Cheat Codes LLC
Release Date: January 27th 2023
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Cheat Codes– One Night In Nashville (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- Something’s Coming (with Lady A)
- I Remember (with Russell Dickerson)
- One Night Left (with Mackenzie Porter)
- Hurt That You Gave Me (with Brett Young)
- What’s It Gonna Take (with Mitchell Tenpenny)
- How Do You Love (with Lee Brice and Lindsay Ell)
- Bets On Us (with Dolly Parton)
- You Ain’t Been In Love (with Nate Smith)
- Never Love You Again (with Little Big Town and Bryn Christopher)
- Already Hungover (with Maddie & Tae)
- We’ll Break Up (with Adam Doleac)
- When You Know (with Matt Stell)
- Lose You (with Jimmie Allen)
- I Remember (Dixie Remix) (with Russell Dickerson and Dixie D’Amelio)
I don’t know why they’re the ‘in’ thing these days… but record producers/DJ’s/remixers are in fact the ‘in’ thing. They’re very popular, much to my confusion and perplexment. Marshmello would have to be the most popular of the lot, but Kygo, The Chainsmokers, Clean Bandit, Galantis and Rudimental, would have to be incredibly close behind. Enter in Cheat Codes, who have also been in the game a long-ish time. Now to be fair, I’m not a fan of these types of artists, and I’ve only heard about this group through their collaborations with Demi Lovato, Little Mix, Little Big Town, and Lindsay Ell over the past few years. I was indifferent when I heard about their new song “I Remember” in 2022. But… since the collaboration was with pop/country start Russell Dickerson (and I previously reviewed Russell’s album, and rated it pretty well, while I also enjoyed Russell’s songs with Chris Tomlin in the album Chris Tomlin & Friends!); I thought I better give these guys a chance. Especially since they announced a country album earlier in 2022. Unfortunately, though, now that I look back on it, I really wish I hadn’t even listened to “I Remember”. That song was a total bore, but I’ll delve more into that as this review progresses. This past January, Cheat Codes unveiled their debut ‘country’ album after already releasing 3 previous dance/EDM albums- One Night In Nashville is a collection of 15 songs with well-known and rising country stars. Though the concept is ambitious and admirable; after many listens, the execution falls flat. There are guest artists aplenty present on this project, and some songs on their own are pretty good and enjoyable. But the cohesiveness isn’t there if we’re looking at the entire thing as an entity in and of itself. And much like Diane Warren’s debut album, this project from Cheat Codes suffers from a lack of identity and a lack of a substantial and resonating over-arching message.
I’ve always loved country music. I’ve always loved the way they write songs as storytelling, and it’s so different than any other kind of genre. It’s so picturesque, and you can really imagine what’s happening in every song. It’s just unique in that way.
[When] we started this project and we were diving in on what we wanted to do, we had a list of names of people that we would love to work with, and Dolly was at the very top of that list. She’s the queen of country. And for her to give her stamp of approval on this song and also just being a part of the album is a huge, huge compliment from her. It really means a lot. And it’s a crazy situation: as a kid, I would’ve never pictured us having a song with somebody as epic as her.
KEVI spent some time in Nashville, and he was hyping it up. He went to Kid Rock’s bar, and then, a year and a half ago, he bought a truck— which we never thought he would buy a truck. And he started wearing cowboy hats. That’s kind of where we came up with ‘One Night in Nashville,’ because I think it just converted our mentality. Once you see country music, if you don’t understand the lifestyle of it, I feel like you don’t understand the full picture and scope of the music. These songs are so cool, and they strike a level of emotion that is different from other genres of music.
Objectively and artistically, One Night In Nashville somewhat breaks new ground and probably is revolutionary for anybody who isn’t immersed in country music. But for myself, who has been an avid follower of country music for more than a few years now… Cheat Codes’ project is only ‘ok’. It’s fine. It’s good background music. But that’s all it is. And when you’re indifferent to something and not overly critical nor overly captured by the songs; then the apathy means that the album can never be great, no matter how many listens to the album. Take the lead single “I Remember” with Russell Dickerson. If you’re expecting me to say that through this song, I found enlightenment or I found out the reason why so many of today’s generation are enamoured and obsessed with these kinds of artists… then you’d be sorely mistaken, and this isn’t the review you need to be reading. Cheat Codes are just like any other DJ/remixer, and though Russell tries hard here as a lead vocalist, it isn’t enough to redeem this trainwreck of a ‘song’. It’s catchy and somewhat ok, so at least the track has that going for it. But it’s still instantly forgettable… and this group is just one of the many remixers in this crowded pop scene. Lyrically, the melody of “I Remember” has Russell reminiscing on a summer romance, a fling or a one-night stand. It’s not deep at all… and I reckon it doesn’t deserve any repeat listens. As a lead single… it’s pretty poor. The ‘remix’ with Dixie D’Amelio at track #15 is marginally better, but the melody still is forgettable- there’s no way I will ‘remember’ this song in a week’s time- no pun intended!
The rest of the 14 songs on One Night In Nashville are somewhat catchy and moving on their own, with a few missteps. But as a whole, the album is indeed less than the sum of its parts. “Something’s Coming”, with Lady A, is a ethereal, mysterious, banjo-infused country/folk melody, that is musically great, but lyrically vague, as Lady A outline that ‘…something’s comin’, comin’, comin’, and I’m not scared at all to feel it, out the dark, I can see it, comin’, comin’, comin’, comin’, and I’ll hear the call, ’cause hearts change like seasons after all…’ (a ‘spiritual’ track that is quite superfluous when it all boils down to it!); while the poppy, powerful and haunting ballad “One Night Left”, with Mackenzie Porter on vocals, speaks about the topic of regrets, while asking the question of what we would do on earth if we had one night left. It’s a thought-provoking topic, but the lyrics don’t go deep enough, and we’re left with something half-baked, which is a shame, as “One Night Left” is one of the better ones on this varied track-list; while the needless trainwreck of a song “Hurt That You Gave Me”, features Brett Young on vocals, and speaks about the persona wanting to act out and act vengefully and recklessly because he has been dumped by his ex and is channelling his hurt and rage in unhealthy and unproductive ways. There’s no resolution here and is a ‘revenge’ song and that’s why I reckon it makes no sense here except to be a ‘party anthem’; while “What’s It Gonna Take”, a ballad sung by Mitchell Tenpenny, is co-written with Aaron Gillespie, and is lyrically similar to “Hurt That You Gave Me”- except that this time, the persona isn’t vengeful and is melancholy and reflective, lamenting ‘…what’s it gonna take, what’s it gonna take to get over you? I’d do anything, I’d do anything to get over you, I’ve been to every bar, drank all the whiskey, but, baby, nothin’ really ever seems to fix me…’.
“How Do You Love”, a melody with Lee Brice and Lindsay Ell, released in 2021, and was a song that I had heard for a while prior to the announcement of One Night In Nashville. But the sentiment of realising that love is special and that we all love in different ways, isn’t fully effective nor answered clearly here, as Lee and Lindsay are earnest, but seem to be flogging a dead horse- this melody isn’t engaging nor inventive (there’s 12 co-writers here, but the end product features tons of repetition like ‘…tell me how do you love, tell me how do you love, ooh, baby, I just wanna learn and give you enough, tell me how do you love, tell me how do you love, ooh, baby, I just wanna learn and give you enough, oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh…’!). The concept is pretty cool, so I’ll give these guys points for trying as I can tell that Lee and Lindsay are having a ball in the music video. However, “How Do You Love” is just ‘there’ and isn’t a ground-breaking country song by any means. “Bets On Us” sadly is the lowest point on the album, with Dolly Parton relegated to backing vocals, on a song littered with gambling references with respect to love- a lazy song writing trope and a complete waste of Dolly’s iconic status and legendary talent. “You Ain’t Been In Love”, sung by rising up-and-comer Nate Smith, is a remix from Nate’s upcoming debut album, and is a radio friendly pop/country ballad that is pleasant, but forgettable, from a vocal Mitchell Tenpenny-clone; while the surprisingly charming and engaging romantic and heartfelt ballad “Sippin’” has Cheat Codes frontman Trevor Dahl actually leading a song and doing quite a solid job at it!
One of the rare times a collaboration with Cheat Codes actually works and fires on all cylinders is the R&B/pop summer jam “Never Love You Again” with Bryn Christopher and Little Big Town, as we are transported to a toe-tapping and pulsating dance party with contagious and infectious joy permeating throughout the track and music video; while album highlight “Already Hungover”, a revealing and vulnerable melody with Maddie & Tae, speaks about the topic of unrequited love and of feelings of worthlessness and insignificance. With the persona in the song singing about how they already know that their crush (whom they haven’t talked to!) will reject them because of undisclosed reasons; we are encouraged in this song to take risks even if they turn out sour or calamitous- because if we stay in our bubbles, life will be very boring.
“Well Break Up”, an embarrassing semblance of a song if you could call it that, is Cheat Codes at their worst (alongside “Bets On Us”), with the nondescript and totally bland Adam Doleac singing about never ever breaking up with his partner except ‘…when neon stops buzzin’, vacuums don’t suck, eggs don’t come in a dozen, and Cupid isn’t shootin’ arrows, makin’ people fall in love like us, yeah, baby, we’ll break up when LA is out of traffic, when white T-shirts and blue jeans ain’t classic…’ (why couldn’t Thomas Rhett sing on this song, which would make it infinitely better?); while the penultimate song on One Night In Nashville is “When You Know” with Matt Stell, a basic song about knowing when you have met ‘the one’ for you, because, you know, ‘…when it’s in your heartbeat, way down in your bones, when you’d rather die than try to let it go, everything just makes sense, even when it don’t, it’s just a feeling, don’t need a reason, ’cause when you know you know…’– a song that totally makes sense (note the sarcasm!). Cheat Codes then ends their experimental album with the powerful and poignant ballad “Lose You”, lead by Jimmie Allen, and a strong way to end an interesting album- a song about actually living life to the fullest and treating each day as if it were the last day on earth, and loving someone as if you’re about to lose them.
It’s just a small world and you work with one artist and you’re like, ‘Hey, what about this record? What about that record?’ And then, things just start being sent back and forth, and before you know it, you’re like, “Oh, we have 15 demos. Cool. Let’s make it an album.
It was this close [to Keith Urban being on the album]! Something with scheduling. I don’t know what happened exactly, but Keith, if you’re out there, we know you’re listening. Next time!
So, this is just that era for Cheat Codes, if you’re going on the boat, maybe you’re going out and fishing, you throw on One Night in Nashville and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m actually listening to Cheat Codes right now. That’s interesting.
People might traditionally listen to a specific genre, whether it’s dance or hip hop or whatever, but they also love country, and they didn’t expect this from us. Being able to have both of those worlds combined is cool.
On their own, these 15 songs are unique- some fun and fluffy and others heavy and poignant. All of them… I guess they’re tailor made for the specific artist singing them. But herein lies the point. This is a Diane Warren album. Not a compilation album with 20 different artists. These songs are meant to have a common thread, and they don’t. That’s not to say these songs aren’t good- they are. I reckon “Where Is Your Heart”, “Not Prepared For You” and “Grow Old With Me” are moving, powerful and heart-warming melodies… and “Seaside” is just a fun, summery song that brings a smile to my face. But can these songs coexist together in the same album and make sense? Maybe I’m not the right person to understand this album given I’m not a gigantic Diane Warren fan. But if I can’t see the point of Diane Warren: The Cave Sessions, Vol. 1, then how can anyone else? How can the average joe on the street? This isn’t a diss on Diane Warren. She truly is a legend in her own right. And these songs are on the whole beautifully written and sung. But to call it a Diane Warren album? Sorry… but I’m still left scratching my head. What do you all reckon? Are you confused like I have been? Like I still am?
With this above final conclusion paragraph taken verbatim from my review of Diane Warren’s album from a year and a half ago; the sentiment from that review rings true with Cheat Codes and this puzzling release. I still don’t understand record producers/DJ’s/remixers and why they are so popular. I gave One Night In Nashville a chance, and then some more (predominantly because of the star-studded line-up that these guys are collaborating with!), but in reality, this album is incredibly underwhelming, considering the calibre and reputation of most, if not all of these artists involved. I hope that Cheat Codes don’t ruin these artists’ careers… and I do want to give them the benefit of the doubt. But if you really want to listen to a bonafide country album, then this isn’t the one. Try any one of the other country songs in any of the country albums we’ve reviewed on our site instead. Will I listen to another Cheat Codes album? Maybe not. But hey, if this project resonates with you, then more power to you! I’ll just cherry pick some songs here and there, like “One Night Left”, “Never Love You Again”, “Already Hungover”, and “Lose You”, to name a few. Could the album track list have been enhanced by Demi Lovato (“No Promises”) or Little Mix (“Only You”) though, even if they both aren’t ‘country’? Perhaps. Perhaps not. As it stands though, One Night In Nashville is good listening for one night, but not for repeat listens.
4 songs to listen to: One Night Left, Never Love You Again, Already Hungover, Lose You
RIYL: Kygo, Brett Young, Brett Eldredge, Marshmello, The Chainsmokers, Kane Brown, Lauren Alaina, Lindsay Ell, Rudimental