Steven Tyler is the frontman of one of the best-selling rock & roll bands in American history, so his foray into country music — a move that’s been promised for months and finally came to fruition when he performed his debut country single “Love Is Your Name” tonight on American Idol — has put more than a few Aerosmith fans on edge. Their caution is understandable. What, exactly, is Tyler going to sound like without the boogie-woogie bombast of his longtime band? Is he going to fall down the bro-country rabbit hole? Will the dude look like a Lady. . . Antebellum?
Luckily, “Love Is Your Name” turns out to be really good. Tyler didn’t write the song — that credit goes to Eric Paslay, who co-wrote Will Hoge’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and Love and Theft’s “Angel Eyes” before kickstarting his own solo career, and Lindsey Lee, a former backup singer for Miley Cyrus who currently writes for the Nashville-based publishing house Round Hill Music. But Tyler rips into it like one of his own. While fiddle, lap steel, acoustic guitar and a drum loop kick up some quiet dust in the background, the singer dives into the song’s first verse sounding like. . . well, like Steven Tyler, his voice powerful, raw and blissfully free of the Auto-Tune that’s become so prevalent in Nashville.
Once the chorus hits, “Love Is Your Name” builds itself into something towering and anthemic, driven forward by a melody that’s more appropriate for the arena than the honky-tonk. The rest of the song barrels forward with a similar push-and-pull dynamic, the down-home verses giving way to sweeping, swooning refrains.
The best part? The solo, which starts off as a fiddle hook, then gives way to an electric guitar riff, then climaxes with a vocal run from Tyler. It’s a left-field arrangement that hasn’t been heard on country radio in years — the “bow-ba-bow” vocals from Eric Church’s “Creepin'” don’t even come close to this countrified song and dance — and the whole thing is done within three and a half minutes, long before the song’s hooks have overstayed their welcome. F.I.N.E. indeed.