Lauren Alaina’s “American Idol” legacy can be summed up in one phrase: failure to meet potential. The Season 10 runner-up kicked off her “Idol”run with a fiery display of vocal talent, but she was never able to match that confidence or sense of identity in subsequent live performances. Worse yet, her “Idol” catalogue stood in stark contrast to that of winner and fellow country artist Scotty McCreery, whose best strength was his firm grasp of self.
It’s surprising, then, that Alaina’s debut album Wildflower is one of the most authentic post- “Idol” country albums to date – a collection of tasteful, age-appropriate pop-country songs, “Georgia Peaches” withstanding. Her current single is topped only by one album gem that’s unlikely to see the light of radio.
“Eighteen Inches” treads no new ground for country music: Teenage lovers defy their parents, jet out of town and create a life of their own that includes a new baby. But its hook sums up the root of this familiar story better than most: “There ain’t no greater distance than the 18 inches from your head to your heart” is a keen description of the power of love. Thanks to an evocative melody, this sentiment –and Alaina’s performance– soars.
Alaina is a naturally gifted vocalist, possessing a voice that can tell a story simply through its shades and intricacies, much like that of “Eighteen Inches” co-writer Carrie Underwood. It’s a testament to this skill that she’s able to flip the Martina McBride-style power ballad into one with undertones of gritty teenage emotion. She approaches the song with youthful poise, but injects it with just enough teenage angst to crack the gloss of the pop-country arrangement.
In sharp contrast with the sensitive balladry of “Like My Mother Does,” American Idol graduate Lauren Alaina does a total 180 with her follow-up release “Georgia Peaches” – a spunky, loud, in-your-face uptempo that’s all about the southern beauties who hail from the state of Georgia.
Perhaps the song’s most notable positive characteristic is the wild, unrestrained energy with which Alaina attacks the song. It’s a wonder that that energy shines through, as producer Byron Gallimore sounds like he’s doing his best to drown her out. It comes as a pleasant surprise that fiddles are audibly included in the mix, but layers of rock guitars force Alaina to compete against a nearly impenetrable wall of noise. Though the song namedrops both Alan Jackson and Jason Aldean, the musical styling definitely owes more to the latter, with audacious guitar licks that sound unpleasantly reminiscient of some of Aldean’s less tolerable efforts.
Neither the vocal nor the production is able to push the song past the cliché fencing. The lyrics read like a familiar checklist of safely familiar country radio themes, with “Mama” and “Sunday church” both getting shout-outs, while the song displays the same rural self-congratulatory attitude that has made country music’s frat boys so insufferable as of late. While the hook – “There’s a reason why the boys pick the Georgia Peaches” – strains to sound clever, it becomes nearly intolerable with repeated listenings.
If Alaina can just take all that infectious energy, and channel it into a better song, then we could be in good shape. But the way it is, Alaina’s “Georgia Peaches” lacks any discernible hint of freshness.
Written by Blair Daly, Mallary Hope, and Rachel Proctor