Sam Hunt, "Downtown's Dead"
Sam Hunt may not be the most prolific performer in country and pop, having released just three new songs since 2014's blockbuster LP Montevallo, but he knows how to make each one an event. His latest, "Downtown's Dead," invites us back inside his head, where going out all night ain't what it used to be while he remains haunted by a loss he can't shake. "I see people that I know, but I feel like there's no one here but me," he sings, as ghostly snippets of guitar and digital snaps swell into a full-bodied refrain with booming drums and a chorus of harmonies to support Hunt's emotive vocals. His character finally has a bit of a breakthrough: "Free drinks, bright lights. What am I doing with my life?" he asks. As always, Hunt manages to wring pathos from utterly ordinary situations, just by allowing himself to be vulnerable. J.F.