Single Review: Little Big Town, “Better Man”

“Better Man”
Little Big Town

Written by Taylor Swift

A painfully honest exploration of the feelings created by a necessary breakup, “Better Man” is one of the best – and most original – singles of the year.

It’s a concept that is grounded in so much truth that I’m amazed I’ve never heard it approached this way before. In “Better Man,” it is conceded that love remains and that splitting up hurts, but the longing for a return to a relationship that can never be pushes up against a poignant sentiment: “I just miss you and I just wish you were a better man.”

The writers do a great job of capturing both why she stayed so long and why she had to leave, and all of the conflicting feelings that go along with that. She remembers the man who was “always talking down to me like I’d always be around,” that she wished would “turn sweet again, like it was in the beginning.” And leaving is presented as something of a pyrrhic victory: “I hold on to my pride because these days it’s all I have. I gave you my best and we both know you can’t say that.”

It’s raw and real and deeply powerful.

Grade: A

15 Comments

  1. I’ve always liked Little Big Town but have not cared for a while now of the music they have been putting out. Perhaps just a matter of taste. Yet, this is refreshing and makes me remember why I have always enjoyed this band. Thanks, too, to you Kevin as I am enjoying greatly your current crop of reviews.

  2. It’s a step in the right direction from the Painkiller album (Which was not all that great) but I still miss the Harmonies of the “Place to Land” Little Big Town.

  3. I think I’m the only one who prefers Kimberly’s voice over Karen’s. I just can’t get into Karen’s singing, yet it’s only her songs that can get radio airplay.

    I miss the beautiful harmonies of the early days when Wayne Kirkpatrick was their producer. But those songs didn’t sell so I guess they had to do something else.

  4. Count me in with those wishing LBT would go back to their raw sound (and, caj, I also prefer Kimberly’s vocals), but I do REALLY like this. This kind of brittle and emotional performance is one of the many things we’ve been missing in mainstream country.

  5. I do love Karen Fairchild’s singing; one of the reasons I’ve been a fan of LBT over the years is that all four of its members can really and truly sing. If I had to pick a favorite vocalist from the group, though, I’d probably go with Phil. I do think it’s a shame that, however talented she is, Karen has become the group’s de facto frontwoman with regard to their radio presence.

    I like her performance– though the way she breaks her voice in the final repetition of “better man” in each chorus sounds distractingly like a similar phrase in Rebecca Lynn Howard’s “Forgive”– and the lyrics of this song well enough, but I can’t stand the mixing on it. There’s so much reverb slathered onto the vocal track that is sounds like they recorded the single while a mile deep into a spelunking adventure, and it doesn’t add anything to the song or performance itself.

    This is still a far sight better than the majority of Pain Killer in terms of its production, but I’ll join the chorus of those who’d like for the band to return to a style that emphasizes their killer vocal harmonies rather than attention-stealing production choices.

    “Sober,” “Boondocks,” and “Little White Church” remain my favorite three singles of theirs; I’d rate this behind those and alongside “Girl Crush,” “Bring It On Home,” and “Tornado” as their quite strong but still second-tier singles.

  6. Okay, so apparently (unless this is some kind of “April Fools’ five months early” joke) it was just revealed that Taylor Swift actually wrote this song.

    If that’s true, it makes a surprising amount of sense, re-listening to this. “Better Man” has the same sort of vocabulary and cadence as one of her Fearless/Speak Now songs. It’s just been so long since I’ve heard her sing a song like that, that it never crossed my mind that she could’ve even remotely been a part of this, not to mention the fact that the product sounds nothing like a Swift song.

  7. The BMI website lists 99 songs for Taylor Swift as songwriter. There’s a “Better than revenge” but no “Better Man”. The latter song is listed for Skidd Mills with co-writer shown as Blair Daly.

  8. I’ve had this on repeat since it came out!

    Great to see praise for Swift’s writing. I await the day she comes back to the genre.

  9. Well, Swift herself has posted on instagram how honored she is that they recordered the track! A great song. Taylor has talent.

  10. Love reading reviews when not known Swift is the writer. Unlike some artists like Adele and Zayn, Taylor loves performing, but her first love is song writing. Love how she wrote EDM for 1st time and no one knew before it was a smash. Now back to country and the same. With this song, for sure, can’t dismiss her as a little, immature girl.

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