REVIEW: Sugarland – ‘Bigger’

It’s the day that all the Sugarland fanatics have been waiting for. Jennifer and Kristian’s comeback album ‘Bigger’ is out now, going head-to-head with Dierks for the top spot on the album charts this week. But this is much more than just a comeback album. This is a real statement of intent and an emphatic return for a duo who seem revitalised and ready to dominate once again. Packed full of pop-infused grooves alongside some tailor-made arena anthems and beautiful ballads, there’s nothing here that will disappoint their loyal supporters. Plain and simple, it’s a Sugarland album with an updated vibe, and we’ll be keeping this on repeat for quite some time.

Kicking off with the title track ‘Bigger’, they get straight in there with a thumping pop-country anthem, preaching belief, confidence and freedom – “Don’t give up, you’re more than enough, believe me, love, you’re gonna be bigger”. It screams country radio and has been a big favourite of mine since it was released as an instant-grat track with pre-orders. It carries great power, especially with Jennifer’s killer vocal delivery, and it sets the tone for an energy-charged album wonderfully.

The next couple of tracks switch things up, starting with the infectious ‘On A Roll’. I absolutely adore this; there’s a great groove that’ll get you dancing around the living room – almost a soul/R&B-infused sound. You’ll even hear Jennifer’s inner rapper making an appearance! So much confidence, so much sass… gotta love her! ‘Let Me Remind You’ follows, with a really interesting samba melody that takes us to South America – it’s very off-piste but fits with the energy of the album beautifully.

‘Mother’ is an absolute stunner, and it’s the highlight of the whole album for me. The melody gradually builds in a similar fashion to Sugarland classics like ‘Tonight’ and ‘Stand Up’, with that signature Sugarland spine-tingling nature. It’s a deeply personal one that listeners will be able to connect with in their own special ways. The song was written with the metaphor of the Statue Of Liberty in mind – Jennifer said “She has an eye on everything, and there is so much that is so maternal about her”. But it also illustrates the connection between a mother and child, and Kristian describes it as a “reconstruction” of his mother for his children, who never got the chance to meet her. Want to show your friends what country music is all about? Play ‘Mother’, nothing else is required.

The two big anthems on the album are the lead single ‘Still The Same’ (full review HERE) and ‘Babe’, featuring the biggest star in music, Taylor Swift. No biggie. ‘Babe’ was actually written by Taylor too, and she pitched it to Jennifer and Kristian when whispers of their comeback began to spread in the industry. The mainstream appeal here, with or without Taylor, is absolutely huge and I defy any mainstream music fan not to enjoy it. A pretty safe bet for a single release very soon, ‘Babe’ will be an instant fan favourite and having Taylor involved will do huge things for the whole project.

‘Bird In A Cage’ slows the pace right down for a very dark, edgy tale of entrapment that might take a few listens to grasp but it’s a real grower, and it’s ended up being one of my personal favourites. It’ll grab your attention and get you thinking. The atmospheric backing is beautiful and intriguing, and it’s great to hear Kristian playing more of a prominent role towards the end of the song too. An intricately crafted piece of work that has a powerful place on the album.

‘Love Me Like I’m Leaving’ utilises some lovely piano and pedal steel in a very soulful melody, and the song lasts over 5 minutes thanks to the outpouring of emotion and self-belief cried out by Jennifer in the final section backed by a huge honky-tonk style sound. Then comes ‘Tuesday’s Broken’, which is the most poignant, socially impactful song I’ve heard in a long time. Inspired by the school shootings, it asks the question “if we had human compassion, what could we avoid?” (Jennifer). There really isn’t much to the melody, as Jennifer carries all the emotion of the song in her flawless delivery. If you’re a lyrics person, this will really tug at the heart strings.

The album finishes with ‘Not The Only’, which shares lyrical similarities with the title track, this time written from the perspective of the person suffering from loneliness and self-doubt. “These are the days of the underdog, the counted out, the ones you don’t see coming. Times of the left behinds, the underneaths, the heart that’s tired but still keep’s running”.

All that really needs to be said is that ‘Bigger’ is a huge triumph. Another true masterclass in pop-country at its very best from Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, who have come back better than ever with a categorically Sugarland sound whilst remaining current and relevant alongside the competition. We waited a long time for this, but boy it’s worth it.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan