More noteworthy as a vocal showcase than as a lyrical composition.
“Ex-Old Man” singer Kirsten Kelly’s new single “He Loves to Make Me Cry” flies in the face of the country radio status quo with its smooth, bluesy arrangement. I genuinely have to give Kelly credit for stepping outside the box, and it is interesting to hear her show a bit more of her range and vocal texture than she did on her debut single.
But a great production alone does not a great record make. The lyrical concept of “He Loves to Make Me Cry” hinges its impact on the fact that tears can be a sign of joy and contentment instead of heartache, but fails to express that truth in a way that feels novel or revelatory. The fact that the lyrics aren’t sufficiently engaging causes Kelly’s belted-out delivery to come across as unnecessary and almost self-indulgent. Such a performance works only if the lyrical content warrants it, which in this case it doesn’t. After a while, her stretching out one-syllable words into three syllables just feels grating.
The single is, however, enough to keep me interested in Kelly’s music, as it demonstrates a willingness to be different which will
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.