Single Review: Joanna Smith, "We Can't Be Friends"

Listening to the new Joanna Smith single, I’m reminded of when Lee Ann Womack first hit it big. I was impressed by

her taste in material and I thought the production of her records was impeccable.

But on those early hits like “The Fool” and “A Little Past Little Rock”, I always had the nagging feeling that the songs would’ve been better if they’d been recorded by Pam Tillis, who has a similar vocal style but more power and range.

Over time, Womack perfected her vocal technique and created her own distinctive style, one that is best showcased by simple arrangements and tasteful restraint.  The power of later hits like “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” and “Last Call” comes from her ability to accentuate an understated vocal will little punches of twang and power that create a dramatic effect.

So now, fifteen years after Womack first surfaced, I find myself listening to the new single by Joanna Smith and wishing it was being sung by Lee Ann Womack.   Smith’s got a great song, and she sings it well, following Patty Loveless’ golden rule: “Don’t get in the way of the song.”

But she stays out of the way of the song just a little too much, and there aren’t enough moments of twang or power to make the record interesting.    I still hope it gets a shot at radio, as it would be the best breakthrough single for a new female artist in a good long while.   I want to hear more from Smith, so I can hear more of Smith as she hones her style over time.

Grade: B+

Written by Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Shelley Skidmore

Listen: We Can’t Be Friends

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4 Comments

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4 Responses to Single Review: Joanna Smith, "We Can't Be Friends"

  1. You’re right. This is the kind of song that Lee Ann Womack would totally own, though Joanna gives a solid performance on her own merits. Her output has been uneven so far, but she has demonstrated some clear potential. I would like to see her gain some ground at radio.

  2. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    I agree completely with the review in that I think the singer is a little suppressed in the performance. I think that ‘d like to hear this song performed by Gail Davies, rather than Lee Ann Womack. Don’t know if this song will gain traction at radio or not

  3. It’s a pleasant song, but with this performance, it’s not really anything more than that.

    I listened to her EP on Spotify, which contains this song, and it’s by far the best thing on it. As well as two pretty inconsequential things, there’s also a terrible song about all her friends getting married, that I really hope I never have to hear again.

  4. Ugh, “Gettin’ Married.” I remember when that came out back in 2010 (and stalled at #55). Joanna can do way better than that.