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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

‘Standing Room Only’ is yet another great Tim McGraw album

Alex Kendall

It may feel more like a stereotypical 90s country project. Maybe it doesn’t fit the trends that country music is going through in 2023. But Tim McGraw’s 17th studio album, “Standing Room Only,” is a fantastic album for the fans of the artist and genre. 

The singer, who has been pumping out music since before I was born, doesn’t seem to slow down, even at age 56.

Masked behind a very poppy sound – evident in “Hold On To It,” “Paper Umbrellas” and “Small Town King” — the album is a deep introspective of McGraw’s life as a whole. Ranging from themes of alcoholism, reflecting on the past and human growth, McGraw is emotionally raw throughout. 

“Standing Room Only,” the title track, is a ballad to himself as he hopes to “live a life so when I die, there’s standing room only.” It’s a deep song in which he turns away the ideals of possessions and monetary value. The important stuff in life is the impact you have on people’s lives, and that’s what’s at the core of the album as a whole.

Just take one of the verses. Wouldn’t you want to live your life that way?

“I wanna take my grudges and my old regrets, and let ’em go / I wanna learn how to say a lot more yes and a lot less no / Girl, I wanna dance and shout and love out loud, and come alive / Don’t wanna be the guy too cool to laugh and too scared to cry.”

Another example of McGraw’s emotional writing is “Remember Me Well.” Over a slowed tempo, McGraw sings about looking back fondly at life, including past relationships.

“If you’re gonna drink to me, drink tequila / If you’re gonna think of me, think of that balcony / On the corner of 5th and Eviston / Like we’re back in that beach motel again / It wasn’t just wasted time wе spent together / Wе had a few moments worth forever.”

The guitar solo on the backend of the song is what makes it great. I’m a sucker for good guitar outros and this one was one of the highlights of the album. There’s another one in “Cowboy Junkie” and it’s just as good, if not better. It’s what McGraw has made his bread and butter in these past two decades. His voice may not be as pristine as it was on his earlier projects, but the guitars didn’t take a step back. 

Lori McKenna, known for writing McGraw’s 2015 hit “Humble and Kind,” is the lone feature on the project. McGraw and McKenna trade lines in “Nashville, CA/L.A. Tennessee.” It’s not my favorite, as is “Some Songs Change Your World” just one song later. But the two songs provide a nice slower-paced listen to the faster, pop-styled songs that open up the album. Oh, and the latter song had a killer guitar solo, so that was a nice bonus.

A lot of the songs seem similar during the first few listens. As McGraw croons about a glass of whiskey or a past heartbreak, it’s easy to get some of the later songs confused with each other. “Letter From Heaven” does a great job of getting the listener out of that funk as the album comes to a close. 

The song is a strong way to close out what is an emotional project. McGraw refers to a dead relative and talks about finding solace in the important things in life (as he references in the song: finding God and trusting family). 

“The things you need to stay alive / Aren’t the things you need to live / Give ten percent to little smiles / You get back what you give / And I know that it sounds crazy / But try hot sauce on your PB&J / Have you ever thought just maybe / Change the name of worry to pray.”

It’s not the same Tim McGraw of his early years and that’s OK “Standing Room Only” is a blend of head-nodding instrumentals to grab some radio airtime, but also enough introspective lyrics to really tug at the heartstrings. Maybe we can all learn something from the album.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to try some hot sauce on my PB&J.

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Ethan Hurwitz
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

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