“Four Years of Chances”
Written by Margo Price
While the popular press has been waxing rhapsodic about Margo Price’s debut album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, for the majority of 2016, Price has been compared most frequently to country music icon Loretta Lynn. But there’s perhaps a better point-of-comparison than Lynn for Price’s second official single, “Four Years of Chances.” With its slithering, sinewy rhythm section, the single’s production favorably recalls the R&B inflections of some of Barbara Mandrell’s biggest hits.
That emphasis on rhythm actually makes the single something of a piece with contemporary trends at country radio, though, as far as dance music influences go, the hi-hat line that opens this track owes far more to the disco era than to the warmed-over Nelly knock-offs of Sam Hunt and Chris Lane. “Four Years of Chances” settles quickly into its groove, simmering just a little bit of grit and funk into Price’s overall throwback aesthetic. It’s perhaps the best recent example of how country music truly can evolve by incorporating signifiers from other genres into a sound that still retains the critical hallmarks that make country music unique. To that end, “Four Years of Chances” is just glorious stuff.
But what makes the song a should-be classic is Price’s performance, which is a masterful bit of interpretive singing. There’s a natural sweetness to her vocal timbre that keeps her from fully carrying some of the rowdier uptempo cuts (like her previous single, “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)”) on Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, but she relies on exceptional phrasing to avoid that problem here.
When she sings lines like, “I waited four long winters / Yes, I waited in the sun / I was crying all alone / While you were out having fun,” in the song’s opening verse, or when she enumerates, “I gave you one thousand, four hundred sixty-one days,” her phrasing is languid and drawn-out, reflecting how all of her wasted time bled together. But when she’s delivering her proper kiss-off in the chorus’ dynamite hook– “I gave you four years of chances / To try to be your wife”– her delivery is staccato, with every snarled syllable landing like a fully-rotated punch.
Those kinds of performance details don’t happen by accident, and they’re what separate the rare Trisha Yearwoods from the merely competent technical vocalists. Price’s delivery is feisty and brassy in ways that are in-service to the song’s narrative, but, above all else, her performance is thoughtful. She’s selling her story of a long-suffering wife in ways that lead to her own empowerment while leaving her no-good ex no room to question what his litany of mistakes were.
The likelihood that country radio will embrace “Four Years of Chances” seems slim, despite the single’s production that wouldn’t sound at all out-of-place alongside recent hits by Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, or Little Big Town. But the single stands as a true breakthrough moment for Margo Price, as it fulfills every bit of the hype she’s received and hints at even greater things to come.