The best worst time you’ve ever had
Margo Price returns with her highly anticipated third album, That’s How Rumors Get Started, after pushing back the release to deal with her husband’s terrifying encounter with COVID-19 (thankfully, he’s recovering). The album was worth the wait.
Every song except “I’d Die for You” is about some variety of pain. She’s mourning lost time with her kids in “Gone To Stay,” enduring harsh judgement from others and herself in “Stone Me,” writing a letter to her past self-destructive self in “Hey Child” and lamenting some flavor of failed romance in most of the other songs. The lyrics get incredibly dark, yet, without fail, each song is irrepressibly fun.
“Letting Me Down” is a perfect example. Price’s voice sounds not unlike Dolly Parton’s, clear as a bell, backed with a tambourine and a playful duet between the piano and guitar. “Everybody’s lonely, oh babe just look around. You’ve got a way of letting me down.” She’s singing about some kind of deadbeat relationship in a hopeless town that disappoints over and over, yet the musical tone is so danceable and upbeat.
“Hey Child” stands out, turning away from the rock influences of the rest of the album to a more soulful tone. A choir backs her with building intensity from the instruments until she gets to belt the finale. “Pull in all your wounded men. Oh, baby, don’t you know that they’re useless?…Hey child, you better get it right on you, hey child, you got so many better things to do.” This seems to be a letter about past self-destruction, and she gets to really show off the emotional capacity of her voice here.
“Twinkle Twinkle” has a hard rock edge as she sings about how soul-crushing it can be to try to make it in the music industry. “Way back in the good old days, when things weren’t really all that good…” She sings about growing debt and the struggle to survive. Unlike most artists singing about their path to success, this feels more like a warning than a victory lap. “You might not get there, and on the way it’s a bitch.” The gritty, roadtrip-esque tone of the song meshes well with the cautionary message of hard-won triumph.
Margo Price has an amazing ability to spin pain into paradoxically uplifting songs. The tracks on That’s How Rumors Get Started are upbeat and fun, without compromising the emotional punch of the lyrics, or sounding jarring. It’s a balancing act that Price has mastered.