Written by Shane McAnally, Carly Pearce, and Josh Osborne
In the year of the cover song, surprise release and meow-remix – yes, I’m serious with that last one – it both is and isn’t surprising to hear Carly Pearce move on from her latest album after only seven months since its release. Surprising in that, with “I Hope You’re Happy Now” becoming her fastest-rising hit yet, it feels odd not to capitalize on that momentum with another single, especially to further the late busbee’s legacy; unsurprising, though, in that, with more time now to record new music, it makes sense when artists have the itch to release something new.
For Pearce, her inspiration for her next single was to answer the question, “what would Patty Loveless do?” A bold, but very welcome starting point, and “Next Girl” is a solid answer to that question.
Of course, if Pearce is looking to channel ‘90s country with her new music, it would help to favor a stronger melody over an improper mix balance, where the drums feel overmixed and the banjo, while prominent to support the melody, sound a bit too low. If anything, I greatly prefer the more grounded pop-country fusion of “I Hope You’re Happy Now” to this.
But there’s heart to Pearce’s twangier performance, and while the writing has already drawn comparisons to Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl,” I’m noticing more parallels to Gary Allan’s recent “Waste Of A Whiskey Drink.” In both situations, we have lead characters playing the role of the ex warning the next person in line to stay away from their former significant other, if only to warn them of what they’ll have to endure. A bit petty in either case, truthfully, but there’s more of an attempt here to better shade in the details and clearly frame the partner as in the wrong, even if still feels a bit too basic to call it great or memorable. The weak hook certainly doesn’t help.
But it mostly works well enough for what it is, resulting in a solid song that signals an intriguing artistic pivot for Pearce.