A sophomore album can be a tough nut to crack. You don't want to get away from what created your initial success, but there's also a chorus of folks asking "what else can you show us? Disappoint and you could be one-and-done. Have some success, and you keep alive the opportunity to remain relevant - at least for another year or so.
We know Jake Owen's strength is ballads - his biggest hit off his 2006 debut album Startin' With Me was the self-reflective title track. With his sound resembling Ronnie Dunn and Eddie Montgomery at times, the Florida native continues to thrive with the slow songs - Easy Does It and his new single, Don't Think I Can't Love You. Anything For You is a tender ballad that touches on that untapped subject of telling a woman you'll do anything for her love - metaphors and all, included. None of those songs separates Owen from the pack of artists trying to make the transition from fresh face to consistent hit-maker.
Owen helped write 8 of the 10 tracks, but it's one that he didn't write that should cause people to stand up and take notice. Nothin' Grows In The Shadows, a ballad co-written by Rhett Akins, is possibly the best anti-bullying since the late 1990's when Mark Wills released Don't Laugh At Me and Tim McGraw recorded One Of These Days. But this time, it's not only wrong to tease others, but it can cause you to regret it later in life.
Owen seems to have a difficult time finding up-tempo material that's not filled with cliches, comes across incredibly corny - or both. Eight Second Ride, which also appeared on Owen's debut, fits into both unimpressive categories. One wonders why a song with such an unmemorable melody and cheesy double entendres made it on to one album, let alone two. Then, there's Every Reason I Go Back, which you can pile on top of the eight zillion other small town pride anthems that have permeated country music in recent years. At least, Owen gets a little bit clever with Cherry On Top with lyrics like beautifully, playfully, hopelessly, faithfully mine."
Owen might want to take a page out of George Strait's playbook and spend more time choosing - and not writing - the next set of songs he records.