Written by Bailey Bryan, Dennis Matkowsky, Casey Brown
What Kelsea Ballerini hath wrought, Bailey Bryan’s “Own It” is a slice of Radio Disney pop that, presumably because Bryan and her co-writers shoehorned a ridiculous reference to Patsy Cline into the first verse, is being promoted to country radio.
While it’s far too easy and far too common to dismiss the POV of a teenage girl, the issue with “Own It” isn’t that it includes references to youthful signifiers of iPhones and texting and being helpless without access to GPS. Instead, “Own It” is a failure because its construction and Bailey’s performance both keep it from working as a decent pop song.
The song’s limited melodic range makes the verses monotonous, with awkward breaks in the meter of the language that cause Bailey to over-emphasize particular words in her phrases– the way she pronounces the word “stress” when she sings, “I’m not going to stress,” is some kind of a hate crime against the English language. The chorus aspires to be an anthem of empowerment, but the choppy syntax (“So call me crazy/Dysfunctional maybe/I don’t care/I’ll show it/Cause I own it”) makes “Own It” sound, at best, like a chant from a JV cheerleading squad.
Bailey’s voice, unfortunately, is too much of a liability to overcome the deficiencies in the songwriting. The song’s narrow melody accommodates her unimpressive range, and, for all of the AutoTune slathered on her vocal track, her tone remains tinny and shrill. Country music has a storied history of impressive young vocalists– from Brenda Lee and Tanya Tucker to Billy Gilman and LeAnn Rimes– but Bailey simply lacks the chops to compare to those artists. “Own It” pales in comparison even to a teenpop-country confection like Alecia Elliott’s “I’m Diggin’ It.”
Ultimately, all that “Own It” has going for it is that it isn’t actively offensive like Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” or Danielle Bradbury’s “Friend Zone.” That’s the low bar “Own It” manages to clear.