August 25, 2011
As wrong as it may be, the consistently gorgeous arrangements and Kimberly Perry’s compelling vocals almost make up for the lyrical deficiencies found on The Band Perry’s debut album. As it has been with all their singles so far, The Band Perry’s story of style being greater than substance continues with this promising group’s latest single as well.
With its acoustic based instrumentation, Kimberly’s pretty vocals and a sing-able melody, “All My Life” sounds like a typical love song on the surface. The girl isn’t asking for everything, just that the object of her obsession (check out the song’s bridge) loves her all his life. As it was with “If I Die Young”, however, the sentiment of the song makes perfect sense, but the nitty gritty of the lyrics are somewhat distorted or, perhaps, too fanciful. While there’s nothing wrong with asking if someone will love you all your life, it’s baffling how jars of sand or fireflies in a lamp delivered by someone in a tux proves anything. Grade: B
Not unlike the band’s previous three singles, “All Your Life” has an earthy sparkle that makes it hard to easily dismiss: it feels as earnest as a Taylor Swift song and sounds as charmingly simple as a Dixie Chicks song circa 1999. But the lyrics teeter between sleepy and trite, with Kimberly’s sprightly vocal nuances –at once natural, textured and emotive– serving as the most interesting part of the “love” story.
That is, until the vanilla turns to rocky road two and a half minutes in. Just as the piano-driven breakdown of “You Lie” is enough to keep me from switching the station, “All Your Life” delivers a sucker punch with an eerie, twisted bridge, sonically and lyrically: “You could be the centerpiece of my obsession if you would notice me at all.” In retrospect, the confession gives the rest of the song an intriguing and slightly psychotic undertone – you get the feeling Kimberly wants to follow up benign lyrics like “Would you walk to the end of the ocean just to fill my jar with sand?” with “Well, would you? WOULD YOU?”
And just like that, with a little injection of campiness, the song comes to life. Grade: B
Their singles have really been all over the place, haven’t they? “Hip to My Heart” was just wretched, but “If I Die Young” was a once-in-a-career kind of hit. “You Lie” fell on the wrong side of just all right, and now “All Your Life” is a bit better than average.
The melody, especially in the refrain, is the real selling point here, and the light-handed arrangement and solid vocal harmonies help to make this one a pleasant listen. Still, a couple of nicely turned phrases in each verse aren’t enough to overcome the song’s fundamental cliches, and Kimberly Perry wanders off pitch more than a couple of times.
The bigger issue for me is that the single lacks a strong hook: “All Your Life” needed one standout line or distinctive production flourish to make it something more than just kind-of pretty. Grade: B-
Kevin John Coyne:
There are a lot of things that work about the Band Perry. I’m not hearing much of them on this particular track.
I love the bridge breakdown that recalls Nickel Creek at their trippiest, and I genuinely appreciate a country single actually sounding country.
But the lyrics and the vocal performances? Pure amateur hour. Grade: C-
As others are noting, two things click: 1) The organic arrangement; 2) The cool bridge, which uses minor tonality better than any country single in recent memory.
Otherwise, though, it sounds like something Colbie Caillat would have written as a teenager. The case of Kimberly is a weird matter, too – certainly she’s got range, but you get a lot of ungainly pronunciations like “o-SHUH–hun.” Eh. Grade: C+
I love The Band Perry’s sound and style, as well as Kimberly’s voice, so I would definitely like to be pulling for them. The lyrics are where they tend to lose me. In this case, the deficiencies don’t come in the form of the wonky, off-beat “I oughta kill you right now and do the whole wide world a service” Band Perry kind of way. It’s just kind of blah, and a bit on the cheesy side. The bridge is more interesting, but I still don’t like how the song lets me sit through two boring verses before it makes any real attempt to engage me in the lyrics.
And yet, I still find the restrained country-bluegrassy arrangement so absorbing. While Kimberly’s vocal performance is not technically perfect, I still find it compelling and believable in its own way (and preferable to the buzzy, processed auto-tune effects that I hear on other artists’ records). Overall, the single is good enough that I’ll probably come back to listen periodically, but I would still like to see the band making greater artistic strides with their lyrics on future releases. Without a solid lyric that’s strong from start to finish, they’re still one base shy of a home run. Grade: B-
Written by Brian Henningsen and Clara Henningsen