So by the time her record came out, this was Ballerini’s artistic persona. Her music made it seem like she was okay with being the “girl in the country song,” the girl who loved sitting on a tailgate and being that girl that all the guys in country music loved to sing about. First impressions are hard to change, and this record likely changed very few people’s minds. It’s not that there aren’t some solid songs on this record, but most of them are the same version of Ballerini that she sold to country radio. “Looking At Stars” is a bro-country song. “XO” is basically a Sam Hunt song. “Sirens” edges on being an interesting record, but the overproduction of her vocals ruin it. Even “Underage,” which sounds almost like a ballad at the beginning of the song, feels like a bro-country song. This record is a perfect example of a genius business decision. Her label saw that women making unique, interesting music wasn’t working so they found a woman who was okay with making a bro-country record in her own voice. Not my cup of tea, but it’s hard to deny the genius of that plan.
“Secondhand Smoke” is the only other time on the record that the listener can actually feel like they learned something about Ballerini. A lot of the record is very surface-level, but this song digs deeper. It’s a song about Ballerini’s experience growing up with parents who got divorced and how she grappled with that. “Am I a product of a problem that I couldn’t change? I’ve got his eyes, got her hair, but do I get her mistakes?” are some of the strongest lyrics of the project. Ballerini has spoken many times about being vulnerable in her songwriting, but this is the only time on this record that she is actually vulnerable.
“Peter Pan” and “Stilettos” are the only other emotional songs on the record, and they suffer from a common problem found on this record: they’re just overproduced. To me, this record sounds like a demo recording, like they couldn’t afford to use instrumentals. I know the choice of using computers was definitely a conscious decision, but it sounds slightly empty and bare. Besides that, the lyrics that make up these two tracks are also incredibly solid. Ballerini definitely can write, but I think she didn’t really play with what she is capable of doing on this record. But it is her debut, so who can blame her.
Originally posted on VIBBIDI.com.