By Emily Wagner
No one claimed the music industry as an easy industry to navigate, and nobody understands that better than Cam.
After her breakout album and smash hit “Burning House” 5 years ago, we didn’t hear much from her. But luckily, with a new record label, A-list songwriters, and a more secure outlook on her place in the country world, Cam is making her voice heard with The Otherside.
This album has such a unique sound and vibe to it, that I don’t think we’ve heard in the country airwaves this year — or ever.
Cam has always claimed multiple musical influences in her life, and this album is a testament to that. From the folksy, Americana styles of Alison Krauss and Joni Mitchell, to a more contemporary pop sound (Sam Smith and Harry Styles are both writers credited on the album), Cam has created 11 beautiful songs that are the perfect way to reintroduce herself to the world.
“Diane” will be the one recognized song on the album, as it was actually released a few years ago. It’s the other woman’s side to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Think of Dolly as Diane, Cam as Jolene, and you have two women wronged by the same man.
Since Cam’s first album, she has fallen in love, gotten married and had a child, but with all of that going on in her personal life, not a lot of that happiness seems to translate to the music. “What Goodbye Means” talks of divorce, with Cam singing “Now I’m starin’ at this paper, that you left for me to sign.” Or in “Happier For You”, Cam is singing about being at her ex’s wedding. We aren’t sure why she’s here, (maybe it’s a Ross & Rachel kind of thing?), but she is still in love with this man, trying to convince herself that one day she will be genuinely happy for his happiness. The song is enhanced by subtle measures that I love, like the sound of faint wedding bells at the end, and a church organ throughout.
I have no problem claiming the title track “The Otherside” as my favorite song of the album. It’s dark and revengeful, spiteful and empowering. And when it gets to the refrain, instead of going for a full accompaniment, it’s stripped back to an acoustic guitar and a down beat that makes you want to stomp your feet or clap your hands right along. This is followed up by “Classic,” a stark contrast, with its light staccato beat. It has big drums and horns and we get to hear the first sense of a love song on the album.
In fact, Cam can cover a love song just as well as her heartbreaking songs. Somewhere within “Like a Movie” is a realistic look at a relationship, that has more ups than downs; whereas we see a more passionate and zealous side to Cam with “Til There’s Nothing Left.”
I love when albums have a meaning behind the track listing, especially when it seems like it is bookend by two songs that compliment each other. The album begins with “Redwood Tree” a song that I swear could have been written in the 60’s, but it’s a coming of age song, the gift that getting older gives us the perspective we didn’t have when we were younger. As the album concludes with “Girl Like Me”, Cam is continuing her journey to who she is now. It feels like she is writing a letter to her younger self, whether that younger self is from 5 years ago or 20. There’s a lonely feeling to the song, but also a confidence that I think will resonate with girls of all ages.
Leave it to 2020 to keep giving me albums I never would have predicted enjoying, nonetheless, have on repeat. But Cam has created a masterpiece of an album with songs that entice you, that make you listen a little harder. The Otherside proves that her first album was no fluke, that Cam is one of the most unique artists and songwriters in the game today.