Before Jason Aldean the album, Jason Aldean the person was close to quitting country music. He had had more than one record deal fall through and didn't know if his big break was going to come -- and then, he was offered a deal with Broken Bow Records, then an indie start-up label, and the rest is country music history.
Aldean and Broken Bow released his first album, the self-titled Jason Aldean, on July 26, 2005. Sixteen years later, we're celebrating the impressive debut by ranking all of the songs on the project.
Where does your favorite deep cut land? What about "Amarillo Sky"? Read on to find out:
This track isn’t an admission from Aldean that he actually believes in the paranormal (you’ll have to ask Aldean about that yourself). It’s certainly not Casper the Friendly Ghost who’s bothering the narrator here: “I’m haunted,” he explains in the chorus, “by her memory” -- and that's why, ever since his love left him, he “believe[s] in ghosts.”
"You're the Love I Wanna Be In"
“You’re the Love I Wanna Be In” was Aldean’s first collaboration with John Rich, who co-wrote the song along with Vicky McGehee. The uptempo track plays like a application completed for the position of boyfriend:
Qualifications? “I’ve always been there every time he let you down.”
How did you hear about the job? “I just heard somebody say that you finally told him goodbye.”
Statement of purpose? “I wanna be there when you wake up / Be more than just your friend.”
“Even if I Wanted To” is Aldean’s entry in the “regret ballad” category. The song opens, like all good regret ballads do, with the narrator up all night, wondering “if I did you wrong.” It’s a softer, gentler side of Aldean than fans typically see, but he throws in enough brief electric guitar flourishes to show that he’s still the country rocker we’ve come to know and love.
If “You’re the Love I Wanna Be In” was Aldean’s application for the position of boyfriend, then “I’m Just a Man” is his plea to HR about why shouldn’t be fired, despite making some mistakes. “Sometimes I forget to say ‘I love you,’” he sings in the pre-chorus, “but, baby, please know that I do.” This one's song about messing up and trying to do better, and Aldean is sincere enough in it that we’ll consider giving him a second chance.
“Lonesome USA” is driven by an upbeat, lilting electric guitar -- the kind that makes you want to hum “dum dum dum dum DUM dum du dum du dum” all day long. While it’s about loneliness and heartbreak, “Lonesome USA” is deceptively upbeat and fun, leaning on a driving beat and the clever idea that the singer has literally moved to a new town called “Lonesome USA / Population: One since yesterday.”
If this one sounds familiar outside of Aldean’s catalog, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard Blake Shelton’s version: He recorded the song for his 2003 album The Dreamer. Both singers bring genuine sincerity to the song, which -- in a vein similar to Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” -- sings the praises of long-haul truckers and the difficult, lonely job they do.
“Good to Go” takes a passing moment -- in this case, the narrator is stopped in his car by a funeral procession -- and uses it to reflect on life, past and present. "I had an all-American mom and dad / Some of the coolest friends you could ever have / Found love I thought I'd never find / Sometimes I can't believe this life is mine,” he says. He wants a long life but knows that nothing is guaranteed -- and, he concludes, “If this is as good as it gets / Man, I think I’m good to go.”
“Why” is another song that shows off Aldean’s softer side -- and what a natural he is when he opens his heart (and his voice). “Why” begins with a mid-tempo drum solo and wailing guitars, before Aldean finally drops in his vocals, admitting, “It’s 3AM and I finally say / I’m sorry for acting that way / I didn’t really mean to make you cry.” The soaring apology ballad was the debut album’s second single, and Aldean’s first No. 1 hit.
“She Loved Me” is Jason Aldean’s closing song, which means that, in many ways, it’s the song that Aldean wanted listeners to end the album thinking about. In this way, “She Loved Me” is a perfect summary: Like most of the other songs on the album, it’s about small towns and nostalgia and regret and falling in love (“It was the summer of ‘89 / I fell in love and I learned to drive,” he sings in the opening line). The song veers into near-anthem territory with choppy guitars and big vocals in the chorus, with Aldean singing, “We were living for the minute / Loving every second of it.” It’s the perfect way to close out Jason Aldean.
“Hicktown” is how Aldean chose to introduce both this album and himself to the world. It’s the opening song to Jason Aldean and was the first single Aldean released from the album, and it's a loud, beer cup-raising celebration of “hicktowns,” driven by crunchy electric guitars and catchy fiddle lines.
“I can picture guys sitting out in their yard, working in their yard, bending over to plant some trees or something, and half their crack shows,” Aldean tells CMT, regarding the origins of the song. “I mean, that’s kind of one of the things that drew me into the song. The song talks about things that I grew up experiencing.”
"Hicktown" hit No. 10 on the Billboard charts and has been certified platinum. As Aldean concludes each chorus, “That’s the way we get down in a hicktown.”
Fourteen years later, “Amarillo Sky” is still one of Aldean’s signature songs. It’s a proud, admiring ode to the beauty and struggles of farming life in Amarillo, Texas. The song showcases both the pride and desperation behind one farmer’s daily grind: In each chorus, Aldean shows us the farmer praying, saying, “‘Lord, I never complain / I never ask why / Please don’t let my dreams run dry / Underneath, underneath this Amarillo sky.” The song earned two nominations at the ACM Awards, including Song of the Year. It also was a No. 4 Billboard hit and has been certified platinum.