By Aaron Wagner
Kelsea Ballerini dropped her self titled album Kelsea this past weekend, her third studio album to date. It was one of the most anticipated albums in country music this year as she continues to build on the success of her first two albums.
While she isn’t quite a household name like Carrie or Miranda yet, she’s getting real close to that level. This new album just might get her there.
I love this album.
Here’s the thing though. If you hit play expecting to hear a traditional country sounding song, then you’re doing it wrong. That’s not Kelsea. Kelsea is able to write a meaningful lyric, sing the hell out of the song, and pushes the envelope of a country-pop sound. While the two are friends, I think it’s fair to say that her music – especially on this album – is directly influenced by Taylor Swift.
Her new album finds her taking new risks, speaking even more boldly than she has in the past, and letting her fans in even closer to show them who she is and what she’s been through.
Kelsea loves to bookend her album by starting off with an energetic song and then putting a bow on an album with a heartfelt ballad. “overshare” is the lead track that has her highlighting how she can be awkward just like the rest of us. How she finishes the album is my favorite part. “la” is this vulnerable song where she lays everything out on the line about how she sometimes feels torn between two places, while dealing with insecurities. As someone who uprooted his entire life to move to Nashville, this one is so damn relatable. Kudos Kelsea.
On the surface “club” seems like a song you jam out to while taking the Uber out to the bars, but rather it’s a confident maturity to blast this while staying in with your friends. Another fun one on the album is the infectious “hole in the bottle.” It has the most traditional sounding elements on the album and it’s guaranteed to make you get up and dance.
“homecoming queen” was the first single released late last fall and the gem of a song is currently sitting Top 20. Kelsea’s songwriting just might be her greatest strength and she crafted one of the more meaningful country songs in the last few years.
“bragger” and “the way i used to” are two songs that finds her taking a risk when it comes to the pop sound she’s able to so effortlessly blend with her country roots. If you’ve heard some of Carrie Underwood’s recent albums, this is the exact same type of sound that she’s exploring too.
The two duets on this project is what everyone is talking about and rightly so. She teams up with pop superstar and friend Halsey on “the other girl” a groovy song that definitely has more poppy elements but none that beat you over the head. Think Taylor Swift’s Red album. But then we get to the one that all country fans were excited to hear with her duet with Kenny Chesney. “half of my hometown” has her pouring her heart out for her hometown of Knoxville, but the strength of it is that every single person can relate to it. Some stayed in town, some left. But it’s always going to be your hometown. My only wish is that Kenny would’ve sang the second verse rather than just supporting vocals on the chorus.
Known for not being a huge fan of love songs, instead preferring the heartbreaking songs, Kelsea gives us some more of these heartbreaks with “love me like a girl” and “love and hate.” You can tell that both come from the heart and they mean a lot to her.
“a country song” is a mid tempo jam that has Kelsea singing about how much country music has impacted her life and how there’s always been a country song for her to lean on through all of life’s ups and downs. One of my other favorites on the album is “needy.” It’s an energetic, almost optimistic, song that has her sharing how she’s experiencing all these new feelings of love and neediness in a way that she’s never experienced. And deep down, I think that’s what everyone aspires to gain from a relationship.
There’s a lot to like with this album. I’ve had this on repeat all weekend but my fan-girling aside, from “half of my hometown” to “hole in the bottle” I think there are some really great single options on the album that will help her continue to put her stamp on country music.