19 Recordings / UMG Recordings
Release Date: September 3rd 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- It Was Me
- If The World Was a Small Town
- Getting Good (feat. Trisha Yearwood)
- Same Story, Different Saturday Night
- On Top of the World
- What Do You Think Of? (feat. Lukas Graham)
- I’m Not Sad Anymore
- Getting Over Him (feat. Jon Pardi)
- Good Ole Boy
- When The Party’s Over
- You Ain’t a Cowboy
- Goodbye Street
- Written In the Bar
- Change My Mind
Talent shows are a mixed bag. There, I said it. What I’ve observed, is that much of the successes from talent shows have either come from any of the Idol iterations, or even that of X Factor or _____ Got Talent. Unfortunately, there hasn’t really been a big star from The Voice in all of the years it has been in operation since its inception way back in the early 2010s. Mind you, there has been Australian artists like Karise Eden, Harrison Craig, Judah Kelly and Ellie Drennan, American finalists from The Voice Cassadee Pope, Chris Mann, Koryn Hawthorne, Jordan Smith and Danielle Bradberry, and UK artists like Lucy Thomas, that have risen up from this singing competition franchise, so I guess The Voice isn’t as playing into the trope (that the competition doesn’t bring out the stars nor does it foster people’s careers post-competition) as much as we think the show is. Nevertheless, when we think about finalists from singing competitions who have made it professionally after said competition was over, our minds immediately cast to Idol finalists, and why wouldn’t we think about that? There’re artists like Carrie Underwood, Anthony Callea, Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, Damien Leith, Hayley Jensen, Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Mandisa, Kris Allen, Phillip Phillips, Scotty McCreery and Gabby Barrett; that have all found success at either Australian Idol or American Idol over the last 20 years or so- so even though we as viewers of such a franchise as this want to think that this Idol format is seemingly irrelevant in a day and age of youtube, spotify and the internet; the fact of the matter is this.
That Idol, regardless of its critics, still keeps on delivering stars where other franchises don’t, to the same frequency and impact. Idol (and other subsequent shows like _____ Got Talent, The Voice and X Factor) have changed the scope of music forever; and have reminded us that people are much more invested in people’s musical journeys than we care to admit. It’s a way of being connected to a style of music that maybe we haven’t heard before; or relating to someone’s story that has struck a chord with ours. However, we find ourselves watching whichever singing competition show is our preference is anyone’s guess, but when everything is said and done, we gravitate to music shows because music speaks to the soul much more than any other ‘universal language’- yes, I firmly believe music is the universal language that impacts and inspires, much more than sport and food. And while for plenty and plenty of years, artists (like a lot of those aforementioned) can come and go in an industry (and a fan base) that can be very fickle-minded; certain artists that have been a product of talent shows still remain, all these years later. Artists like Carrie Underwood, Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert, to name a few. Enter in another artist who I firmly believe has made her own mark on music by ways of an American Idol Season 10 second place result- country singer-songwriter Lauren Alaina.
Lauren Alaina has been impacting music for about a decade now. We as a site covered her in a blog post earlier on during 2020; and wrote about her impact and influence on music not only being made now, but impacting the culture of music into the future- the blog can be seen here, as we discussed Lauren’s albums like Wildflower (2011) and Road Less Travelled (2017), as this aspiring country musician has been challenging my own preconceptions about what I thought the genre was. Since hearing her standout songs ‘Doin’ Fine’ and ‘Road Less Travelled’ some years ago, I’ve been an on-and-off fan of hers for a few years now, and while I haven’t listened to her extensively (my brother was the one who wrote the blog post about her last year), I have heard her songs here and there, and have seen the level of songwriting ability of hers over the years. Her powerhouse vocals and passion remind me of country queen herself, Carrie Underwood, and Lauren’s ability to write power-pop anthems like ‘Road Less Travelled’, coupled with her vulnerable songwriting in tracks like ‘Three’, ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Getting Good’, reminds me of how talented she really is. And so, when Lauren released her third full-length album Sitting Pretty On Top of the World (after 2 successful EPs Getting Good and Getting Over Him that released in 2020) just today, I was naturally intrigued, excited and eager to check out what the 15 track album sounded like. With a few songs present on here that were standouts on both of her EP’s last year (songs like ‘Getting Good’, ‘Getting Over Him’, ‘What Do You Think Of’ and ‘Run’), what Lauren has delivered on her album is one of hope, healing, heartbreak; and toe-tapping fun, as we have tears, joy, laughter, vulnerability, refining and growth all wrapped up into 50 minutes. Lauren’s new album has been a blessing for me today; and is fast becoming one of the most cohesive albums I’ve heard in 2021 thus far- and for me, one of my favourite country albums I’ve heard from start to finish, since Lindsay Ell’s heart theory and Tenille Arts’ Love, Heartbreak & Everything in Between– both released in 2020. Will Lauren’s album become one of my favourite country albums (in a holistic sense) when 2021 ends in a few more months? Maybe (or maybe that mantle will move to Lady A’s What a Song Can Do, or Tenille Arts’ Girl to Girl). Whatever the case, Lauren’s new album is a standout reminder, that there are plenty of talented female country artists that are making their mark on an industry still overlooked and misunderstood.
One of the standout songs from Lauren within the past year, ‘Getting Good’ is one of 4 songs present here on Sitting Pretty On Top of the World that was previously on either of Lauren’s 2 EPs from last year, and is a song that allows us to reflect and reminisce, but also have hope for a future that for the most parts, seems uncertain. With a recently recorded collaboration between Lauren and country legend Trisha Yearwood unveiled here on this 15-track project, Lauren’s enthusiasm and heartfelt moments of contemplation is brought to the fore in a song that reminds us all, that happiness isn’t necessarily fulfilled once we have a certain car, or a house, or money, or with time. Happiness occurs when we make the most of where we are in this moment, wherever that is. Life starts getting good right now wherever God places us at this very moment, even if we believe that happiness in our own lives can only occur once we have a stable job, or once we have a family, or even once we have a spouse. Those things are good go attain and strive towards, but sometimes, if we place happiness in a thing or an event in our lives, we can often realise that once we get to this place of fulfilment, what we assume to be happiness may not necessarily be, and that we can feel unsettled if we place something in this high place of fulfilment that only God should occupy. Lauren also unveils to us the motivational single ‘Run’, a song about how busy our lives can become when we are on the go-go; and are busier than we should be. Depicting all the situations in our lives where we run (involuntarily or not) in order for us to feel this rush and feel as though we are doing something important, ‘Run’ ironically allows us all to understand that life was not meant to be as busy as we can often make it out to be, and that there is a place and time for running, and keeping up with things and trying to make the best of our lives, but then there’s a time and season fit of us to just rest and be. As Lauren herself relays to us all, ‘…we are all running. Constantly. Non-Stop. Even in this quarantine, we are all still the busiest we’ve ever been. Life just keeps going and going and going in unbelievable paces as we try to race ourselves to the next thing. My idea with the song was to refer to examples of all things that run because no matter what your walk of life is, we are all racing to the next thing. We are all trying to get where we are going. We all get our hearts broken. We all have these childhood dreams. We ‘run’ to make it all happen…’ ‘Run’ hopefully in its weird way, allows us all to slow down just a little, especially during the pandemic, as maybe, the Lord is trying to tell us to just keep still and to just rejuvenate and revitalise, to not let things stress us as they maybe used to, and to just appreciate the finer things in life, before things go back to ‘normal’ in the upcoming months ahead!
Alongside a collaboration with Trisha Yearwood, Lauren also partners with Lukas Graham and Jon Pardi on the songs ‘What Do You Think Of’ and ‘Getting Over Him’ respectively. ‘What do You Think Of’ is an emotional track that allows us all to see into Lauren’s past, as we have a glimpse into her reconciling her own past relationships with a sense of coming to terms with them ending, and leading to a sense of healing that comes from declaring out the hauntingly emotive lyrics, asking the question- ‘…what do you think of when you think of me? When you look back on us, what do you see? Is it the good times? Is it the bad times? Is it somewhere in between? What do you think of when you think of me?…’ ‘Getting Over Him’ is by all means, a sultry, sensual song about trying to pick-up a rebound guy, so that the persona can forget about a breakup. And while the song is playful and upbeat, I didn’t really connect with the sentiment of the track- maybe the song isn’t talking about sex, and instead is discussing about trying to connect with someone else on other levels to try to keep their mind off of someone they were once connected to, but unfortunately, ‘Getting Over Him’ and the vibes it represents isn’t necessarily a song that I wanna listen to again any time soon. Maybe it can bring healing to people who have been in unfortunate relationships, and if the Lord wants to use ‘Getting Over Him’ in people’s lives, fair enough. It just doesn’t connect with me, and maybe that’s still ok.
Being track #1 on the album, ‘It Was Me’ is an acoustically driven heartfelt melody about taking responsibility for relationship breakdowns, as Lauren admits her own part in what could be seen as splits in relationships that was attributed solely to the man in prior years, a reminder to us all that no party is always 100% guilty or innocent. In any relationship, there’s always one person that breaks things off and causes things to happen more than the other, but Lauren in this song realises that she may not have been that innocent in the relationship (and subsequent breakup) as she was lead to believe herself. It as very mature thing to do, to admit your own role in something you didn’t think you had a hand in, and then to deliver it in song form for everyone else to hear…that takes guts. Lauren acknowledges her own faults and flaws, and ‘It Was Me’ reminds us all that sometimes, what can drive someone to break something off doesn’t have to be about the other person, it can be about not loving yourself fully, or not reconciling things of your own past, or trauma you haven’t dealt with. ‘It Was Me’ is a refreshing way to start off the album, and a precident for Lauren to deliver songs that make us contemplate our own relationships in life. ‘Good Ole Boy’ is a sad song about how a persona (Lauren herself) sings about how if their ex loved them as much as they loved other things (fishing, drinking), then they would’ve still stayed in the relationship. The song itself encourages us to treat women as we know they should be treated, and to put into practice, what our parents have told us about how women ought to be loved, cherished, honoured, and respected.
‘You Ain’t a Cowboy’ speaks about the things that men should live to, and men actually fooling themselves, declaring and believing that they are ‘cowboys’, when in fact, they don’t even exhibit the qualities that women admire and respect. ‘You Ain’t a Cowboy’ speaks about how women can often see through a man’s façade, and what we’re trying to be (in order to impress them) will eventually backfire as we wonder why the woman doesn’t go for our ‘act’ (they probably smelt something fishy from a mile away). ‘I’m Not Sad Anymore’ is another ‘It Was Me’ ‘in-your-feelings’ song, an emotive ballad that showcases this scenario that is all-too common: that once a person is ready to fight for the one that got away, they come up and try to fight for them, only to discover that they have tried to already move on. It’s a heartbreaking situation all around, and ‘I’m Not Sad Anymore’ can hopefully encourage us all to fight for our relationships early on, and to always understand that even if you believe you want them back, doesn’t mean that they have to always take you back, either. They may not, and people have to make peace with that.
‘If the World Was a Small Town’ speaks about what can happen in your life if you decided to stay within the town that you knew and grew up in, instead of venturing out and exploring the world and want it has to offer- the song presents a Sliding Doors-esque way of viewing life, and seeing what could happen in yours, if one decision was made instead of another. The song delivers a unique way of us looking at our own pasts, and making peace with our choices, and that one choice (and everything else that has come from it) isn’t necessarily better or worse than what could’ve been, but just different. ‘Same Old Story, Different Saturday Night’ allows us all to make this understanding and connection that we as people are connected much more than we realise. What we go through that can be personable to us, can be someone else’s story as well. What we can share, and the things that we go through, and how we exercise healing in our own lives, can allow other people to undertake the same thing, and be reminded that what we experience can impact someone else’s life much more profoundly than we realise. ‘On Top of the World’ is a moment of trying to play pretend and appear as though you have moved on from someone, when in reality, you’re a mess and struggling to go through each day without seeing something that reminds you of the person you’re missing, as Lauren delivers this title track with a sense of urgency, as we’re reminded that as much as we want to pretend things are alright, what we ought to do is to strive for honesty, even if it means that our fake castles we’ve built come crumbling down.
Lauren also presents to us the upbeat country twanger ‘When the Party’s Over’, as the serious theme of calling out someone on their actions of reaching out only when they’re drunk (or when they run out of things to do in their own lives), is brought to the fore; while ‘Goodbye Street’ implies that sometimes saying goodbye to a relationship may be the best thing for your own personal growth, and that saying goodbye doesn’t necessarily have to be all about mourning, but more along the lines of welcoming new things, is something that can hopefully shift people’s perspective on the negativity that surrounds ‘goodbyes’. Goodbyes are unfortunate at times, but it can also be an indication that the time spent together may have been good, it’s just that people move on to different things in life. Lauren then rounds out the album with ‘Written In the Bar’ and ‘Change My Mind’- the former is a story-song about a persona who falls in love with someone after meeting them in a bar (and a reminder that sometimes love can sneak up upon you in a way that you may not have expected it), while the latter is an emotive moment where the persona in the song tries to ask their potential significant other to try and convince them, changing the persona’s mind, as to why this budding relationship should be the right one to start. ‘Change My Mind’ has ‘radio single’ written all over it; and could potentially be sent to country radio in the near future.
So…there it is. Sitting Pretty on Top of the World, Lauren’s 3rd album. An album that virtually has no ‘filler’ spots (except for the fact that I wasn’t connecting as much to ‘Getting Over Him’), Lauren’s album is a reminder that country albums by females are making a comeback- and so they should. And if Lauren Alaina and her new album, together with other female artists like Cassadee Pope, Lindsay Ell, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton and Carly Pearce; can move the needle and really remind us all of the quality of female country artists out there at the moment, we can hopefully have more of an option when it comes to country music (and music in general), something different than the same ol’ music that keeps being promoted all the time. Nothing wrong with male artists, in country music and in music in general. But unfortunately, as we see country male artists like Florida Georgia Line, Dan + Shay, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Kane Brown, Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt and Russell Dickerson, dominate the market; I myself have come to this conclusion- that unfortunately, a lot of male country artists blend together- musically, stylistically and thematically (like all these artists aforementioned), and I, as much of a country music fan as I am, can’t really tell the distinguishing traits each of these male country acts have that make them different and unique. Artists like Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban, Luke Coombs, Chris Stapleton, Darius Rucker, Rascal Flatts, Hunter Hayes and Willie Nelson buck the trend a little, delivering uniqueness in a sea of sameness, but to be honest, that’s few and far between. So, I guess the rise of female artists that are disctinctive in their craft is a plus, because it gives people options- something different than all the artists people have been listening to for decades upon decades- different music artists, but virtually similar song material nonetheless. Lauren Alaina, and this new album Sitting Pretty On Top of the World, can contribute to this shift in country music (something that should be welcomed). An artist that has challenged my own assumptions on what I believed country music to be, Lauren’s heart is evident on this album, one that has surprised me to shoot up and become one of my favourite albums of 2021, period! Well done Lauren for this album, looking forward to see how the Lord uses this album to impact and affect change in the upcoming weeks and months ahead!
4 songs to listen to: It Was Me, Getting Good, Run, You Ain’t a Cowboy
RIYL: Carrie Underwood, Cassadee Pope, Lindsay Ell, Maddie & Tae, The Shires