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The News Reviews: ‘Change the Game’ by Cody Jinks

Cody+Jinks+released+new+album+Change+the+Game+in+March.+
MacKenzie Rogers
Cody Jinks released new album ‘Change the Game’ in March.

“Change the Game,” the latest album from metal-singer-turned-alt-country-star Cody Jinks, is a subdued effort from a notoriously brash artist.

According to a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the cause of that impression is a newfound maturity in Jinks. He quit drinking soon after his 43rd birthday last August and has since started therapy. While I don’t doubt the veracity of Jinks’ personal growth, I have a hard time buying into this album being significantly more introspective than previous efforts.

That’s not to say the album is bad. There are certainly highlights. I think the opening track, “Sober Thing,” is one of the better songs in his catalog. It’s a well-written, expertly performed sad country song about the struggle to overcome alcoholism. While that isn’t breaking new ground in the genre by any means, it delivers. 

Similar thematic ground is covered in “Wasted.” I don’t find it quite as successful as the previously mentioned track, but there are some well-written lines. I believe these two songs reflecting on the damage drinking can inflict on one’s life are meant to be the shining examples of Jinks’ more mature songwriting.

Maybe I struggle to see that as a major breakthrough because that subject has been so thoroughly mined in the outlaw country genre. While Jinks has included some of the darker aspects of drinking in previous songs, I suppose this album is his first chance to explore it as a sober person. Of course, this isn’t the topic of every song, and that’s where the notion of this album being some kind of turning point in Jinks’ songwriting really gets lost for me.

While the headline of the previously mentioned Rolling Stone interview reads “Cody Jinks Is Through Being an ‘Outlaw,’” a good portion of the songwriting falls into cliches of the outlaw country genre. In all fairness, I think the writer of that headline took a bit of liberty with Jinks’ comment on the ‘outlaw’ moniker. However, the point remains that some of these songs come across very shallow to me.

The worst example is “The Working Man.” The prototypical working man has been a mainstay in country songs for decades. While I would imagine practically every genre of music has a working-class fanbase, country music is by far the genre most devoted to representing it in the songs themselves. This kind of song has been done well (and badly) by many artists I love.

The gist of the song is that a working man is going to work hard no matter what job he has. As there is no other descriptor of this character besides him being a ‘working man,’ that point seems self-evident. Beyond that, the lyrics are pretty bland for someone with Jinks’ writing talent. The song’s music video, which focuses on Jinks’ touring crew, is the only thing adding any life to the song. I imagine he sees this song as a tribute to his fanbase, but I personally feel that they deserve something with a little more meat on the bone.

Then there is one of the album’s singles, “Outlaws and Mustangs.” While Jinks said he doesn’t necessarily identify with the outlaw label, funnily enough, it did manage to make its way into one of the most popular songs on the album. 

“Go on hit the highway, disappear in the night

You got to see the world all by yourself, and that’s alright

You ain’t leavin’ me worried, you were born to roam

The thing about outlaws and mustangs, they always come home”

My initial gripe with this song is that I don’t buy the premise of its chorus. I’m not sure in what world outlaws, by any definition of the term, or mustangs always come home. Beyond that there is at least some level of aesthetic appeal in these lyrics, which is more than I can say for “The Working Man,” but in terms of substance there is little more than vague references to a free spirit hitting the highway and paying the price for his freedom. That same ‘spirit’ can be seen throughout this album and thousands of other country songs.

It occurs to me that I may be judging an artist I like rather harshly. After all, every genre has its recurring motifs, especially outlaw country. It’s not so much that he is using these cliches, but that he just doesn’t use them that effectively.

This is, after all, the artist who wrote “Hippies and Cowboys,” a song I would rank among the best offerings of modern outlaw or alt-country. Its content also doesn’t stray far from the mainstays of the genre, but it is teeming with personality and energy in a way I only find in small bursts on this record. This is supposed to be justified by the promise of a more mature, wiser Cody Jinks, yet I’m not finding a new layer of depth in many of these songs.

“Change the Game” still has the appeal of Jinks’ iconic voice and a few examples of his great songwriting, but it’s far from his strongest effort. If you are already a fan, it’s worth your time, but I wouldn’t advise that it be your introduction.

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About the Contributors
Ben Overby, Staff Writer
MacKenzie Rogers
MacKenzie Rogers, Lifestyle Editor
MacKenzie Rogers joined the staff of The News in Fall 2022. Rogers is a junior studying creative writing and journalism. She spends all her spare time reading, writing and playing video games.

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