Big Machine Label Group
Release Date: June 25th 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Talk Of This Town
- What A Song Can Do
- Like A Lady
- Things He Handed Down
- Chance Of Rain
- Worship What I Hate
Lady Antebellum (or Lady A as they are now known!), are one of my favourite country artists ever. I don’t know how many times I’ve mentioned this (most probably a lot!)- but I personally only started heavily listening to artists in the country genre around about a couple of years ago (when I reviewed Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty, and then later on as I blogged about more and more country artists– starting with Maren Morris, and ending with Chris Stapleton– Jon did blog about The Shires a while back!); and since that time, I’ve become amazed and intrigued by the genre at large- at the honesty and vulnerability that I originally thought was only present in Christian music, and at the largely relatable and impacting songs, that I in fact resonated with despite me not having lived in America and not experienced much of what was specifically sung about in country songs. It goes to show you the power of a song no matter the genre, and more specially the power of God moving through a particular song or a particular artist from left field- because if God can speak through Balaam’s donkey, then he can speak through anything, right? I used to be close minded and think that God can only speak through Christian music, but once that preconception and that wall was broken down, I became aware of other types of inspiring and thought-provoking music, and Lady Antebellum’s music was one of those other types of music that God was speaking through.
Now if you want to know more about what Lady Antebellum is about, and to know about their hit songs like “I Run to You”, “Need You Now”, “Hello World”, “Just A Kiss”, “Downtown”, “And The Radio Played”, “Compass”, “Bartender”, “Heartbreak”, “What If I Never Get Over You” and “What I’m Leaving For” to name a few; then you can read about them on Wikipedia or in Jon’s blog he wrote about them a while ago. Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley have been making music and providing us with heartfelt and hopeful and inspiring anthems since 2008, and what has eventuated since that time has been one of the most eclectic and lyrically strong discographies in the modern era. Just this past week though, Lady Antebellum (now called Lady A!) released their latest country EP, and their first under their new moniker- What A Song Can Do: Chapter One. And though this new release is only 7 tracks, these songs pack a punch and a heavy weight, so much so that I need to voice my thoughts. If you want to know our thoughts on the first 13 tracks of Ocean, then you can read my brother’s review of Ocean here (and you can read my review of the Ocean Deluxe album here as well!) And as I agree with him that Ocean is one of the most heartfelt and inspiring and emotive albums of the past few years; so it makes sense for me to echo Jon’s sentiments for future Lady A projects, right? As for the music and lyrics of What A Song Can Do: Chapter One though; it’s typical country stuff we’ve known from the guys for so long… yet since release is the first new collection of songs they’ve released since their name change, thus let me address the elephant in the room.
Yes, Lady Antebellum is no more, and Lady A is born. You can read about their name change here, but it has sparked some controversy- with the group now ‘sharing’ their name with an independent black gospel artist Lady A, given name is Anita White. It’s a messy thing indeed, with both sides trading blows and both sides suing each other (and still in a lengthy process of being sued may I add!). While I think it was indeed pretty unprofessional for Dave, Charles and Hillary to choose a name like Lady A without checking to see if anyone else was using it first (and we all know what the ‘A’ still stands for, even if the group claim that they’re trying to distance themselves from the slavery meaning of the word Antebellum!); I believe it’s also equally unprofessional for Anita to claim to want $10 million from Hillary, Dave and Charles, in the midst of a pandemic. Both sides are a tad focused in their approach as to how they would like this thing to be resolved… and all the while music is still being released. Are Hillary, Dave and Charles legally allowed to release music under the banner of Lady A anyway while this ‘battle’ is still going on? Something to think about. While I don’t want this ‘review’ to be like a bashing session towards both artists- let me just say this. I haven’t listened to Lady A (the artist) before, and that’s because of personal preference, and I may get around to that in the future, or I may not. However a controversial name change shouldn’t make or break Lady Antebellum’s fans (I’m probably still going to unconsciously say ‘Lady Antebellum’ because that’s how I have always known them!)… their songs are still good, and they still stand the test of time. Why boycott certain artists just because of something trivial that can be resolved through mediation and maybe more of a dialogue?
I feel my most confident when I’m not trying too hard. I love getting glammed up and all the fancy clothes, but when I feel the most ‘me,’ it’s a lot more laid back – and I think that’s a lot of us. As we were writing it, I was like ‘It’s always been my dream to do a song that combines the things I love about Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ and Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman!’ — two of the most strong, powerful female songs ever.
It’s incredible that Charles and Dave, in all their masculinity, are willing to sing right alongside me on this song. I think that is another powerful statement. It’s super important for strong, great men to stand beside women and propel them forward. I hope it makes fans feel confident too, it brings them joy and just gets people excited about seeing live music again.
We were some of the biggest champions for ’Like A Lady’ and we’re honored to stand alongside Hillary. We’ve had a front row seat to her strength over the years and we love linking arms with her on this song. This song has such a great feel to it. One of the coolest parts of being in a co-ed band is being able to share those different perspectives, so that’s just part of what we get to do.
Now let me get back to the music of Lady A. Lead single “Like A Lady” is groovy, catchy, and a female empowerment song for this moment. It’s a song that myself and other males probably won’t fully understand, yet this melody of celebrating women and perhaps more broadly celebrating yourself and the way God made you, is a song that is indeed meant for these times. Especially since 2020 has been all doom and gloom… it’s nice to have a positive, optimistic song about joy and celebration of who we are as people. The perfect summer jam (or perhaps the perfect all-year jam!), “Like A Lady” reminds us that Lady Antebellum (or Lady A) still has many more years left in them- and many more years of quality also!
“Things He Handed Down”, an acoustic guitar ballad led by Charles, eloquently champions fathers (in time for Father’s Day in the U.S.!); and is thematically similar to Thomas Rhett’s “Things Dads Do”. Speaking about Thomas Rhett, he is a co-writer on this song (which is why this track sounds like something from Country Again: Side A!), and as we are presented with the honesty and emotion of what Charles’ father (or someone else’s father) has said over the years to their child, about what we have been grateful for that our dads have imparted to us (‘…don’t mix wine with whiskey, don’t put Jesus in a box, and never spend more money than you make, don’t burn a bridge that maybe one day you’ll have to cross, don’t worry ’bout what you can’t change, those talks from that recliner, those fishin’ boat one-liners, it’s his words that mean most to me now of the things he handed down…’); we are reminded about the challenging job and hard role dads have to embark upon. This song gives us perspective into what dads go through everyday… and so Lady A must be commended and congratulated with writing and singing a song about fathers- which isn’t done enough these days. “Talk Of This Town”, the EP opener, is a mid-tempo piano prominent ballad, a song about heartbreak that probably is applicable to a lot of people. And while I’m not sure whether this song is autobiographical about a past relationship that one of the trio had way back in the day with an ex that they couldn’t get over for a while; this song nonetheless speaks volumes, and shows us that scandals and gossip and rumours interest people for a finite amount of time, and then it’s old news. A song that captures the psyche of people and their incessant need to know things of which some aren’t pertinent to them at all; “Talk Of This Town” musically is typically country and a joy to listen to as we hear some vintage Lady A.
“What A Song Can Do”, one of my favourite songs from the band ever, and the title track and the heartbeat of the album, reminds us of the power of a song and that a song can transcends time and space (‘…it can make you dance and make you cry, make you wanna give it one more try, start a band, and kiss that girl, and break some rules, it’ll make you give your heart and get it back, change your mind just like that, when it’s like every single line was written just for you, ain’t it crazy what a song can do?…’); while “Fire” is an inspirational song, a pop tune that could easily fit on Christian radio- as Hillary leads this heartfelt ballad, and reminds us all that our character will develop and grow as we’re walking through the fire. With the song also subtly alluding to the fact that we can call on Jesus when we need to (‘…you gotta take it higher…’), “Fire” isn’t ground-breaking lyrically, but does resonate in my heart and soul for some reason. “Chance Of Rain” is as confronting a song as you can get, with Charles leading the track and encouraging us all to take a risk and step out in faith and into the unknown, as ‘…never going all in ’cause you’re scared of goodbye is like never seeing Paris ’cause you’re scared to fly, never falling in love ’cause a chance of pain is like never seeing summer ’cause a chance of rain…’. However what I feel is the group’s shining moment on this release is the EP closer “Worship What I Hate”. Lyrically, this is pure gold, as it’s a eye opener and a look inside why we do what we do. This examination into why we drink or why we spend all of our time on our phone, or why we are all so disconnected from each other… is well worth many listens, as Lady A gently accuses us all of ‘worshipping’ what we hate- placing something at the highest importance which shouldn’t be there, and which is unhealthy for us in the long run, and which we will eventually hate when it does all consume us. Hate in the sense that spending our time on ‘x’, while noble in theory, will destroy relationships, and we will hate the effects of that on our lives. And as Hillary fervently cries out that ‘…I gave all my time to nothing, I focused on who I was, not who I’m becoming, my fears they took up space, my eyes couldn’t look away, I didn’t even realize I worshiped what I hate…’, I firmly believe that we can take this song and use it as a mirror to ourselves. Why are we acting the way that we do and is it healthy? And what steps do we need to put in place for us to actively change into better versions of ourselves? So well done Hillary, Charles and Dave, for this EP and this song in particular!
Saying that I still like Lady Antebellum (or should I refer to them as Lady A now?) and will continue to listen to their music… I guess it may be controversial. Some would say I should abandon these guys and instead listen to ‘the real Lady A’… but while I firmly agree that this whole situation could’ve been handled a whole lot better, I for one am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Charles, Hillary and Dave. Whatever their music looks like in the future, I’ll still listen. What A Song Can Do: Chapter One is proof that quality and brilliance is still possible in the face of adversity- and hopefully in time, parties can heal, and a dialogue can occur that is beneficial to everyone. But right now, let me tell you that in the midst of COVID-19, EPs like Lady A’s latest, are needed. It’s needed for comfort and needed for normalcy and needed for reassurance that everything will be ok. Should I encourage you all to listen to this project (and to an extent the band’s entire discography)? I’d say yes… but not right away, and in your own time. Nevertheless, What A Song Can Do: Chapter One, whether you love Lady A or not, is worth listening to- and hopefully your preconceptions on Lady A can be shattered, and you can be reminded of the power of music and the power of Jesus moving through songs in unexpected ways that we all need in 2020 and 2021. Well done Hillary, Dave and Charles- I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you all next! Maybe What A Song Can Do: Chapter Two?
3 songs to listen to: What A Song Can Do, Things He Handed Down, Worship What I Hate
RIYL: Carrie Underwood, Mallary Hope, Rascal Flatts, Matthew West, Steven Curtis Chapman