Had “Hard to Be Cool” not been released as a single, it would have been a throwaway track off of his Crickets album which was otherwise populated by a relatively solid collection of tracks. There were three to four of those throwaways on the album, but it was also his longest album to date, featuring 16 tracks, whereas his longest album prior to this was 13 tracks. Take away those three throwaways from here and you’re left with an album that easily reaches 4.5-star territory. So don’t let this song fool you, because the album it comes from is still high-caliber.
It’s not even that the song is unbearable. Nichols’ easygoing voice makes it listenable, even enjoyable to a certain extent. And he doesn’t relegate himself to some of the motifs that are overdone. But the territory is narrowly avoided. And for an artist like Nichols who typically stands out from the pack, this song fails to stand out. It falls into a category of summer songs that begin and end before you have a chance to determine if there’s anything memorable about them.
From any other artist, this song would warrant complete scorn. What makes “Hard to Be Cool” so disappointing is not just the quality of the song. It’s that Nichols is so much better than the song. He’s a much better artist with much better material. And Crickets has a lot of great options that could have helped increase the quality of current mainstream radio.