Review: Sugarland, “Love”

sugarland“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” -William Shakespeare

Love is the most universal of emotions, the soothing salve for old wounds, the cure for all that ails. As Jennifer Nettles affirms on Sugarland’s new single, love, in fact, is the greatest revenge of all.

With a gently-percolating rhythmic section that builds up suspense, “Love” echoes the finest studio work of Brian Eno, whose sonic spirit lifted U2 into superstardom. This is a listening experience, an anthemic power ballad that scrapes the sky with its open-minded submission to the powers (and the pains) of love. A sort of spiritual awakening, “Love” allows the breathtaking vocal talent of Nettles to shine brightly, boldly, with a ferocious wonder.

Nettles settles into this tour-de-force with her finest friend, a high-altitude alto that’s Reba-meets-Bonnie Raitt; she’s willing herself to believe in the beauty of love while braving its consequences. Her gripping, grieving voice simmers in the verse, then, as the stakes rise higher, she’s urgently pleading for heavenly guidance. “Is it having so little, and yet having it all?” she cries.

Her faith slowly, but surely, rises; soon, Nettles accepts her fate: to live and to love, no questions asked. “I say it’s love,” she swears (whatever it happens to be), as if love cannot be defined by any divine force.  Her pronounced twang, one which travels through much of Sugarland’s music to date, is conspicuously absent. Instead, Nettles nestles into “Love” like it’s a warm coat on a cold winter’s night; the rising tension in her rapturous call tells all. In the final moments, that primal cry is met with Kristian Bush’s mighty roar, and a crescendo of crashing guitars drives home their hard-won lessons.

Recording a song with such grand scope was a risk, one whose rewards are rare. Many will argue that it’s abstract and absent of “country” traditions. However, “Love” is absolved from (most of) its sins by the grace of a glorious vocal performance, gently reminding that a full heart is sweet revenge on a cold, cruel world. A many-splendored thing indeed.

Grade: B+

Written by Jennifer Nettles, Kristian Bush and Tim Owens

Listen: “Love”


  1. This song grew very quickly on me after I heard it was going to be a single. Jennifer’s vocals are very powerful, and there is some great emotion in them, such as in the line “is it the feeling I get when I wake to your face.”

    At first I thought some of the lyrics were nonsensical, but when I listened to it again, I realized the the only two that really stood out were “is it the first summer storm? Is it the colours of fall?” But even if I don’t necessarily think those two things are “love”, they are still very special times of the year, and the lines can be interpreted differently by others.

    Overall, a very beautiful song. Wonderful vocals, very catchy, unique lyrics.

    Great review, by the way!

  2. I love this song ! Like Kent said, it’s lyrics are very unique as well as catchy. I love how the song just builds up and up to a big climax. Jennifer’s vocals are amazing and very powerful. I also love Kristian’s part, his raspy, roaring voice adds so much to an already great song. It’s just a great song!

  3. Everytime I hear this song, I keep thinking I’ve heard it before, or a variation of it. I’m not saying that since I’ve heard the song many times (I have the album), but there was something awfully familar about it. This song isn’t a cover of something else is it?

    It’s a good song, well deserving of a good review.

  4. Blake, that is one fine piece of writing you got there. I am always amazed at how well writers are able to describe a song in words.

    What a heartfelt song by Sugarland. I absolutely loved when Kristian jumped in.

  5. Really enjoy the writing of your review, but I am in the minority I see when I say I don’t like the song. I have been a U2 fan my whole life and when I bought the album put it in listen to the whole thing and came to this song, OH NO. Ten seconds into it I thought this is a U2 rip off, the song lyrically is good, but the arrangement, the music, the way she sings it, it all sound like a U2 rip off to me.

    Now had U2 sung this song I would love it because this is there signature sound. The sound Sugarland is using is synonomus with U2 and it just is right, and doesn’t sound right.

  6. Unlike most of you I can’t get into Sugarland. I think Nettles voice is nasal. Instead listen to “I believe in love” from the dixie chicks.

  7. Oooh, I love this review almost as much as the song itself. And I am with Zach – cause he beat me to quoting it ;) … your line “a high-altitude alto that’s Reba-meets-Bonnie Raitt” is the most spot-on description of Jennifer Nettles’ voice that I’ve read. I always thought she borrowed a lot of her singing style from Reba – especially her elongated syllables – and I am happy to see someone agrees with me.

  8. Good review! I think B+ is a perfect grade. I have to say, while I like the song, I would have perferred to have seen either “We Run” or “Genevieve” as a single.

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