Kane Brown is the latest singer to wear the "Future of Country" mantel. With ridiculous social media statistics for a 22-year-old singer and hit songs on iTunes, the buzz about Brown was so loud that Nashville had to take notice. Brown's "Chapter One" EP marks his major-label debut, and it demonstrates that he does have talent, even if the songs don't always show it.
As a new artist stretching his wings, Brown tries to do too much vocally. Frequently, he dips his voice into a pseudo-baritone that is grating and tuneless. "Used to Love You Sober," his lead single and an otherwise fine song, is marred by Brown's attempt to sing outside of his range. "Excuses" suffers the same fate. A good song doesn't require a perfect performance, but there is a big difference between having a quirky voice and just having poor vocals. Brown co-wrote four of the five songs, so he bears some responsibility for picking songs that are out of his range. He would be much better served trying to work with his voice instead of fighting against his limitations.
Brown fits into the Sam Hunt world of pop-friendly country, which he demonstrates in "There Goes My Everything." On the other hand, "Wide Open" is solidly mainstream country and is the highlight. Written by Brown, Corey Crowder and Justin Lantz, it uses many of the elements found in most country songs (small towns, weekends, two-lane roads) but does so in an appealing, almost wistful way. It's also his strongest vocal performance and demonstrates that he has the ability to be a successful country singer if more attention is paid to his material.
When he was releasing YouTube videos covering the likes of George Strait, Lee Brice or Luke Bryan, Brown could get a little leeway if his vocal performance wasn't on par. Now that he's major-label recording artist, Brown is going to have to step up his game. He has the vocal abilities; he just needs better songs that suit him.