When Luke Bryan subtitled his final collection of Spring Break EPs Checkin’ Out, he made no bones about his maturation: now that he’s a man, he’s giving up his childish ways. Kill The Lights – his fifth album, delivered just five months after that farewell to Spring Break debauchery – is unabashedly the work of a man who is beginning to feel the weight of encroaching middle age, but he isn’t running away from the good times he celebrated as a younger man. Sure, there are suggestions that he’s feeling the weight of his years – he has noticed how “60 seconds now feel more like 30,” then compares his beating heart to the skips on a CD – but Luke Bryan isn’t living for yesterday, he’s duetting with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild about texting pictures to their exes to stoke jealousy while singing the title song to a neo-new wave disco beat that could also pass as EDM. In other words, he is happy to be a modern man and Kill The Lights excels by being modern, as comfortable in the contours that lie between contemporary country and crossover as it is in the working mans’ sports bars that dot the US. Luke never abandons his blue-collar roots but he also suggests he sees a world outside of red states (after all, he obliquely references Coldplay on the arena ballad “Just Over”) and that is the key to the record’s success: he is everything to everybody, a genial host who hopes everybody is having a grand time. He’s crowd pleasing without pandering, delivering slow-burning ballads and tempered party tunes that never descend to bacchanalia. Luke Bryan is a guy that wants everybody to have fun, then come back tomorrow for another round and that’s why Kill The Lights works so well. He’s a genial, generous host, going out of his way to ensure everybody has a good time, and Kill The Lights winds up feeling happy and generous, an inclusive record that plays to teenage desires as effectively as memories of an adolescence left behind.
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