Review: Lady Antebellum, “American Honey”

When did being able to sing reasonably well cease to be a requirement for country music?

Nashville mythology claims it all comes down to the song, but the singer and the production have always been just as important components in great country records.  Generally speaking, country singers have always been able to…sing. Even the ones that weren’t distinctive or sounded like the latest George Strait clone were able to carry a tune.

With all due respect to Lady Antebellum, I’m tired of this nonsense. This song isn’t sung well, and it’s certainly not interesting enough to warrant suffering through the painful mediocrity of the lead vocal. As for the harmonies? Give them all the Vocal Group trophies you want – heck, Rascal Flatts has five of them – it doesn’t change the fact that there’s no discernible difference between this band and a faceless group of backup singers helping a solo artist out in the chorus.  The metaphor that the entire song is built around is applied to so many different things as to render it meaningless.

Then again, if you think that you’ve grown up good and slow like American honey, steady as a preacher and free as a weed, then you don’t need my help selecting the music that’s right for you. We have very different tastes.

For me, I’m simply worn out by all of this filler music, and I have no interest in elevating it to a higher standard because the music surrounding it is of equal or lesser value.  We’re going to need much stronger standard bearers than this among the new generation if we’re going to get through this decade.

Grade: D

Listen: American Honey


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61 Comments

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61 Responses to Review: Lady Antebellum, “American Honey”

  1. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    KJC: “country singers . . . that weren’t distinctive or sounded like the latest George Strait clone were able to carry a tune. WITH ALL DUE RESPECT to Lady Antebellum, I’m tired of this nonsense. This song isn’t sung well, and it’s certainly not interesting enough to warrant suffering through the painful mediocrity of the lead vocal”

    Me: I wonder why we use “with all due respect” just before we say or do something that shows no respect at all. I do it too. But why?

  2. KNo Gravatar

    Woah, this review is much harsher than I was expecting.

    The song is mediocre, but I still think it’s really enjoyable. A sweet, but unmemorable ditty, it is. That’s what I’ve sadly come to expect from always every country artist these days, anyway. They all say their new single or album is “thier best yet,” but it’s continues to blend in with the shuffle more and more by the minute.

    I like Lady A, and I think they’re extremely talented, but they really are no better than any other current group on the scene right now.

  3. I’m not a Lady A fan but I actually liked this one better than anything else they’ve done so far. The lyrics are weak, but I thought it was reasonably well sung and produced. Not great but decent.

  4. SheepNo Gravatar

    Wow, I wasn’t expecting as harsh of a review as that. I’m a big fan of Lady A, and although I think this is their worst single to date, the song deserves at B- at the least.

    The thing I don’t understand is why you think this is sung so badly. I see nothing wrong with Scott’s voice. The vocal performance is much better than the lyrics, which I admit to being dull.

    I give it a B.

  5. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    I’ll have to admit that I didn’t notice anything bad about the voice, though this is not the first time that I’ve read negative things about Scott’s voice. I think the lyric is silly and I don’t like the drum machine, but I guess the overall sound is inoffensive to me once the song picks up.

  6. I actually thought “Need You Now” was a terrific single, on which the slightly off-pitch vocal performances actually “work” in the context of a song that’s all about the glory of the drunk-dial. It at least piqued my interest for their sophomore record.

    This? Not so much. To be fair, “American Honey” is one of the weakest cuts on the album, which is no great shakes in its own right, and it strikes me as an odd choice for the follow-up to such a massive radio hit. And I don’t think you’re off the mark in your assessment of the performances or of the spread-too-thin central conceit.

    What it comes down to for me is that I think it’s a shame that Lady Antebellum has been declared the next “Vocal Group of the Year” for the foreseeable future when they’re just so vanilla at a time when there are plenty of other groups making more interesting, better performed music. Little Big Town, in particular, does basically the same thing that Lady A does, but with far superior vocal harmonies– pity that they’re a slightly older, significantly less attractive lot.

    We’re going to need much stronger standard bearers than this among the new generation if we’re going to get through this decade.

    Seconded. I’m usually of the mindset that things are only as bad as they’ve ever been, but I’ve found myself questioning that more and more of late.

  7. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    “Need You Now” is my favorite song of theirs so far.

  8. baby girlNo Gravatar

    a bit of a harsh review, but i agree. Also a D in my book. i don’t know why this was released as a single when it seems to be an “album- filler” type of song. while the voice is blah, the lyrics are even more so. this song should be left heard only by die-hard fans of Lady A.

  9. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar

    For once, Kevin, we are in complete disagreement (and Razor and I are in agreement!). I’m particularly surprised that you’ve pointed this out as an example of this generation’s mediocrity. I was just thinking to myself the other day that if all contemporary country songs on the radio sounded like this one, I’d be a happy girl.

  10. For once, Kevin, we are in complete disagreement (and Razor and I are in agreement!)

    Is it a full moon tonight, by any chance? ;)

  11. KNo Gravatar

    Tara,

    I completely agree, 100%. One of the things I really enjoy about Lady A is that they do have their own unique sound. They keep thier sound fresh by constantly switching out the vocals of Hilary and Charles. They have compimentary harmonies that are not overbearing or “chiorlike.” which I find very easy on the ears.

    They don’t record or write material that’s particularly memorable, but I think their sound is a huge redeeming quality. Thier songs thus far have been bland, but still light, enjoyable, contemporary country.

    “American Honey” and “Need You Now” have been my favorite songs of their career so far, and I’d take enjoyable filler songs over much of the country pride and puppy love songs out now.

  12. AaronNo Gravatar

    Wow…that was one of the harshest reviews I’ve seen on here! I have to completely disagree. I think the song’s lyrics are mediocre but I don’t think Hillary’s vocal was bad! I think she does an amazing job when she gets to sing the lead. Plus, I think they’ve proven their diversity by releasing this song…I don’t think this song has a pop-country sound like some of their previous ones have. Like Tara said, I think all country songs should sound more like this one. I personally think you’ve got it wrong on this one…but to each their own, right?

  13. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar

    I agree 110% except I would have given it a F+

  14. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    I’d put it somewhere in the ‘C’ family, but I don’t disagree with anything in the review. I liked “Need You Now” and “I Run to You” all right and loved the blazing sound of “Love Don’t Live Here,” but Lady A have yet to deliver a song with better-than-mediocre lyrics, and while they’re less offensive than Rascal Flatts to me, I agree with Jonathan that other groups have more going for them at this point (LBT, Zac Brown Band – even Gloriana is more interesting to me so far).

  15. K-manNo Gravatar

    Someone’s cranky about the last decade! But as much as I want to like this song, because I think Lady A. has potential after their last three singles, I just cannot enjoy this song. That is why I completely agree with this review.

  16. Hoggy from OzNo Gravatar

    I haven’t really enjoyed too many of Lady A’s singles, but I do like the remaining songs in their album.

  17. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    I think Lady A’s big problem is their lyrics. They’re great at the hook-y melodies, but their lyrics always seem to be painfully cliched at times, or at least weak. When I think about your filler comments, Kevin, I guess I have to agree. For me, Lady A is inoffensive to the ears. I wouldn’t change the station, but I also don’t particularly find myself enjoying their music apart from a couple of songs.

  18. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    Country Universe ranked “Welcome to the Future” the 3d best song of 2009. Below is the first verse of that song. It is a vacuous opening to a trifle of a song. It’s 3d best of the year, but Lady A gets a D and criticized for lyrics?

    “When I was ten years old,
    I remember thinkin’ how cool it would be,
    When we were goin’ on an eight hour drive,
    If I could just watch T.V.

    And I’d have given anything
    To have my own PacMan game at home.
    I used to have to get a ride down to the arcade;
    Now I’ve got it on my phone.”

  19. ElieNo Gravatar

    The song isn’t that bad, imo. It just doesn’t click with me as much as Need You Now.
    The other releases in the iTunes countdown have also been better than this.

  20. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    Treacle, you’re just going to have to let the “Future” thing die. For one thing, the lyrics of that song have been criticized here despite the acclaim for the single itself (see the write-up under the ranking you brought up as a recent example). For another thing, I think those lyrics, while kind of corny, still tell a more interesting, detailed, and coherent story than those of “American Honey.”

    Liking a single’s total package despite possible lyrical weaknesses should not bar anyone from ever criticizing lyrics again. Otherwise, every critic who ever liked a 2000′s pop song would probably be rendered illegitimate.

  21. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    I never let anything die, Dan. And my point is valid: why is Lady A D-monized for bad lyrics and Brad Paisley gets “third best song of the year”.

    What is it about “Welcome to the Future” that elevates it above this song? It’s not lyrics, and it certainly can’t be vocal talent.

    So what is it? Moxie?

  22. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    We’ve had this conversation enough times at this point. I’ll leave you the links to what I said before.

    3 days ago: http://www.countryuniverse.net/2010/01/06/best-country-singles-of-2009-part-2-20-1/#comment-127406

    The write-up for the ranking itself, 8 days ago: http://www.countryuniverse.net/2010/01/06/best-country-singles-of-2009-part-2-20-1/

    December 16th: http://www.countryuniverse.net/2009/12/15/the-200-greatest-singles-of-the-decade-part-2-180-161/#comment-121322

    And those are just my comments about it; Leeann and Tara have also written some about why they like it, mostly in posts/threads you’ve read and commented on.

  23. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    And I think this is obvious, but the ‘D’ grade for this single obviously reflects consideration of more than just lyrics, as did the ranking of the Paisley single.

  24. I’m not a big fan of this song in particular. I think it’s the weakest single release from this group so far. But my main gripe was with the lyrics, and not the vocals. I thought Hillary Scott did a fine job emoting what she had to work with. I don’t really understand the analogy in the title either.

  25. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    I don’t care what was said in the past, Dan. I’m asking – on a comparative basis – what makes “American Honey” a D song and “Welcome to the Future” the 3d best song of 2009?

    Lyrics? No. Vocal ability? Certainly not. Then what? Maybe Brad Paisley has captured the hopes and dreams of a nation at a moment in time? Or maybe, as I suggested above, it’s just moxie?

  26. KNo Gravatar

    Really,Treacle? Dan has answered your question respectfully more than enough times; go look at the links and actually read what is said. That might help.

  27. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    Really, Special K? So I looked at the links, but I don’t see a comparison of “American Honey” and “Welcome to the Future”, which was my point.

  28. MichaelNo Gravatar

    I’m sorry, Treacle, but it’s getting a little tiresome to see you monopolizing these threads. I understand you don’t like “Welcome to the Future”, but you don’t seem to be convincing anyone else. Agree to disagree and move on?

  29. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    Michael: “I’m sorry, Treacle, but it’s getting a little tiresome to see you monopolizing these threads. I understand you don’t like “Welcome to the Future”, but you don’t seem to be convincing anyone else. Agree to disagree and move on?”

    Then don’t read my posts, man. You will save yourself the bothersome of task of reading 5 or 6 posts. And you will save me the bothersome task of responding to you.

  30. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    Kitty’s got claws, man.

  31. hmm…some interesting stuff going down here haha not sure if i’m the only one but i’m a big fan of the ‘heated’ discussions that sometimes go down here. i like hearing everyone’s opinions and i like how some people are willing to defend their opinions. its refreshing haha

  32. MichaelNo Gravatar

    OK, it’s probably a waste of your time as much as mine. Since the argument gets us nowhere, it might be better to just let it go.

  33. KNo Gravatar

    Treacle,

    Are you aware that the comparisons are not literal? Read between the lines.

  34. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    (as an initial aside, Michael, if you are reading this post, please stop. This is a Cutting the Treacle comment. As we have effectively agreed to stay on opposite sides of the playground, you should probably just skip to the next comment)

    K: “Are you aware that the comparisons are not literal?”

    Yes. I’m a smart guy, and I understand when comparisons are literal and when they are not. My comparisons were generic. I will summarize them below.

    1. Lyrics: I will concede for the sake of argument that “American Honey” is written as if by a 9 year old schoolgirl. But it’s no more poorly written than “Welcome to the Future” (which actually contains whole verses of nonsense).

    2. Vocal Ability: I will concede for the sake of argument that Lady A warbles like Hillary Clinton on the national anthem. But they are, in any event, no worse than Brad Paisley’s vocals on “Welcome to the Future” (or any other BP song for that matter).

    3. Production: I will concede for the sake of argument that “American Honey” has production standards that are no better than the usual production standards of a Cledus T. Judd song. But there’s no difference in quality between production of American Honey and “Welcome to the Future”. Both are modern, country songs – nothing special.

    So my question: why is this song treated like a piece of crap and “Welcome to the Future” is 3d best song of the year?

  35. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Treacle,
    Your comparisons are subjective and so are our defenses. That’s just the way it is. I’d elaborate, but there’s no point in trying to engage you in meaningful debate.

  36. StephenNo Gravatar

    Because, Treacle, in the opinion of the staff at Country Universe:

    1. Brad Paisley’s lyrics are refreshing considering it is a country single and they are reviewing it within that context.

    2. Brad Paisley sounds invested in his recording, the same of which can not be said about Hilary Scott on this cut.

    3. The production on “Welcome to the Future” uses synths in a new, modern take. We don’t hear the same tired drum beat as we do in “American Honey”

    Basically, “American Honey” got a D while “Welcome to the Future” is the 3rd best song of the year because, in the opinion of the staff at CU, Brad’s track is better lyrically, vocally, and production-wise. It’s not that hard to accept. They just prefer one thing to another. No need to read anymore into it.

  37. BillyNo Gravatar

    I disagree with the review. I think that Hillary sounds just fine on this track. The lyrics, while weak, work for the song. I think that overall the song works for radio candy. I would’ve given it a B- or a C.

  38. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar

    Im going to have to give the vocal award to Brad Paisley over Lady Antebellum……I have heard backup singers at a Wynonna concert top anything they have sung.
    Lyrically this is by far the worst they have released. Due to their lackluster singles, I have yet to buy one of their albums so I cant comment on any of their other cuts.

  39. Treacle: I don’t think the lyrics of “Welcome to the Future” are weak. I think the simplicity of the first verse (and second) is what allows the last verse to pack the punch. You can read that in my review of the song: http://www.countryuniverse.net/2009/07/07/brad-paisley-welcome-to-the-future/

    I don’t doubt that you already know this, but the staff ranked “Welcome to the Future” as the third best song of the year. Kevin gave “American Honey” a D. I would’ve given it at a B at worst.

  40. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    There is no inconsistency between my review of Lady Antebellum and Paisley’s single placing on our cumulative list from last year. Paisley’s single wasn’t on my personal list in the first place. Our writers don’t always agree on the quality of music, but we always agree on respecting each other in our disagreements. You could learn from that, actually.
    You’re sticking out like a sore thumb around here with your attitude.

  41. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    KJC: ” . . . with your attitude.”

    Gym class – 1988. Didn’t care then. Don’t care now.

  42. KNo Gravatar

    Treacle,
    Treacle,

    I honestly am not trying to pick an argument with you, but did you honestly say Hilary Scott warbles like Hilary Clinton on this song?

    I think both Hilary and Charles are talented; there have certaintly been much worse (Taylor, anyone?) And that crowd also includes several dozen pop “singers” out right now.

    I really like Lady A and this song, even if it’s mediocre ear candy at best. I think the song is fresh and more than enjoyable than most of the “I’m from the country” songs and reycyled themes on radio now.

    I’ve actually thought maybe they need to recruit better songwriters who can craft something different for them. I respect that they write most of their own material, but when it’s nothing fresh or new, why not go for something that is? But then again Nashvile songwriters are guilty of writing the trite on radio now, so I suppose that option has flaws too.

  43. Stephen H.No Gravatar

    K,

    Actually, they did just that for “American Honey.” It was written by Cary Barlow, Hillary Lindsey, and Shane Stevens.

  44. Fadi H.No Gravatar

    i got bored reading the discussion so i may sound a bit off here.
    i have a point to make, but to explain it i need to say a few things first
    1. i LOVE it when mediocre songs get slaughtered by critics
    2. i’m not a big fan of Lady A
    3. the only Lady A single i like is Need You Now and I like it a lot.

    Anyway, i heard the song after i read the review and so i was expecting something as bad as “Lookin For A Good Time” vocally. But after i listened to the song couple of times, i didn’t notice anything THAAAT bad about Hilary’s voice. Like yeah there’s nothing memorable about her voice, but nothing horrible either.
    Also, the song is not something that would ever be on heavy play on my ipod but if it showed up, i might not skip it everytime.

    i’m just saying, i’m a fan of giving mediocre songs low grades, but i feel that this time it was a little random. just a little.

  45. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    No, K. I said I would concede for sake of argument . . . Hillary C. is a horrible singer. I like her. But she’s a horrible singer. And so for the sake of argument . . .

    Anyway, I basically agree with Fadi H. It’s not a disaster of a song. And so my only question was why give it such a bad grade when a song like “Welcome to the Future” is given so much praise. People seem to concede its faults (thus, Milliken posted a bunch of links to comments along that line). So how is it the 3d best song of 2009 while this song – which just ain’t that bad – is given a D?

    Enough. Time to – as Michael or someone else said – hijack another thread.

  46. MikeNo Gravatar

    Why is wrong with actually taking a stick and having a snare shot and a real bass and tom-tom sound? Are we taking rap music and mixing in a violin now in country? The production is just awful, there is no excuse for using a drum machine in country music or any back beat of the sort that Lady A has used here.

  47. KNo Gravatar

    Treacle,
    You have a right to your opinion, but I certaintly don’t agree that Hilary is terrible.

    Have you ever heard of Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Rhianna, Fergie, Lil Wayne, TI, Pussycat Dolls….

  48. CJNo Gravatar

    I understand the reasons behind the poor rating of the song – the vocals and weak lyrics. But I’m a bit baffled that the vocals are emphasized here. Other country artists (I can think a few, and one in particular)are also weak, if not weaker, vocally, yet their songs are reviewed favorably here. I wonder about the inconsistency.

  49. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Different writers review different songs. Each writer has his/her own taste/emphasis/bias. That’s where the perceived inconsistency may come in. Come to think of it, does Kevin consistently favorably review anyone with bad vocals?

  50. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    I have to say, I like Paisley’s voice in general, and never understood why some folks say he can’t sing.

    To my ears, many ladies of Country are better vocalists than the men, and I don’t think Brad is any worse than the average male Country singer. In fact, his peformance of “Harlan” is a good example of what he is capable of as a vocalist, what he may lack in technical vocal proficiency, he usually makes up for in character and vocal expressiveness.

    As a group, I do think the ladies have the men beat for vocal ability. But the really exceptional male vocalists, folks like Vince Gill, Josh Turner, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis and of course, George Jones are the vocal equals of many of the finest ladies of Country.

    I never understood the rap against Jamey Johnson either, but I guess it’s because vocal expressiveness and character count for a lot by my reckoning..as Leeann indicates, it’s a matter of emphasis of criteria, (although I am not a regular writer/critic.) and that’s what matters to me most.

    I have a friend who just could not listen to the Loveless/Kristofferson duet, “Far Side Banks of Jordan” because of Kris’s voice. This may be a kind of “Beauty and the Beast” musical pairing, but it works, and works spectacularly thanks to Patty’s pristine and passionate voice, and Kristofferson’s grizzled,tangible sincerity. My friend missed out on something truly sublime.

  51. Soul Miners DaughterNo Gravatar

    Kevin… THANK YOU for speaking your mind in your reviews and not worrying about how others may respond. I suppose it’s “hip” to like Lady A these days, but just like the Rascal Flatts craze… count me out.
    I don’t know what it takes to get a truly “country” group these days. Country music is as obnoxious as it’s been in a long time these days and incredibly boring.
    Call me when we go back to signing true talent.

  52. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    K: “Treacle,
    You have a right to your opinion, but I certaintly don’t agree that Hilary is terrible.

    Have you ever heard of Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Rhianna, Fergie, Lil Wayne, TI, Pussycat Dolls….”

    I don’t think Hillary Scott is a bad singer. I was just conceding it for the sake of argument. She is, in fact, a good singer. And Lady A is a good group. And this a good single. They’re probably making the best country pop right now.

    And I basically agree that she is better vocally than most of the acts you describe except for Fergie (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWAqVQQ0Doo).

  53. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    Word, Fergie can really sing. I don’t think Rihanna is too bad, though. She’s more about phrasing than big range.

  54. ACountryFanNo Gravatar

    Most definitely agree. I really do likee Lady A, and I enjoyed “Need You Now”, but this is just terrible :(

  55. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    “Fergie can really sing”

    Gretchen Wilson was better on Barracuda. She’s wasted in country.

  56. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    That was a really sick performance for Wilson. I’m excited that Sony’s releasing a live version of it on her Greatest Hits.

  57. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar

    Greatest “Hits”? She’s had some really good songs that weren’t “hits”. But glad to hear Barracuda’s being released. I hope it’s the live version.

  58. TomNo Gravatar

    …if you want to bore someone to death – this song would be a most suitable murder weapon.

  59. CaraNo Gravatar

    Some people have far too much time on their hands…..and the way they have chosen to fill this time is to throw around some sophisticated verbage that nobody cares to hear! In doing so, it becomes very clear that making their opinion of the song known is not their real agenda, but rather trying to impress the general public with what they feel is an elevated knowledge of how music should sound. there are no rules in music…there are no rules as to how it should sound!! If you don’t get this, then you don’t have an understanding about what music really is at all, and I highly advise you look into a different discussion board all together.

  60. PatrickNo Gravatar

    I liked it :\

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