Written by Sara Haze, Shane McAnally, and Jimmy Robbins
When the discussion turns to the great female vocalists of our time, one name is usually left off of the list.
Part of that is due to her finding her greatest success as the lead singer of Sugarland, the group turned duo that was one of the genre’s best and most consistent hitmakers for a good stretch. Other than Wynonna, the whole “lead singer goes solo” thing is usually a disappointment, even when they’re as talented as Ronnie Dunn, Radney Foster, or Raul Malo. It’s why I’m thankful that Trisha Yearwood turned down that offer to replace Paulette Carlson in Highway 101, yet another name that could be added to that list of great talents who fell short when they went solo.
So let’s take a moment to acknowledge the greatness of Jennifer Nettles, a more interesting and talented singer than almost all of this year’s Female Vocalist lineup at the CMA Awards. “Hey Heartbreak” showcases, once again, just how good she really is. She has a unique style that expresses her emotions so well you can practically see her facial expressions while listening to a record.
The conceit of “Hey Heartbreak” has been done before, especially touchingly by the Suzy Bogguss hit, “Heartache” back in 1993. Nettles sells it well, and the song has some clever lyrical imagery that personifies the emotions she’s dismissing quite vividly. I particularly like that “crazy” is always leaving stuff on the bedroom floor that she keeps tripping over.
It’s a playful, enjoyable listen that is elevated by Nettles’ sheer vocal talent. Maybe radio will finally embrace her as a solo act and we can up the number of Female Vocalist nominees who can sing as well as the greats.