Despite the excellent uptempo tracks Ballerini can spit out, she does the best with ballads. The title track, "First Time," is a beautiful piece. She tells the story of her ex telling her he wants to talk to her, but then never showing up. The chorus teaches a message similar to Carrie Underwood in "Good in Goodbye", when Ballerini sings: "That's why goodbye should mean goodbye the first time." Lyrically and production-wise this is a masterpiece. One of the most country songs on the record, this song seems like it really belongs on this record, most likely why it was chosen as the title track.
The best song on the record, and the most personal to Ballerini is "Secondhand Smoke." She tells the story about her parents fighting when she was growing up, another similarity she has to Swift. This is the direction Ballerini should go in for her next album: the acoustic driven emotional ballads. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this song. Ballerini's vocals are flawless, and the chorus is beautiful:
"I know that you can't walk across a bridge that's already burned, so
What am I supposed to do?, I can't help that they chose
To breathe it in, but I don't wanna choke
On that secondhand smoke."
This emotional country track is what really shows Ballerini's talent. She could be written off as just another Swift with songs like "Love Me Like You Mean It," but this song shows her unique artistry.
The album closes with "Underage." Another almost-ballad, this song is a typical country song, remembering being young (despite the R. Kelly reference, instead of a typical Shania or George reference.) The hook, "Nights are young and our IDs are fake, underage," is short and sweet, and really sums the song up in one lyric beautifully. This track ends the album on a strong note.
The biggest problem with this record is the fact that it's not country enough. It is an excellent record, but it is pop/country, and way more pop than country. Even Swift, the Queen of Pop, started out more country than this. It's easy to see Ballerini going the way of Swift on her second or third album, instead of like what Swift did with her fifth. It is a shame, because country music needs talent like Ballerini. Hopefully Ballerini will stay in country music a bit longer than this album indicates she will.
Best tracks: Peter Pan, Stilettos, Secondhand Smoke, First Time
Throwaway tracks: Looking At Stars, Love Me Like You Mean It
Overall rating: 3 and 3/4 crowns