New Indulgences in a Familiar Sound
Lady Antebellum have ruled country radio for much of their time in the spotlight, coming out with single after single telling stories of the heart in all its broken and bearing forms. Their emblematic harmonies and poppy choruses are part and parcel to what the mainstream genre is made of, but their sixth album, Heart Break, doesn’t stray far from their standard fodder: there are the requisite mentions of bars, kisses and moonlight, delivered in beautiful harmonies from Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood. But it’s true to the title, delivering
And while there’s definitely more than one option for a single, with both feel-good tracks and pained confessions, it’s hard to say if there’s a “Need You Now” or “Own the Night” on here, one of those songs that really breaks through the pack to become a megahit. Those songs were true to Lady Antebellum’s style but far afield from what their counterparts were doing, so they were unique tracks at the time they popped up. Here, in 2017, audiences know what to expect from Lady A — that being said, Heart Break shows them doing what they do best.
The title track is a mid-tempo, Scott-led track that is sure to be an anthem for those looking to be “single for the summer.” She’s “sleeping like a queen in the California king I’m in,” to display the spin on the title’s term, as this song isn’t about heartbreak but “a heart break,” or a pause on the messy business of romance. It’s an excellent single lady anthem coming from a place that’s still vulnerable, not quite ready for the take-on-the-world part but ready to embrace what it means to be an independent person separate from the identity of a relationship.
But things quickly take a sexy turn on “You Look Good,” and we’re on the flip side of the coin with a steamy dance floor anthem. And then the inevitable relationship heaviness makes an appearance on “Somebody Else’s Heart,” a familiar sounding track with a thumping beat and traded-off duet vocals. It’s in spaces like this where Lady A really shine, a duet between Scott and Kelley that tells the story of a relationship in strife.
The band seem to know this is the note they play the best: most of their songs grapple with the questions of love, whether it’s the self-doubt of going for it or the sting of loneliness. Then there’s “This City,” which looks at the lighter side of enjoying the company of that special someone, with a catchy-as-hell chorus.
The losing-love vibe returns on “Big Love in a Small Town,” with its musings of, “Baby do you ever feel like our love was drowned out by real life?” in a confessional-style duet about a lost love. As always, the melody of the chorus is poppy and perfect for easy sing-a-longs, while the piano-driven melody offers the warm, familiar feel of a ballad. Then there’s “Teenage Heart,” which could make anyone yearn to be young again with a propulsive rhythm and banjo aplenty.
The closer, “Famous,” is the evocative, somewhat stereotypical tale of the talented soul who gets lost in the complications of her own stardom. But with Scott on the lead vocals, there’s a little more storytelling going on. “It kind breaks your heart when you think about everything she gave and the life they stole away,” she sings, conversationally, as if talking to a friend. One wonders which of her cohorts she might have in mind as she sings about a life gone awry, or what caution she might be warning to others.
Heart Break might not break any records this accomplished group have set for themselves, but it will certainly please their fan base — along with any other country listener looking for a little bittersweet reminiscing, a little partying in the dim bar light and a whole lot of heart.