Review : Tim McGraw - Emotional Traffic
L.A. TimesA sticker on the country hunk’s 11th album trumpets this as “My Best Album Ever — Tim McGraw,” a proclamation that has as much to do with PR spin as artistic assessment. After all, McGraw publicly disassociated himself from the last collection his label put out because he felt that a third hits collection constituted more milking of his fans than he could tolerate.
In truth, “Emotional Traffic” isn’t dramatically better, worse or all that different from what he’s been doing since the beginning: button-pushing ballads built largely on sentiments like those you encounter in daily affirmation booklets, interspersed with upbeat country-rock brimming with snappy instrumental hooks but little lyrical bite....full text
Rough StockEmbroiled in controversy and legal red tape, Emotional Traffic is the album Tim McGraw literally sued to get released. The final album submitted to Curb Records under a contract signed years ago, Emotional Traffic was deemed by Curb to have been delivered too soon and deemed to have had too many ‘old songs’ on it. Yet when listening to the album, it’s hard to see the label’s argument except for the oft-held view that the label was trying to hold onto it’s key asset (McGraw’s recording career) as long as possible.
After just one listen to the tracks that make up Emotional Traffic, it’s not hard to see why the label would want to hold onto McGraw for as long as possible. Quite simply, Emotional Traffic is the work of an artist at the top of his game, 20 years into his career. While clearly not the same neo-traditional artist of his early years, Tim McGraw has remained one of country music’s most bankable stars and well-known faces and like Garth Brooks and George Strait, Tim McGraw knows how to choose songs that suit his voice and the particular style of contemporary country music he’s making on a particular album....full text
Slant MagazineMcGraw's best songs are elevated by the empathy in his vocal performances. Unfortunately, his output has long been characterized by an inconsistent ear for quality material, and his weakness for empty bombast and schmaltz rears its head on Emotional Traffic. "Hey Now" fails to spin a labored, awkwardly phrased pick-up line into full-length narrative that includes an embarrassing funk breakdown in its first verse, while the casually patronizing "Right Back Atcha Babe" doesn't bother to flesh out its central relationship beyond the roughest of sketches. The lyrical hook on opener "Halo" is so incredibly stilted ("You just lay low/Under your halo") that McGraw might have been better off covering Beyoncé's hit of the same name, and "The One" is yet another modern country song that makes the mistake of assuming a list of rural signifiers can compensate for not having anything more substantial to say than "You're the one that makes me feel like I'm the one."...full text
Hit FixOver the course of his career, McGraw has, commendably, never tried to chase youth and has instead looked getting older square in the eye. Part of the album’s pleasure comes from listening to someone who embraces his weaknesses rather than still pretending to be Superman, whether it be looking back on a lost love on a sassy remake of Dee Ervin’s “One Part, Two Part” with wife Faith Hill or on “Only Human,” a slightly syrupy duet with super-sweet voiced Ne-Yo.
McGraw, who is touring with Kenny Chesney this summer on a stadium outing, co-produced the album with longtime collaborator Byron Gallimore. While it occasionally sounds dated, for the most part, the album strikes the perfect balance of McGraw’s country, rock and R&B sides. ...full text
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