Sugarland, “Joey”

Sugarland JoeyThought: being Jennifer Nettles allows you to get away with a lot of things that would wreck lesser singers. Her co-write “Joey” is certainly one of the more interesting songs getting shipped to country radio this year, with its drunk-driving scenario and unique “what if” narrative, but it’s also a bit of a mess, with verses that promise much and a chorus that delivers practically nothing – lyrically, emotionally, even melodically. Coming from a less soulful voice box, you know the thing would never float.

Lucky for Sugarland, Nettles’ surging performance manages to keep the track chugging along for longer than it probably deserves to, offering some interesting moments amid all the more underwhelming ones. With her in tow, plus a nice arrangement reminiscent of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”, even the song’s hiccups manage to sound like something worth hearing.

Written by Bill Anderson, Kristian Bush & Jennifer Nettles

Grade: B-

Listen: Joey



  1. I completely agree, even though this song is really growing on me, it’s just not their best effort. I really like it though and I hope it gets a music video…

  2. I agree that this song is really interesting for country radio. I actually like this song a lot. The strong country vocal with the rocking music really creates something fresh. It doesn’t sound quite like anything else.

  3. I have a soft spot for Sugarland, but I have to admit that something about this song doesn’t settle with me. I always find it a little off-putting when the melody of a song doesn’t quite match the lyrics.

  4. I’m a big fan of this song. Its one of my favorites from the album, although not at the top. I’ve often thought that the rambling lyrics and repetitive chorus were reflections of the confusion one feels when losing somebody suddenly, as is portrayed in the song. That being said, I can certainly understand how it can get a little annoying.

    I wasn’t expecting it to be a single release but it will certainly add a different angle to country radio for a few weeks.

  5. I like the rambling element of the lyric too, like someone trying to frantically find a way to retroactively fix a tragedy that was never under their control in the first place.

    But how about a shout-out to co-writer Bill Anderson? This man just will not quit, despite his legend becoming inevitable decades ago.

  6. This is really a risky release given it’s subject matter and the abstractness of the lyric. One of my favorite things about Sugarland is that they are taking these risks and keeping country radio interesting.

  7. I like the rambling aspect of the song, too. I think it builds a lot of great tension. It’s just the chorus – shouting “Joey, I’m soooo sorrrrrry” just doesn’t pay off all that tension in a meaningful way to me, if that makes sense. I know that it’s supposed to be a “when you can’t find other words to articulate all the tangled feelings, and you feel like saying it enough might somehow bring the person back” thing, but somehow it just doesn’t translate well to song for me. (And I apologize if that sentence sounds like I’m mocking people who find themselves in that situation; I don’t mean to, but it’s a hard thing to describe.)

    The weird thing about this song and Bill Anderson is that it doesn’t sound at all like any other song of his I’ve ever heard. I was really surprised to learn he was part of it when the album came out, to the point where I kind of wonder how much of a hand he really had in the finished song, at least creatively speaking (he could have just made technical suggestions about rhymes or something). That’s the only reason I didn’t call him out in the review itself; he just doesn’t seem like a big part of the song to me.

    It’s a good point about his longevity, though – whatever the size of his contribution, he definitely deserves kudos for being willing to sit down with the younger faces of the genre and contribute to the its future. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more songs with his name on them.


    I definitely agree with that. I would rather see them take risks and fall a little short than see them succeed with the same formula over and over again.

    …Man, I hate when my comments end up longer than the review.

  8. Love it. Has been one of my fave on the cd since it came out a year ago. As others have mentioned, I too like the “rambling” as it does echo the frantic thoughts and attempt to reason out a shocking situation. That’s one of my loves of Jennifer Nettles… to really bring a song a whole other dimension. Unlike SO many others on Music Row who basically sing other people’s words, and it comes across exactly as that.

    Also “ditto” on the taking risks and fall a little short than see success with repeated formula. I’m so bored with that. I hear an artist has a new song out and I already know it’s going to be one of two or three styles. Shamefully predictable.

  9. Probably an A-. Love on the Inside is my favorite mainstream country album from the past couple of years, though, so I’d be a fan of just about anything they sent to radio from the project.

  10. I agree. I couldn’t figure out what the heck the song was referring to. A lost love, a death, a momemnt in time with a friend. It’s way to rambling.

  11. I had a cousin die in a car accident. He was young (17yrs.old) got drunk and got behind the wheel. His name was “JOEY”. I get goosebumps listening to it..It was written for him I like to think.

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