It’s hard to put into words how exquisitely beautiful this record is. But if you’re familiar with Reba McEntire’s body of work, I’ll start by saying this. It could be dropped, as is, into the middle of the For My Broken Heart album and not only fit in, but elevate that collection.
There are a lot of great songs about parents wishing their kids find happiness and success. Some, like “I Hope You Dance,” have even become standards.
Brandy Clark has been responsible for some of the best songs in country music this decade – much of them from her extraordinary debut album, 12 Stories (2013).
Dierks Bentley has, in a quiet and underrated way, become one of the most consistent hitmakers in country music today. He’s also one of the few singers out there who’s unafraid to color outside the established lines for country singers in the 2010s.
Jana Kramer’s long list of quotations attributed to “no one ever” includes, but is by no means limited to, “Wish you’d talk more about yourself”, “Sucks to be rich”, “I don’t need your love and affection”, “I don’t need to be your one and only,” “Love is always real on reality TV”, “Don’t want love to last forever”, and “My Heisman and my Grammy came so damn easy”.
Chris Young’s new duet single portrays a recently broken up man and woman revisiting the stomping grounds they once shared as a couple. The verses are laced with small details that make it easy for the listener to picture the scene. Young notes the “same old bar, same burned out lights,” while asking “Why in the hell does it feel like a different place?”
Combining the absolute worst lyrical tropes of peak bro-country with the faux R&B production Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett have popularized, Chris Lane’s “Fix” is the harbinger of another dreadful year at country radio.
As a would-be anthem for the contemporary working class, “Livin’ the Dream” is perhaps a bit too unassuming for its own good.
The most obvious points of comparison for singer-songwriter Maren Morris and her single “My Church” are to Sheryl Crow’s self-titled masterpiece and its follow-up, The Globe Sessions. Though Crow spent the 1990s as a pop star, her ties to the country genre were clear. “If It Makes You Happy” was always a honky-tonk anthem waiting to happen, while “The Difficult Kind,” “Home,” and “Mississippi” all sound more recognizably country than do current chart-topping hits by Sam Hunt, Kelsea Ballerini, and Thomas Rhett.
“Heartbeat” has been stuck in my head for days, which isn’t surprising, really. It has a solid hook that Underwood delivers with charm and sincerity, two qualities that I always find abundant in her work.
It’s a beautiful song, too. Romantic, heartfelt, and chock full of the specific details that make a song with a well-tread theme sound fresh and interesting.