February 13, 2009
Jennifer Nettles sums up the latest Sugarland single better than I ever could. “Ain’t no rhyme or reason, no complicated meaning. Ain’t no need to over-think it,” she says, echoing my impression of “It Happens,” a pop-country, cutesy anthem for suburbia. Nettles is full-blown twangified and all twisted up on this aw-shucks celebration.
In a fit of candor, Nettles calls upon all her mistakes to drive the point home: life is funny if you live and let live. Her alarm clock and her boss say she’s late for work, and she’s missed her morning coffee and, more uncomfortably, her daily shower. She arrives at the job with a pair of unmatching shoes, but life is full of such obstacles; “It happens,” she admits. (Though being tardy to the office is a no-go in these economic times.) The second verse is just an extension of her troubled day. On a trip to Walmart (homegirl is one with the people), she accidentally bumps into her ex’s truck, the second vehicle she’s sidelined that day (her “trusty-rusty” has a flat; she’s borrowed the neighbor’s Caddy).
In the press materials for Love on the Inside, the duo referenced blast-from-the-past “Walking on Sunshine,” the claim to fame for ’80s New Wave group, Katrina & the Waves, as the song’s sonic inspiration. Nettles, though, may have more in common with Bangles frontwoman, Susanna Hoffs. Both are strikingly beautiful women who’ve led highly-successful group efforts into the spotlight with their sass and sex appeal, not to mention their distinctive vocal spirit. The Bangles bowed to commercial expectations in the late ’80s; hopefully, Sugarland shrugs off that impulse and presses forward towards more challenging material.
Love on the Inside is a strong step in that direction, but contemporary albums now seem to be dotted with needless novelty. “It Happens” isn’t harboring hope for world peace or establishing country living as the only way of life; it’s just a necessary evil in a corporate radio world. The supposed release of “Love” relieved me (temporarily) of the fear that “It Happens” would blare out from my car stereo for the next five months. Now, I’m a little miffed about its release. I will let go, as Nettles nudges us to do, but I ain’t laughin’.
Written by Kristian Bush, Jennifer Nettles & Bobby Pinson
Listen: “It Happens”