Single Review: Kelsea Ballerini, “Dibs”

Kelsea Ballerini Dibs

Kelsea Ballerini

Written by Kelsea Ballerini, Jason Duke, Ryan Griffin, and Josh Kerr

So.  “Dibs.”

What is there to say about “Dibs?”

It uses the voice of a younger person well.  She doesn’t sound like an older person trying to act young or anything like that.  It’s age appropriate.

The arrangement is fine.  Decent country sound.  She’s a singer who knows her own range and works well within her parameters.

It’s reasonably pleasant radio filler built around a word that’s best suited for reserving the shotgun seat. It’s a ridiculous concept for a song, but  at least she references the shotgun seat in it.

So I’m going to give her bonus points for being meta and for being appropriately snarky when doing that ridiculous rap breakdown at the end of each chorus.  Always best when you’re in on the joke.

Congratulations, Kelsea Ballerini.  You released the first single that I’ve reviewed in weeks that isn’t completely terrible.*

Grade: C

* Released by someone other than Alan Jackson, of course.


  1. I remember guys saying something like “i’ve got dibs on the next game” back in the late 50’s, early 60’s but not since then. Re Kelsea’s Dibs, i won’t ask for dibs.

  2. Do people really snap their fingers and clap their hands in real life as much as they do in a modern day country song?

  3. I’m actually perfectly okay with Ballerini filling in Swift’s role. Her album proves she’s up to the task. I quite like this song, it’s a perfectly cheesy and silly pop confection done right.

  4. Since I’m such a nut for chart trivia and I read an article on Billboard today that mentioned Ballerini being just the 11th female country solo act ever to top the chart with her debut single, I decided to see if I could figure out the first 10. I believe they are:

    1. Connie Smith – Once a Day
    2. Trisha Yearwood – She’s in Love with the Boy
    3. Wynonna – She Is His Only Need
    4. Faith Hill – Wild One
    5. Deana Carter – Strawberry Wine
    6. Lisa Hartman-Black – When I Said I Do (with Clint Black)
    7. Jamie O’Neal – There Is No Arizona
    8. Cyndi Thomson – What I Really Meant to Say
    9. Gretchen Wilson – Redneck Woman
    10. Carrie Underwood – Jesus Take the Wheel
    11. Kelsea Ballerini – Love Me Like You Mean It

  5. I’ll agree with you on the arrangement.

    Look, as vicious as I was on “Love Me Like You Mean It” and have not warmed up to it one iota, I actually think “The First Time” is decent as a pop album. Ballerini is actually pretty skilled as a technical songwriter, and there are a number of tracks on the album that have some refreshing nuance and interesting metaphors: most notably “Second Hand Smoke”, “Stilettos” and “Peter Pan”.

    And her technical songwriting abilities are also demonstrated pretty well here on “Dibs”. The track definitely flows well (with one exception I’ll get to) and it definitely succeeds well enough with the melody line and chorus.


    But here’s where I have to waste no further time confronting what ultimately sours the mood for me much the same way “Love Me Like You Mean It”: the utterly toothless production.

    Yes, unlike her debut single, there are very light touches of token banjo in the verses. Yet it just comes across as utterly calculated because, outside of that, the production is again utterly sterile and anonymous. It lacks any distinctive flavor whatsoever and makes this instantly forgettable.

    Of course, Ballerini tries her hardest to quixotically emulate Ke$ha or Karmin’s Amy Renee Heidemann when tinkering with rap in the tail end of the song’s long chorus, beginning at :56 in the song…………………which is of course absolutely embarrassing and a desperate attempt at making the song sound remotely distinctive in a way its production and instrumentation fails miserably. -__-


    In the end, look. As a pop song, it’s hardly the worst thing out there. I wouldn’t even consider it among the worst in Top 40 at the moment (that dubious distinction would go to Silento’s catastrophically awful “Watch Me”, Rich Homie Quan’s monstrosity and “country crossover” act Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time”). Ballerini definitely gets it right with the technical side of songwriting and has made what is legitimately a catchy, accessible pop song.

    But that’s just it. It’s a POP song. However, it’s being marketed as a COUNTRY song and, as a COUNTRY song, it fails on most metrics: from the lyrics lacking ANY sort of distinctive point of view or personality and comes across as bra-country, to the toothless production, to the near non-existence of instrumentation driving this, to her annoying flirtations with spoken word in a couple of places.

    This gets an F as a country song, a C+ as a pop song.

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