The coolest thing “I Hope it Rains” has going for it is a piano melody that is mildly reminiscent of Bonnie Tyler’s cover of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.”
As for the rest of it, Jana Kramer’s newest effort is mediocre and suffers from being not quite enough of everything it’s trying to be. It’s twangy, but not twangy enough to suggest an authentic country pedigree. It’s adolescent, but not adolescent enough to rank among even the lesser Taylor Swift “I’m done with you now wait until the next song about the next guy I’m done with” kiss-off numbers. It’s a vindictive fantasy, but nothing nearly as vindictive as what Jaron and the Long Road to Love would pray for.
All in all, Kramer would’ve been better off just covering Dolly Parton’s “I Don’t Want to Throw Rice.” She would’ve accomplished all three tasks in one fell swoop.
Written by Jerry Flowers, Kelley Lovelace, and Rachel Proctor
How many female country artists these days kick off a radio run with two back-to-back songs of heartache, both with audible fiddle and steel to boot?
At any rate, Jana Kramer is shaping up to be the breakout surprise of 2012. Her debut single “Why Ya Wanna” was well-written, competently sung, tastefully produced, and almost inexplicably became a Top 5 hit.
Kramer offers a most worthy follow-up with her new single “Whiskey.” With its themes of emotional angst and regret, it will likely imbue a most welcome shot of melancholy into the mix of interchangeable love songs and party anthems that populate country radio. “Whiskey” is built around an easily accessible, yet surprisingly effective metaphor, as seen in its winning chorus:
“Should have just called it like I saw it
Should have just called for help, and ran like hell that day
The burning, the stinging, the high and the heat
And the left-me-wanting-more feeling when he kissed me
I should have just called him Whiskey.” Though things are glossed-up just enough to keep from offending P.C. country radio standards, both the production and vocal stay out of the way of the lyrics, and the moaning fiddle
intro feels like the return of an old friend. Though the sound of the record is not squarely “traditional,” it demonstrates that it is possible to incorporate pop sounds and melodies without entirely abandoning country genre signifiers.
As for whether Kramer can keep the ball rolling commercially after scoring one bona-fide country hit, we’ll have to see. But based on the quality of her first two radio outings, one would definitely hope that Jana Kramer is here to stay.
Does country radio still have room for a song about drinkin' and cheatin'? How about one sung by a female artist?
Enter Arista newcomer Kristen Kelly, currently making waves at radio with her debut single “Ex-Old Man,” which she co-wrote along with nineties star Paul Overstreet. The premise is simple. Husband cheats on her with her best friend. She calls it quits with her man, and hits the bar, assuring us in no uncertain terms that “There's a damn good reason for this drink in my hand.” The lyric and performance are brash and bitter with an undercurrent of vulnerability as Kelly fumes over the double betrayal. (“I was cryin' on her shoulder, he was cheatin' on me… She never let on that it was her stealin' his love”)
In a country radio environment where there are far too many bells and whistles, it's a refreshing change of pace to hear a new artist taking a back-to-basics approach – revisiting a classic yet often ignored country music theme, with a simple drum and acoustic guitar-driven arrangement that actually makes the song feel like country music (Overstreet and Tony Brown take producer's credit). At the same time, the jaunty acoustic chords and hand claps are subtly infectious, setting the toe tapping in short order.
It's encouraging to see that this single seems to be getting some attention at radio. If Kelly's lyrical material remains strong, she along with fellow rising talent Jana Kramer could potentially act as an effective counterbalance toward the polished, hook-heavy country-pop of Swift and Underwood and company, imbuing some welcome variety into country radio's pool of female talent.