Sara Evans, “Feels Just Like a Love Song”

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July 1, 2009

Sara Evans FeelsSara Evans is an excellent singer in desperate need of a better production team. She sings the fire out of a fairly decent pop-country song here, but the arrangement is an overwhelming distraction, with far too much clutter in the mix.

It’s to her credit as a vocalist that she’s not drowned out completely, but she’s ill-served by the production philosophy that bigger is better.  The opposite is true with both pop and country music, so it never ceases to amaze me how difficult that concept is to grasp for too many of those who make pop-country records.

John Farrar or Mutt Lange could make a great record out of this song and vocal talent, but we’ll have to settle for only a good one this time around.

Written by Nathan Chapman, Sara Evans, Chris Lindsey, and Aimee Mayo

Grade: B-

Listen: Feels Just Like a Love Song

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Category: Single Reviews
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38 Comments so far

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  1. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Kevin, we don’t always agree, but I think we agree completely on this one, well said!

  2. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    This song is a big disappointment for me. I had hoped she would have at least gone the direction of Real Fine Start rather than more of what was on her GH album.

  3. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    I could not agree with you more, Leann. Giving this song a B- rating is extremely generous.

  4. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Oops, I meant Real Fine Place to Start?

  5. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    I think the B+ is generous too, but I pretty much agree with everything that you said.

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Ha. A B+ really would have been generous.:)

  7. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    There is a lot more wrong with this recording than just the overproduction — namely, the vapid, cliched lyrics and the obvious autotuning.

  8. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Razor, I hope you’re not implying Sara cant sing, check out her Early Years CD if you have any doubts…there are a few flaws there, but this was recorded before autotuning was in use, and she sounds as good there as she ever has…Breathtakingly beautiful vocals.

    I think this repeated charge against Sara is totally unfair, and ignores the facts.

  9. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    And for the record, I too hope Sara gets some better material..Like Leeann stated,.this sounds almost like one of her GH add ons..she really needs to embrace her pure Country and Bluegrass roots once again.

    But for what it is, it I think I like it a little better than the majority so far..

  10. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    I’m not implying that she can’t sing. Her Early Years collection may not be autotuned, but this current single is. And it’s not an unfair charge, since Paul Worley, who produced some of Sara’s previous albums admitted that she has pitch problems and that they’ve relied on Pro-Tools to correct the problem on her recordings:

    http://www.nashvillescene.com/2004-06-10/news/pro-tools/2

  11. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar says:

    That is an incredibly interesting article, Razor X. Thanks for posting!

  12. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve seen Sara Evans live three times, with the most recent being a short stint last month. This last time, she sounded stronger vocally than ever with very little error at all. I agree that she’s been autotuned, on this single as well as others in the past, but I wonder how much of it is necessary. I think Evans would be better served hitting the notes naturally instead of attempting vocal heights that she can not reach. I personally prefer her voice in a more comfortable, twangy mode; she tends to falter when she tries to blast away like an Underwood or McBride.

    This song is mediocre, but I do hope that the album contains craftier material. Evans is a talented singer and has shown she’s capable of some country-pop gems.

  13. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Autotuning is used as a crutch now, and it ends up robbing the singer’s performance of emotional impact. Sometimes those mistakes are what make the vocal sound sincere.

    I didn’t mention the autotuning specifically, but i definitely agree that it’s one of the production problems that weighs down this record.

  14. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    OK, I gotta admit, I cannot usually tell when someone’s autotuned or not. But some things just do not add up. And I still don’t understand why Sara is usually the one singled out and criticized for using pro tools. I just know Sara can sing, and has one of the finest, purest natural COUNTRY voices in Country music…

    But I doubt Sara relys on autotuning in concert, or for live performances.. I think she sings without a net under those circumstances. I have seen her in concert nine times, and have heard some missed notes, but overall she is a constistenly great live vocalist. (with the exception of some TV performances, not sure what’s up with that)

    And aren’t a few missed notes evidence that someone is NOT using pitch correction devices?

    Blake, I agree completely, Sara’s at her best when she uses her easy going, natural twang. I wish she would stop attemtpting to be a Diva, with the belting out and all…and though she can do it, her voice loses much of it’s natural warmth and charm when she does.

  15. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for posting that article Razor, I have read that one before. Are there others that make similar allegations? The use of multiple sources is one of the principles of both sound journalism and credible legal testimony, and single source allegations are simply not as beleivable.

    And there is ambiguity in the article as well..Paul Worley is not quoted as stating that they’ve used Pro Tools to correct Sara’s pitch problems for her recordings, as you suggest…he is only cited as stating that “It’s worth working with her to get the performance right” but again that is ambiguous..”working with her” may simply mean repeated takes until they got it right. And it is entireley possible that the article’s author took Worley’s remarks out of context. And actually, McCall didn’t really quote Worley at all, but merely paraphrased him.

    And the statement that “Along music row, it’s widely know that…” doesn’t cut it either, that is hearsay, and not evidence.

    And for everyone who is suggesting that Sara or anyone else is using Pro Tools on a given song, how do you know? Is there a dead giveaway sonic characteristic that you folks are hearing that I am missing? This is not a rhetorical question, I sincerly want to know.

    And if it is simply perfection of perfomance, wouldn’t the “perfect” singers Martina and Trisha be more suspect, rather than someone like Sara who’s vocal imperfections do show through from time to time?

    And nowhere is it alleged that Sara uses autotuning for her live performances..and again, pardon my igonarnce, but is such a thing even possible? I would think there would be a detectable time delay, with the lips being out of snych with the sound, and again, I have never seen this with Sara’s live performances.

  16. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar says:

    The “perfect” singers are usually dubbed as such because of their live performances. I’ve never seen Trisha live, but I know Martina & Carrie are two artists whose live performances are markedly better than their recordings. So if they are using Pro Tools, it’s probably not making much of a difference.

  17. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    I have attended one Yearwood concert, and she did sound very close to perfect. She is awesome, and I didn’t mean to imply that she uses the tools herself, just that she was an example of a near flawless singer…I was just trying to think of flawless singers the articles mentioned, and she and Martina were the first ones to come to mind.

    But I was also trying to make the point that I think it is unfair that when someone like Martina sounds perfect, it is because of her hard work and may retakes, but when Sara approaches perfection, it HAS to be because she is using and autotuner, and I just think that is totally unfair.

    Again if anyone can address the specific points of contention that I raised in my previous posts here, and show me errors in my reasoning or where I’m going wrong, I would appreciate their take on it. I really want to know.

  18. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    The use of multiple sources is one of the principles of both sound journalism and credible legal testimony, and single source allegations are simply not as beleivable.

    The source was Sara’s producer and as such, is firsthand information. Who else would you expect them to talk to either confirm or negate what he said, aside from Sara herself? What motive would he have for lying? Wouldn’t he be more inclined to try and hide the fact that autotuning was used on Sara’s records, as opposed to falsely claiming that it was used?

    And there is ambiguity in the article as well..Paul Worley is not quoted as stating that they’ve used Pro Tools to correct Sara’s pitch problems for her recordings, as you suggest…he is only cited as stating that “It’s worth working with her to get the performance right” but again that is ambiguous..

    True enough, it may not have been Pro-Tools, but some other type of electronic pitch correction. That doesn’t really change anything, though.

    ”working with her” may simply mean repeated takes until they got it right.

    If that were the case, I would have expected Sara’s name to have been mentioned along with Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride and Vince Gill, as an example of someone who does not rely on ProTools or autotuning. The article specifically mentioned quoted Tony Brown as saying that Yearwood told him to shoot her if she couldn’t get a song right in three takes. Don’t you think it stands to reason that Worley would have said something similar about Evans if they were doing multiple takes to avoid having to rely on technology to correct her pitch?

    And it is entireley possible that the article’s author took Worley’s remarks out of context. And actually, McCall didn’t really quote Worley at all, but merely paraphrased him.

    If the author misquoted Worley, I would have expected him to have come forward and set the record straight. As far as I’m aware, he hasn’t.

    And if it is simply perfection of perfomance, wouldn’t the “perfect” singers Martina and Trisha be more suspect, rather than someone like Sara who’s vocal imperfections do show through from time to time?

    No one ever said that Martina and Trisha were “perfect”. Owen Bradley was quoted as saying that he’d only worked with one singer — who was not named — in his entire career who had perfect pitch.

    And I still don’t understand why Sara is usually the one singled out and criticized for using pro tools.

    She’s not being singled out. She’s just one name among many that’s been mentioned — Gary LeVox, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill are some of the others that have been mentioned.

    In order for the scenario you’ve outlined to be true, one has to believe that the article was written with the intent of being a hit piece on Sara Evans. I don’t think that’s the case at all.

    And nowhere is it alleged that Sara uses autotuning for her live performances..and again, pardon my igonarnce, but is such a thing even possible?

    Nobody here said she uses autotuning in live performances, either. We were talking specifically about her latest single, not live performances. And yes, it is possible to autotune live performances. The article specifically mentioned that you’ll never see Tim McGraw pull up a chair and a guitar and give a live performance, unless there’s a microphone connected to an autotuning device. Reba McEntire has admitted to using autotuning in concert. Clearly she doesn’t need to because she’s been around since long before such a thing was possible, but she’s probably using it as a crutch as Kevin called it. I’d prefer that she didn’t use it. I don’t expect flawless live performances from anyone, and I’d rather know that what I was hearing was the real thing and not artificially altered.

    I happen to like Sara Evans a lot. I’ve been disappointed by some of the musical choices she’s made lately, but I’m certainly not trying to beat up on her and I don’t think anybody else is, either.

    For some more info on autotuning and pitch correction, check out the following links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto-Tune

    http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/2009/04/the_continuing_follies_of_auto.php

  19. William WardNo Gravatar says:

    And for everyone who is suggesting that Sara or anyone else is using Pro Tools on a given song, how do you know? Is there a dead giveaway sonic characteristic that you folks are hearing that I am missing? This is not a rhetorical question, I sincerly want to know.

    Personally, I would say there is a dead giveaway sonic characteristic that gives away auto-tuning. Unfortunately I am unsure that it can be described in such a way that if you don’t hear it will suddenly become noticeable.

    For me, often it is as easy to hear as reverb, and is only more subtle with excellent production. Unlike reverb though (which most of the time I don’t enjoy, but sometimes I do), it doesn’t seem capable of adding anything emotionally to the music. Instead it leaves the sound almost soulless, like listening to a high-tech computer recreate a voice or perhaps a classically trained singer who can hit all the notes but has not mastered including emotion in their singing.

  20. William WardNo Gravatar says:

    I would add that I think, like many things, it is something be pushed on many artist who don’t even need it.

    The article really points that out with the story of the “One Nashville producer says he can’t listen to Loveless’ records because of her pitch problems.” If that is the attitude on producers, then imagine the pressure to use autotuning they might put forth.

  21. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    You make some good points Razor…but people that are misquoted or taken out of context do not always come forward…Worley simply may have been unaware of it, or didn’t think it was egregious enough to invest a lot or time, money or energy correcting it.

    I got defensive about Sara not because of this thread only, or because of that article specifically, the article does single out Faith Hill much more than Sara…

    My commenting on this was prompted because this is not the first time the topic has come up regarding Sara here on CU, as well as on the CMT boards…She was repeatedly bashed a few years ago for some less than perfect TV live performances and accused of using auto tuning. Again, that seems a contradiction to me, it would seem such imperfections are evidence that Sara was NOT using autotuning rather than the converse. There, they WERE accusing Sara of using the tools during live performances.

    But thanks Razor, for taking the time..you make some good points, and your arguments are well reasoned, but still.. multiple sources…this is only one article. One article and hearsay. The hearsay I was referring to was not Worlely’s alleged statements, but rather the “it is widely known” remark from the author. But if Worley indeed was admitting to using electronic aide for his client, that would pretty much settle it, but I’m still not convinced he was. He did not allude to any pitch correction technology at all, even in his alledged statements from the article.

    And the author can manipulate context for whatever purpose he sees fit, not sure if he has an agenda, or what that might be. Or if he began with a premise and was twisting the evidence to support his presuppositions.

    And thank you William as well for your reply.. I guess it’s a “I know it when I see it, I know it when I hear it” kind of thing, like spotting a toupee on a bald guy, he aint fooling anyone! You’ll have to play me a sample when we meet up in Maine tomorrow, or just cite an example of one of Sara’s singles that employ the technique in question. ;) I have heard obviously fake vocals in the Pop world, Paula Abdul etc…those vocals sound obviously electronicaly enchanced…but I guess it must be far more subtle in the Country Music world.

    And I can see that using autotuning would take away some warmth from the artist’s recording or performance, but I would think that would also be more evidence that Sara does not use tools..she has a reputation of having some of the most warmly expressive vocals in the business, and if you can cite or show me one song or single where Sara sounds cold, fake, or emotionally disconnected, it would be more persuasive to me.

    The single in the the topic at hand does sound overproduced, but Sara’s vocals do not sound tampered with to my untrained ears anyway.

    I wish you had quoted the entire paragragh related to Patty from the article, it is delicious:

    “Patty Loveless, revered by many as one of he best country singers of her time, often has struggled with pitch; on occasion, it’s on record for all to hear. One Nashville producer says he can’t listen to Loveless’ records because of her pitch problems. Another Nashville producer responded by saying that the producer who said that “needs his ass kicked. Nashville needs more singers with as much feeling in their performances.”

    I agree with that second producer,…the first one needs his butt kicked, lol.

    But that paragraph is also ambiguious, and seems to indicate that while Patty also has some pitch problems, she does not use the tools very often, if at all. Because Patty and her producer(s) seem to allow the occasional pitch misteps to be “on record for all to hear”…I can can only think of maybe one or two songs in Patty’s 20 album catalog where she sounds off pitch on some notes. And only one or two you tube or TV appearances.

  22. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Oh, the last line of that quote should have read “Nashville needs more singers with as much feeling in their performances as Patty Loveless.”

    I accidently left out Patty’s name at the end.

  23. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    My commenting on this was prompted because this is not the first time the topic has come up regarding Sara here on CU, as well as on the CMT boards…She was repeatedly bashed a few years ago for some less than perfect TV live performances and accused of using auto tuning. Again, that seems a contradiction to me, it would seem such imperfections are evidence that Sara was NOT using autotuning rather than the converse. There, they WERE accusing Sara of using the tools during live performances.

    This may be overly simplistic, but my understanding is that the autotuning equipment that is used in live performances has to be individually tailored to a singer’s voice. There isn’t one that can be programmed and used by multiple singers. For that reason, autotuners are not used in live awards shows — because there isn’t sufficient time to program the equipment in between performances. And that is why performances on awards shows often don’t sound very good — because the performer who is used to relying on an autotuner is forced to go without it.

    I remember reading something where Sara was quoted as saying that the track “Niagara” from her Restless album was something that she would never be able to sing live because it was too difficult for her to hit all the notes.

  24. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    But that could also mean that Sara needed repeated takes in the studio to get Niagra right, not necessarily and admission of electronic enhancement.

  25. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for your additional links, Razor, I miss that at first.

    The second one doesn’t mention Sara at all, and the first one does, but Wikipedia as you know is editable by pretty much anyone. And tis WP article seems to include very similar wording as to the McCall article..so I wouldn’t be surprise if he used it as a source.

    Still, I’m glad WP indicated that Patty was amoung the artists who does not use pitch correctin devices, and that makes sense to me. I think I read somewhere she did the songs on Mountain Soul as well as Sleepless Nights in one take, could be wrong about that though. ;)

  26. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    Not to beat the topic to death, but I did a Google search and found the text of the oft-quoted Boston Herald article on pitch correction. It gives a brief explanation of how it’s used in concert:

    http://forums.madonnanation.com/index.php?showtopic=7245&mode=threaded

  27. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks, Razor, some topics just never die, lol, no matter how many times we bludgeon them. ;)

    I guess I can only conclude at this point that Sara’s Early Years CD proves she does not really need pitch correction technology to give us some of the most warmly expressive vocal performances in the Country music world today…And if she does indeed use that technology, my guess is that it’s only as an occasional crutch, or perhaps as a safety net, as other artists have indicated.

    See? I am willing to be persuaded, even if only partially. ;)

  28. William WardNo Gravatar says:

    It’s kicking in almost the entire time, but start paying attention at about 47 seconds. At about 50 seconds, just before the chorus (and through, though there is an echo as well that drowns it out some) it kicks in very heavy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHtuGMHWAf0

    It is really strong through almost the entire song, but particularly around 1:25 pay close attention to “life has begun” and around 1:50 “I have been blessed.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Qv6_RE9YVk

  29. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Bill, that’s Shania though…it sounds almost like a tinny faint echo…but I don’t hear that in Sara’s recordings or performances…again, my untrained ears could be missing it.

    Great to see Shania again, she’s awesome, great at what she does, for what it is.

  30. William WardNo Gravatar says:

    Live is less accurate than in the studio. The echo is when it is not working quite on time, doesn’t happen all the time (almost never in a recording).

    Also, the closer you are to the actual notes, the less it kicks in. There are other songs from the same performance I linked that it is much harder to notice. You miss it if you are not looking for it.

    I think it has just become part of the recording industry. I heard you can pick up on it in Alica keys albums (I have not listened myself) and no one thinks she can’t sing. The problem being it isn’t perfect; perhaps more important is that it is being used more than occasionally to save studio time, it is being used to push non-singers.

  31. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Well, that’s not good…it seems, then, to be a crutch for both some singers as well as the producers themselves!

  32. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Razor, I do apologize for the “are you saying Sara can’t sing” remark…I know from many of your other posts that you do like her, and I too, am not happy with some of her musical choices lately ( the GH add ons especially, except for As If, but I did like Low., and see a sign of hope in What That Drink Cost Me more so than with this current single.) So pardon my reflexive and unthinking comment there…I should have known better.

  33. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    No need to apologize, Steve. I don’t think we’re too far apart in our thinking on this topic.

  34. samyNo Gravatar says:

    seriously you dont think this is good if yall were true fans you would love anything and this song is amazing in my opinion and have you heard the song what that drink cost me from her ?? look it up and then say shes not trying to deliver!!

  35. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    Well, count me as someone who isn’t a true fan, then because I’m not going to pretend a bad song is good, no matter who is singing it.

    Yes, I’ve heard “What That Drink Cost Me”, and yes it is a great song. But that’s not the song we’re talking about right now. In fact, knowing that Sara is capable of delivering songs like “What That Drink Cost Me” makes it all the more disappointing when she falls short of the mark, as she does with “Feels Just Like A Love Song.”

  36. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Then I’m really not a true fan of anyone, because there’s absolutely no artist who hasn’t recorded a song I don’t like at some point in his/her career. And I certainly won’t support a song I don’t like in the name of being a true fan, no matter who the artist is.

  37. highwayman3No Gravatar says:

    Is it too early to declare this song dead? I’ve been waiting for it to show up in mediabases top 50. I just checked the spincreases and taking off charts and its not there. It’s not looking good, not only for this song, but her career. A failed lead single off an album is the kiss of death.
    Hopefully I’m wrong, but I would predict this single will do more then hover in the lower rungs of the charts before falling off and landing somewhere between, ‘Biker Chick’ and ‘Dirty Girl’

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