It’s understandable why a member of the Backstreet Boys would want to make a country record. The Nineties boy band found a second life thanks to their collaborations with Florida Georgia Line, scoring a Number One with “God, Your Mama and Me” and performing together on the ACM Awards. They even landed their own performance slot at this year’s ostensibly country-focused CMT Awards, dancing their way through the new single “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
But while the Nineties nostalgia of the Backstreet Boys may be a fun and even needed diversion, the bro-country nostalgia of AJ McLean’s “Back Porch Bottle Service” – which has all the pop of a flat bottle of cheap champagne – is not.
With warmed-over production and lyrics that take pains to shoehorn in even the most absurd of summer imagery – “citronella” and “tiki torches” rub shoulders with “McGraw” – the song’s most egregious sin is that it sets the depiction of women in country songs back about five years. Especially in a time when artists from Keith Urban to Dierks Bentley – whose “Woman, Amen” just hit Number One – are working overtime to thoughtfully change the genre’s lexicon.
With lyrics like these in “Back Porch Bottle Service,” it’ll be a slog:
Comin’ in hot with them cut-offs
Make me think I should be cut off
And I’ve only had two, maybe three
Might as well be 12 when you’re kissing on me
As we’ve heard time and again, the beauty of a nameless, faceless “girl” has intoxicated the narrator, but McLean’s single takes it a step further with the addition of two or three drinks – he can’t really remember the exact number – getting him all hot to trot. And, please, don’t let him have another, or else there’s no telling what the booty-starved dude will do. “Girl, you know it’s been a little while,” he admits.
On the surface, “Back Porch Bottle Service” may appear to be a (mostly) harmless party song, but compare it to what Chris Janson is trying to do with “Drunk Girl.” In the Grand Ole Opry member’s piano-based ballad – currently attempting to carve out a path on the Billboard Country Airplay chart – Janson offers a little advice on how to treat a woman who’s had one too many when the bar lights come on. In short, he suggests acting like a gentleman, getting her home safely and not taking advantage. You know, the manners your mom taught you.
To be fair, Janson’s “Drunk Girl” isn’t perfect and it has received some criticism for pointing out the obvious. But Janson has said he wrote the song for his particular audience – young guys who likely had their still-evolving worldview of women shaped by some of country radio’s lesser lyrics.
The kind, unfortunately, that McLean reinforces in “Bottle Service,” where he opts for ape-man come-ons like “Damn girl, you lookin’ gorgeous” and begging his quarry to not stop what he’s reading as her “firefly flirtin’.” He can try to blame it on the a-a-alcohol – there are some “long necks chilling in an ice box” that are making her look “so hot,” after all – but in the end, this misbegotten night’s actions are all on him.
Earlier this month, McLean live-debuted “Back Porch Bottle Service” during a showcase in Nashville. Curiously, he prefaced his performance by announcing that his first country single was “Top 20” on the charts. Which chart, he didn’t specify, and the assembled fans – an assembly of Backstreet Boys lifers – didn’t seem to care. But keen-eared country fans burned out on the tropes of bros past probably will. We’ve hung out with these boys before and are in no hurry to do so again, be it on the back porch or back streets.