Lady Antebellum are back. Nearly 3 years on from the release of ‘747’, Charles, Hillary and Dave will no doubt be dominating the charts once again with their highly-anticipated 6th studio album ‘Heart Break’.
“Carving out time is just so valuable when it comes to the creative process,” Dave told the Huffington Post. “We wanted to commit to it this time around, so this record was born in California and Florida and we finished it here in Nashville.” For this project, they’ve teamed up with producer Busbee, who notably produced Maren Morris’ smash-hit ‘Hero’ album. “It was fun to work with someone different just to literally come up with different sounds and mix the process up,” Charles said. That’s exactly what you’ll hear on ‘Heart Break’, gone are the ‘Love Don’t Live Here’, ‘Our Kind Of Love’ and ‘American Honey’ days; this is an album with a sonically different vibe and is certainly their most straight-down-the-middle mainstream offering to date.
That’s not to say it isn’t classy. Busbee has worked his magic on some very slickly-produced material, and it’s potential mega-hit after potential mega-hit as you work your way through the album. The title track ‘Heart Break’ kicks it off – a clever interpretation of the word, Hillary takes the lead on this post-breakup singleton’s anthem. “I think it’s time to take a heart break, out late, solo on a Saturday night. Goin’ out without a plus one, I’m done, falling over pickup lines”. This has Lady A written all over it, with their instantly lovable pop-country melodies, hooks and knockout choruses.
And that’s a continual theme throughout the album. ‘This City’ is the quintessential energy-packed concert opener, reminiscent of ‘We Owned The Night’. “This city never looked so good the way it’s lookin’ so good on you”. Hillary takes the lead on this one, a driving force on the album with the thumping backbeat and enlightening vibe; an early favourite of mine, this one won’t need any time to grow on you. ‘Army’ is another track with immense radio potential – Charles’ metaphorical confession of his wife’s bulletproof strength that holds them together. “I’m just marching to the sound of her heartbeat. Yeah I’m a soldier, but if I’m a soldier, she’s an army”. They utilise a wonderful soulful groove that really adds another dimension to the album.
However, the album’s real high-points arrive in the form of some gorgeous, timeless ballads, particularly track 5, ‘Hurt’. Hillary tells a story of a girl who becomes wrapped up in a romance, urging her lover not to hurt her, accompanied by some sublime strings and a beautifully crafted melody. Hillary’s voice is haunting and incredibly vulnerable, and she delivers the emotion of the track flawlessly. From the social media responses, this one seems to have become a big favourite amongst the Lady A’ers – don’t be too surprised to see this one released as a single. This is the trio at their very best; a song with great substance and depth that stands up well against some of their best output to date. ‘Hurt’ and the lead single ‘You Look Good’ were the only two tracks not co-written by the trio…this one was obviously too good to pass on.
‘Big Love In A Small Town’, a retrospective look at a romance at “Sixteen and teenage broke” is another stand-out, with Charles and Hillary sharing lead vocals. Soaring harmonies are at the forefront once again here in a powerful ballad that captures the imagination and encapsulates the innocence of young love. Nobody in the business pulls off this calibre of songs quite like these guys. ‘Home’ is another beauty, wrapping you up in its warmth right from the spine-tingling piano at the beginning; almost a reincarnation of ‘Damn You Seventeen’ from the ‘747’ album, albeit with a more uplifting lyric.
There are a few curveballs on the album to keep things fresh. The lead single ‘You Look Good’ showcased a new, invigorated Lady Antebellum with a horn section that took us all by surprise. ‘Think About You’ sees them experimenting with the electronics in one of the most up-beat, poppier offerings on the album. The synthesised additions to the melody showcase their versatility, with no hesitation to try something new and evolve their sound.
Lady Antebellum were one of my early love affairs when it comes to country music, so this album inevitably came with great expectation and trepidation (as does every album). They consistently deliver and have done so once again with a stellar album; probably their best since ‘Own The Night’ in 2011. There’s a renewed drive and power about it, with no fillers in sight.
Dan Wharton (@LifeInASong_Dan)