know / And I can’t let it go / Yeah, it’s about to drive me mad,” Stapleton adds during the second verse.

The timing couldn’t be better for a song like this, but really there’s no wrong time for a track that mixes tear-jerking lyrics and genuine vocals. It’s a veteran performance from a man who is only a country newcomer in the eyes of radio.

4.5 Stars

Listen to Chris Stapleton, ‘What Are You Listening To?’

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Next: See the Top 40 Country Songs for June 2013

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