Lady Antebellum May Need You Now, But Vice Versa?
- Jay Swartzendruber TheFish.com Contributing Writer
- 2010 3 Feb
Artist: Lady Antebellum
Title: Need You Now
Label: Capitol Nashville
Country music's reigning vocal group eyes the pop world ...
Considered by many to be a poor man's Little Big Town, Grammy-winning Lady Antebellum begs to differ. After all, what's poor about being country music's biggest breakout group in recent years? That's "biggest" as in a million-plus-selling eponymous debut, and being named New Artist of the Year in 2008 and then Vocal Group of the Year in '09 by the Country Music Association.
The Augusta, Georgia-trio featuring vocalists Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott and multi-instrumentalist/support vocalist Dave Haywood offers its sophomore album, Need You Now, with hopes it will silence critics and expand its coveted fanbase beyond the world of country. Well, one out of two ain't bad.
Or is it? Taking an assertive step, Lady A co-wrote eight of the album's 11 songs and co-produced it with Paul Worley (The Dixie Chicks, Big & Rich). The results are mixed. While the trio's slick countrified pop is a bit more meaty and engaging this time around—thanks to colorful piano stylings, lush string arrangements, and occasional rock riffage—the vocalists' soundtrack remains undeniably generic. However, sterling harmonies, memorable melodies, and an emphasis on soft rock songs just south of Fleetwood Mac, means Need You Now should greatly expand the band's reach.
Unfortunately, the album's title track—which recently entered the top 5 of Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart—set a troubling tone lyrically which detracts from the rest of the album. "It's a quarter after one/I'm a little drunk and I need you now/Said I wouldn't call/But I've lost all control and I need you now," sings Scott to an ex-boyfriend. And Kelley's vocals respond in kind on the ex's behalf.
Thankfully, Lady A takes more hopeful turns during much of the nostalgic and regret-laden album. Need You Now's second single, "America Honey," sounds like vintage Dixie Chicks as Scott's emotive alto longs for innocence lost. "Stars Tonight" actually kicks off with a bonafide hard rock guitar riff as the trio renders an arena-ready party ode to its fans. The album's most poignant moment arrives in the form of "Hello World" where Kelley confesses, "Every day I drive by a little white church ... /Maybe I should stop on in, say a prayer/Maybe talk to God like he is there/Oh, I know he's there." Later in the song, he reveals, "Sometimes I feel as cold as steel/And broken like I'm never gonna heal/And I see a light, a little grace, a little faith unfurls." This standout would be even more encouraging in a big picture sense if it had been one of the eight tracks written by Lady Antebellum. Alas, it is not.
**This review first published on February 3, 2010.