Summer is fucking dead. Heralded by the recent solstice, Labor Day, or the onset of "hoodie weather" (the latter loudly welcomed by goobers who think vegetables are "delicious"), the end of summer comes for us all. MTV did its ceremonial part to drive this home several weeks ago by crowning an official Song of the Summer at the VMAs. One Direction bested more likely candidates like Miley, Dad Funk and Robin "But what is consent REALLY?" Thicke. It was, if you’ve been following the internet, probably the least interesting thing to happen that night, and nothing in particular seemed to have been accomplished by it.
The gesture seemed particularly hollow to me primarily due to the absence of country duo Florida Georgia Line, whose tune "Cruise," in remix form with a guest verse from Nelly, I probably played anywhere between one and six times a day during those balmy months, depending on how much more awesome I needed to feel about everything. Now, I'm going to go out on an admittedly unfair limb and say, with all due respect, that if you are the kind of person who reads a blog called "New Criticals," you probably haven't heard it (if I'm wrong, mea culpa). Allow me, then, to be your ambassador to a more blissful existence, one that might forestall the end of summer for a few more precious weeks.
I first encountered “Cruise” on VH1 at around 6am while stumbling towards the coffeemaker, and while I can’t say I loved it immediately, its garish video was impossible to turn away from. Questions multiplied: who was this cheeseball lovechild-of-Tim-and-Billy-Riggins bumping and grinding with video hotties and why did he have a bland looking partner who said almost nothing and what in God’s holy name was Nelly doing here and when did the skinny kid from “Country Grammar” get, like, Tom-Hardy-in-Warrior shredded? The lyric was rooted in a dumb metaphor (“Baby, you a song, you make we wanna roll my windows down…”) and road clichés, but sung with such dumb earnestness and repeated so many goddamn times that I couldn’t even really be certain a verse had ever occurred. I was sure I had witnessed something either terrible or life-changing, and went about my day convinced I had dreamt the whole thing.
But Florida Georgia Line willed it, and it was no dream. With repeated exposure, lo, I saw the error of my ways.
“Cruise,” you see, is a joy machine, delivered by three salesmen whose enthusiasm borders on lunacy. Everything in both the song and clip, from Mr. Georgia’s cheeky drawl and bug eyes to Nelly’s t-shirt cannon harmonies and irrepressible fist-pumping, conspire to get you as riotously stoked as you ever have been in your whole jaded life. For reference, watch this video from their performance on the Today Show, fast forward to about the five-minute mark, and JUST LOOK AT HOW HAPPY THEY MADE HODA KOTB, one of THE MOST OBJECTIVELY LOVABLE PEOPLE ON THE PLANET!
In this light, the central metaphor that seemed so inane on first listen even takes on a kind of, if not strictly 'depth', then at least importance: it has to be heard with an acknowledgement of how truly rare it is to meet someone that gives you the same welled-up eyes and gut drop that a great song blaring out of rolled down windows surely does. With that understanding, 'song' becomes the highest praise you could ever give a person. The details, with seemingly stock references to backroads and farm towns, begin to coalesce once you get on this wavelength, with the locale coming to life as immediately as, say, the bar from "Here Comes a Regular," and the second-verse invitation to "go get this thing stuck" becomes the best damn choice imaginable. In the next few months it's going to get fucking cold and dark, and the only place we'll have to get stuck is songs like this one, so until then you can find me whipping across the border, Florida into Georgia.