Earlier this year, Luke Bryan bid spring break adieu. The Georgia-born country singer, who had developed something of a cottage industry around EPs and concerts celebrating the annual collegiate bacchanal, released “Spring Break . . . Checkin’ Out,” a compilation of previous beaches-and-beers-themed material that doubled as his sign-off from that particular party circuit.
Which isn’t to say that Bryan is suddenly getting serious. He might be scowling on the cover of his fifth album, “Kill the Lights,” but Bryan — whose sold-out show at Gillette Stadium last year had the feel of a house party, right down to the passed-around brews and the snippet of Jason Derulo’s saucy “Talk Dirty” — is taking a more measured approach to celebrating this time around. “We turn this cornfield into a party,” he sings triumphantly on the swaggering “Kick the Dust Up”; that song, which also shouts out Everclear and Bryan’s own tunes, is rooted in a chopped-up guitar riff that’s asking to be repurposed by an enterprising MC.
During his rise to headliner status, Bryan became known for weaving unexpected pop elements into middle-of-the-dirt-road country. While tracks like the straightforward “Huntin’, Fishin’, and Lovin’ Every Day” and the shimmering, wistful “Just Over” apply Bryan’s smooth charm to aspects of the Nashville template, his omnivorous nature peeks through here and there.
The sinewy, seductive title track brings together pop-funk’s snap with pop-country’s big choruses and bigger guitars. “Home Alone Tonight,” a bittersweet (and slightly vengeful) last-call duet with Little Big Town’s velvet-voiced Karen Fairchild, feels like his most compelling bid for crossover; the interplay between his burr and her coo is pleasing to the ear, and the beat sounds ready to be welcomed by adult-contemporary radio — particularly those stations open to mixing Ryan Tedder-helmed big balladry and “Need You Now”-style twang.
Bryan might have broken up with spring break, but crashing pop’s party will probably offer him just as good a time. (Out Friday)
ESSENTIAL “Huntin’, Fishin’, and Lovin’ Every Day”
Listen to Luke Bryan sing “Huntin’, ‘Fishin’, and Lovin’ Every Day”: