On third studio album Different Man (out Sept. 9 via RCA Nashville/Sony Music Nashville), Kane Brown leans further than fans or detractors might expect into traditional country sounds and stories without abandoning the pop and R&B flavoring that set his prior full-length, 2018's Experiment, apart.
Read on for a quick breakdown of the full 17-song track list, from No. 1 country airplay hit "Like I Love Country Music" and Top 40 pop banger "Grand" to freshly unveiled songs that reflect different sides of a versatile singer-songwriter.
"Bury Me in Georgia"
An interesting stew of influences —funky blues-rock grooves, honky tonk attitude, heavy rock riffs and even Bobbie Gentry-style string arrangements— launch a truly eclectic album. Lyrically, Brown begins the next chapter of his mainstream ride by glancing back at his Northwest Georgia beginnings.
"Different Man" (Feat. Blake Shelton)
Staying in a nostalgic headspace, Brown gives some insight into the drive that gave him the courage to buck 9-to-5 expectations back home ("what if I was chosen to write the stories?/ wasn't built to work the line") and chase stardom. He's joined by duet partner Blake Shelton, a fellow small-town dreamer made good.
"Like I Love Country Music"
This recent chart topper surveys Brown's earliest country listening habits, from Johnny and June to Brooks & Dunn. Bonus points for the Ronnie Dunn vocal sample and a line dancing-themed music video shot at the Nashville Palace: the former employer of Brown hero turned friend Randy Travis.
It's one of the better identity songs —the age-old type where an artist stresses their country fan bonafides— by a mainstream hitmaker in recent memory.
Even though this stunner amps up modern production elements and pop sheen, Brown's deep Georgia drawl never sounded more obvious as it blends in with banjo and fiddle accompaniment.
When writing this Top 40 entry about counting one's blessings, Brown intentionally played down his country cred as a means to put other deeply-engrained influences on full display.
"I've always been so scared to step out and just do the pop thing. If you listen to a lot of my [songs], they still have that country vein... this one doesn't," he told Audacy. "Now, I'm not scared, I feel like I am who I am now, just being comfortable with myself."
Brown performed "Grand" at the 2022 MTV VMAs in what truly was a Shania Twain-level moment in the country-pop crossover timeline.
"See You Like I Do"
"See You Like I Do" sounds less like anything by Brown's country heroes and more like a romantic bopper by a boy band. Or you could say that it's more NSYNC than Alabama.
While some might dismiss Brown for floating between '80s and '90s country worship and references to other retro touchstones, he should be celebrated for being the rare talent capable of writing and singing different styles without sounding phony.
"Thank God" (With Katelyn Brown)
Before marrying Kane, Katelyn Jae Brown followed her own singer-songwriter arrow. It's no surprise, then, that she sounds like a superstar in her own right on this duet that's as sugary sweet as any Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood collaboration.
"My fans have been waiting five years for us to sing together," Kane told Today's Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen. "There [were] actually four [other songs] that we had. I was like, 'Babe, you're going to be on this one, or this one or this one.' And then 'Thank God' came in and I was like, 'This is the one.' And she said the same thing, but I'm so glad I waited for this particular one to come out. I keep telling everybody she's my secret weapon, but this song is just, like, us. I feel like it's any relationship song or anybody that's married or going to get married that just knows. It's like, 'God put you in my life for a reason.'"
"Leave You Alone"
Add crooner of romantic ballads to the hats Brown wears on Different Man. A blend of sentimentality and swagger places it somewhere between the heart songs of John Michael Montgomery and the type of material that could launch a modern pop hopeful to prominence.
Heavy-hitting, rock-inspired sounds —first concocted by Hank Williams Jr. and pushed into the new millennium by Shelton's "God's Country"— set the tone for another balancing act between Brown's country allegiance and his genre chameleon tendencies.
Plenty's been written about "One Mississippi" —namely its feel-good backstory. It began when then-unknown singer-songwriter Levon Gray tagged Brown in an Instagram post and ended with Brown asking Ernest K. Smith and Jesse Frasure for a favor.
"I asked them if they would write with [me and] a new writer that nobody in Nashville had heard before. They gave him a chance, and it was kind of like his audition," Brown told Country Now. "He came into the writing session with the title 'One Mississippi.' I kind of sat back and let him take charge, to see how he was gonna do."
The steamy single reached No. 1 in March on both the Billboard and Country Aircheck/Mediabase country airplay charts.
"Drunk or Dreamin'"
Easy listening (and easy living) energy sets apart this whimsical waltz that in another nine months will compete with Brian Kelley's solo material for top billing on your summer 2023 playlist.
"Losing You" fits the smooth R&B meets pop-country mold that brought Brown to the dance. Like prior Brown songs in this vein, it's stronger lyrically than many of his so-called "bro country" peers' most-maligned material.
Brown's before-mentioned reverence for Travis and other more traditional-leaning legends shines through here brighter than ever before. Even the pickiest critics of modern, radio-friendly country music should give this ideal platform for Brown's baritone delivery a fair shake.
It's one of two songs on the album (with "Thank God" being the other) not co-written by Brown.
"Pop's Last Name"
One of Brown's most personal songs to date tells the story of Steve Allen Brown: the maternal grandfather who helped raise him. The elder brown died on Sept. 11, 2020— almost two years to the day of Different Man's release— at age 65.
"My pop was my last granddad and he just passed away last year, but he was my only father figure because my dad's been in prison since I was a child and so he was the guy that came and taught me baseball, you know, took me on drives," Brown told Today's Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen. "I talk about it in the song, going through the battlefield, there was this statue, because the Civil War was fought in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., in the battlefield. And there was these statues and he would always act like the statue was talking to me when I was young. I remembered it... But when I was going through child abuse and stuff with my stepdad and all that stuff, he was there to... I wasn't going to get to go to baseball practice one day, he came and took me out of the house and was like, 'He's coming with me.' [He] was just a big father figure. And so I had to write a song about him."
"Devil Don't Even Bother"
In the tradition of Johnny Cash, Brown adopts a talking blues delivery for a galloping blend of hip-hop reference points and the latter half of the country & Western equation.
"Nothing I'd Change"
One last twist and turn loosely fits the same mold as Midland and Jon Pardi's breezy takes on throwback country.
It's another showpiece for Brown's vocal adaptability and storytelling skill. Plus, of the more roots-bound material on the album, it sounds the most like a potential radio hit.
Brown brings it all back home, capping off a 17-song journey with a pop-country banger that declares that his heart's in Georgia, no matter where he lays his head.
READ MORE: Luke Combs' 'Growin' Up': A Song-By-Song Guide to the Singer's First Album as a Husband and Father
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