Say What? – Little Big Town

little-big-town-flIn a review of the recent Little Big Town concert in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Star-Tribune reporter Jon Bream commented on the group’s lack of a lead singer. He noted that although the group has the potential to be big, it misses consistent star power. According to Bream:

For a group to blossom in Nashville, it needs a focal point. Randy Owen dominated Alabama, Gary LeVox is the main man with Rascal Flatts and Natalie Maines is the mouthpiece of the Dixie Chicks. But who is the mayor of Little Big Town?

After discussing how no singer stepped forward during the concert in the Twin Cities, Bream continued:

Multiple lead singers may work for the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac, two groups that have obviously influenced Little Big Town. But those groups are the exceptions. Be a democracy offstage, but choose one dominant star for the stage.

For the record, I happen to agree with him, at least when it comes to Little Big Town. In my opinion, the group makes beautiful music, but lacks a certain spark, which apparently translates into the concert setting. I don’t know if pushing one member of Little Big Town to the forefront will make a difference, but it is an interesting discussion given the plethora of groups without front (wo)men coming out of Nashville these days (e.g., Lady Antebellum, One Flew South). What’s your take?

Do you believe that a country group needs a lead singer in order for the band to reach that next level?

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23 Comments

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23 Responses to Say What? – Little Big Town

  1. BillyNo Gravatar

    I like variety in the way songs are sung, and if a band has more than one good vocallist, they should get a shot too, if they’d like. One of the things I like about Lady A and Little Big Town is that both groups have more than one good singer, so that each song doesn’t sound the same.

  2. That’s the problem I’ve always had with Little Big Town. I don’t think they need to have a designated lead singer, but they need an identity. As it is now, it’s like, “but we sing harmony,” and that’s supposed to serve as their personality and identity and it just doesn’t resonate. Marketing is all about differentiating yourself and they can’t do that with their current image. Besides that, their name seems to be a hindrance since it doesn’t evoke any cool imagery. What does ‘Little Big Town’ mean? What is it supposed to mean?

    Take a look at Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros: they’re all about the five-part harmonies and alternated lead on their last album, but their identity is based on Walt Walkins who has had the most success and probably projects the coolest image out of the group.

  3. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Yeah, I have a problem with the group because of the lack of identity as well. I want to like them, but they always fall short for me, especially on record. Like Brady, I don’t know that it’s the lack of lead singer, but they always sound more like a show choir or “sing along”, as I’ve said before, to me rather than a strong, unique group. Then again, I respect their sound as a group more than groups with a lead singer with harmonies that would easily be interchangeable without anyone noticing.

  4. lanibugNo Gravatar

    Sorry, but that is one of the things that I like about them — is that one person is not the main focus — they all are —

    Lady A has two leads…

    But hey — just my opinion — I will be seeing them in concert in August at the Ohio State Fair, so will know more about how the interact then.

  5. Honestly,

    This group’s lack of a ‘main’ singer is refreshing and they are VERY good live. So I don’t know what the writer was talking about. I think if ALL of the singers in a band are talented enough, why not do multi-lead singers. Gloriana, One Flew South, Lady A and now Love and Theft all have similar vocal approaches (and Montgomery Gentry has done it as well).

  6. dudleyNo Gravatar

    I think that it’s at least partially a by-product of our increasingly personality/celebrity-driven marketing that a country group needs one or two strong leading personalities to succeed commercially. I recognize that Jon Bream cited groups with strong lead personalities that succeeded prior to the 2000s, but I still think the advent of MySpace, YouTube, Twitter & the like makes it more difficult for groups without that standout lead.

    Personally, I prefer Little Big Town and their sometimes swampy, sometimes Fleetwood Mac sound to Lady Antebellum, although I like Lady A and think they have a big upside as artists. It’s just a little disheartening to me that neither of their respective current records (LBT’s A Place to Land and Lady A’s debut) live up to their talent, but LBT has gotten just about completely shut out of radio while Lady A has hype to spare. Granted, the Lady A record has better hooks and Lady A was also the beneficiary of a weak new artist field at the CMAs (while LBT faced an incredibly strong new artist field in their time). It’s just that there’s nothing on the Lady A record that I like better than, say, “Novocaine” on LBT’s record.

    Gloriana may prove to be an interesting test case of the theory that a group needs a standout lead personality or two to succeed. Right now, they’ve got quite a bit of commercial potential – their single “Wild at Heart” seems to be off to a solid start and they will be the first opening act on the Taylor Swift tour, which is totally on target with their natural audience, in my view. They got solid harmonies, though the individual voices don’t seem that great. And their sound is very polished pop with a bit of groove. They strike me as overly groomed and I don’t think there is a standout lead in the group, though I could be wrong. But I think they are poised to do pretty well. We shall see.

  7. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    My take on this:

    Having one or two great lead singers and solid harmonies is all well and good, but it never hurts to have quality songs in the slot as well. Without those, all you’ve got are one or two great lead singers and solid harmonies, but beyond that not much more than mere “product.”

    I’d be just a little cautious in comparing Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town to the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac at the moment, since we’re really talking about two different pairs of groups from two different eras in music. Also, the songwriting and lead/harmony vocal standards of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac are so ridiculously high that before either Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town get around to really hitting their stride, they may suffer unfair comparisons. It’s early in the game for them, so I’d just let both LBT and Lady A. develop at their own pace.

  8. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    It works for the Eagles, and for Fleetwood Mac, and it worked for the Beatles… I think it works for LBT as well. I have no problem with their sound, or their identity..(except lately they have been sounding a little TOO much like Fleetwood Mac) ..Multiple leads and rich harmonies, Little Big Town is the best vocal quartet, and Imo, the best vocal group period, in Country music today. Very refreshing stuff.

  9. AaronNo Gravatar

    I love that Little Big Town doesn’t have a lead singer. Like most people are saying, it’s refreshing to hear each member of the group have their moment in the spotlights on different songs. I think it allows for more diversity, plus some songs are just better suited for different voices (could you hear Karen or Kimberly singing lead on “Boondocks?” Probably not). That’s what I love about LBT and Lady A (who I get to meet again on Saturday! I’m super excited!).

    I also think it’s more fair to the other members of the group to not have a lead singer. It allows each member to have their moment by singing a song that they can relate to. Like I said earlier, it allows the group to have more diversity in their albums. For example, their song “Lonely Enough” (from A Place to Land) is more suited for Karen’s voice than either Jimi or Phillips. The only thing I have a problem with is that LBT seems to release more songs that have Jimi as the lead (“Boondocks,” “I’m With the Band,” “Good Lord Willing”).

    By the way, both LBT and Lady A are great on stage! I’ve seen both of them a couple of times now and I’m never disappointed when I go to one of their shows.

  10. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    I think LBT’s current approach as an equal foursome can still work; I just feel like a lot more effort needs to be made on the part of the bands’ label/publicists/whoever to expose casual fans to the group members’ individual personalities – perhaps in music videos or the like. What’s happening right now is that casual fans only know each member as “that guy/girl from Little Big Town” – so of course they don’t seem to have much of an identity; they all seem (to casual fans) more like interchangeable harmony singers than individually interesting people coming together to create music.

    Duos have it easier in this regard even when they share vocals fairly equally (e.g. The Wreckers) simply because there are fewer people to “get to know” from an audience point of view. It’s easier for a brain to meld two indistinct personalities into a cohesive and memorable “image” than it is for it to do it with four.

  11. I agree Dan, choosing a lead singer would hurt them because the changing vocals are part of why I like them so much, they just need to show more personality.

  12. vpNo Gravatar

    I do agree to an extent. I enjoy their music they have such great chemistry and harmony that most don’t.

    Although I saw them as an openning act and even with the great harmonizing it was hard to keep up with all four of them. They are sort of everywhere separetely and it makes it hard to focus on the music when you are looking around for everyone when they are singing as a group or a solo.

    I think they just need to adjust their stage mannerizims and it could work in their favor. Dan’s got it, a lead singer can hurt them more then benefiting.

  13. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Since they’ve all got good voices, it seems, It’d probably be hard for them to choose a lead singer, which is one of the reasons that their lack of lead isn’t my problem with them. I just wish I enjoyed them on record as much as I do when I even hear them on live performances. I’d probably pick up a live album from them, assuming it would translate.

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  15. I agree with the majority here in that, Little Big Town’s approach is refreshing to hear, but they need a stronger identity. Having a lead singer would ruin their sound.

  16. TejasNinaNo Gravatar

    Stronger material/solid identity wouldn’t hurt ‘em no matter who’s singing lead. Read a review that said they were good, but tepid. That about sums it up I think.

  17. John L.No Gravatar

    As a Minneapolis native this isn’t the only time I have disagreed with Mr. Bream, when the Pretenders were just here he said Chrissy just wasn’t sassy enough for his tastes. Jeez. The beauty of the LBT is it’s ablity to tailor songs to individual vocalists and then blend them as a group.In this part of the maturation of the band it works wonderfully. I believe as they grow it will happen naturally as they fill out so to speak. I love this band on disc and live. My fiance and I walked out of the LBT show last year amazed at the energy that filled the room. I turned to her and said they are going to be huge. like the Eagles. Will they get the radio play they need to ascend to those heights? Probably not but now days that seems more like a badge of honor.

  18. KAREN KUREKNo Gravatar

    I am a huge fan of Little Big Town and each member brings their own personality to the group–plus all four of them can sing and write songs as well!! They just got lost in the shuffle when their record label did them dirty–they were never promoted or anything else except what Karen Fairchild did on her own!! Versality in a group is great because each song sounds different whereas in some groups after so many hits all their songs start to sound the same (quite a few groups are going through this right now) I think that if LBT had the right promotion and money (such as Taylor Swift did) they by now would be as big as Rascal Flatts and Sugarland!!

  19. I wouldn’t want Little Big Town to pick a lead singer and put the rest in the background, we have enough of those kind of acts in this decade. The only thing Little Big Town need to worry about is their music and making it better and better. Lady A may have gotten more attention this past year but I think Little Big Town will become the next big country group in the coming years, and IMO will be the country version of Fleetwood Mac, hopefully, without all the drama.

  20. Paul DennisNo Gravatar

    Good question – I do think they have yet to forge a distinct identity but I’m not sure that picking a lead singer would change anything.

    All of the singers in this group are good but none of them are great (or terribly distinctive), meaning it is unlikely any one of them could successfully split off for a solo career. This also means that LBT is only as good as their material and no better

  21. Elizabeth HawkinsNo Gravatar

    I saw Little Big Town in concert last night. They kept the crowd until the last drumstick hit the drum… and then some. They have it right. They do not need to fit the mold that some people think make a band. Their variety of sound will last because each song has its merit and does not sound like the last.

  22. aussie_lbtfanNo Gravatar

    i love the fact that LBT are different , cause that makes them different to the rest of them ( eg: Rascall Flatts , Lady A ) okay i am fans of them to but i am more of a Little Big Town fan and have been since 2003 when there self-tilted album came out .

    So what if they dont have a lead singer but they have the Harmonies , the Talent etc !!! that is who LBT is the are amazing just they way they are .

    If LBT had they same promotion & money ( eg: Taylor Swift , Brad Paisley ( love Brad ) ) they would more likely be a big as Rascall Flatts or Sugarland , LBT arent going to change just because one person doesnt like that they dont have one front lead singer ..!!!

    LBT are who they are cause they are different and unique , us Townies ” Fans ” LOVE them they way they are we would never want the m to change cause they not only make amazing music but there music has a meaning it isnt just a song that an artist has wrote it is a story of love , heartbreak etc. that is what we really love about LBT they (even if you havent meet them or seen they in concert )they make you feel like you arent just there fans but more like there freinds ….!!!!

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