What, you gave this a lower rating than Kelsea Ballerini? I know that’s going to be the reaction from many here, and let me just say, Carly Pearce is definitely going for an actual blend of pop and country, as opposed to shamelessly marketing straight pop songs as country. And you know what? It literally works on half this album and fails on the other half.
We start this record with an electronic beat that dissolves into “Hide the Wine.” Carly’s trying to hide all the alcohol so she won’t be tempted by an old flame, and the lyrics are quite catchy. But this song gets somewhat ruined by production, and it’s hard to call this anything other than straight pop. You get the sense Carly Pearce is not exactly trying to go for this, but the producers wanted to make sure she opened it with something more mainstream.
And then we get “Careless” and “Every Little Thing,” and that unique, cool thing about Carly starts to shine through. It seems her country instrument of choice is the dobro, and it’s cool actually to hear it featured together with more modern, pop-leaning textures. It works very well on “Careless,” as she is telling her ex to get lost because he is just “the boy who cries love.” And “Every Little Thing,” although definitely overproduced, allows her to shine as well. I prefer the more stripped-down live version of this, and I tend to think that’s what Carly Pearce intended for the song, but still, this song remains understated enough to let her vocal talent come through. She’s a good emotive interpreter, as we’ll see several more times on this album, and Nashville should let her use this to her advantage. It’s proven it can work because “Every Little Thing” did get the on the Verge treatment, but it has also sold well and resonated with the public.
But we can’t take too many chances like the title track, and that’s evidenced by the next two selections, “Everybody Gonna Talk” and “Catch Fire.” The former is one of those ever-present “let them say what they want about our relationship” songs that never really tells us why the relationship is so taboo in the first place. This is okay for what it is, but again, it’s not showing off Carly’s strengths as a vocalist. And “Catch Fire” is one of the worst things here–it’s some sort of obnoxious hookup song, and that’s pretty much all you need to know. I have no use for this shit anymore. It was pointed out on another forum that they probably wanted Pearce to show attitude, and that’s painfully evident here, but she just sounds out of place.
Equilibrium returns with “If My Name Was Whiskey,” and once again, you can see more of Pearce’s vulnerability and vocal delivery. The song is saying that if she’d been whiskey, her ex wouldn’t have left her and would do anything to keep her. It’s a moment where the blend of modern and traditional is done very well, and you can see that if they allow Carly to take more chances and really develop her sound, her style could be unique and perhaps find favor with both mainstream and independent fans.
Then we get “Color,” another obnoxious, overly perky song, this one about love. This one is just as useless as “Catch Fire.” But again, Pearce shows more of her potential in “I Need a Ride Home.” This one is overproduced at the beginning, but eventually works, and the lyrics are clever, as it’s about needing a ride back home to her childhood, as opposed to another drunk party song.
And then the rest of the album is just sort of meh–we’ve had outstanding and horrific in equal parts, and now it settles into just okay. “Doin’ it Right” isn’t bad, and her vocals do manage to stand out some, but again, it’s too much pop, instead of the cool blend of pop and country pulled off so well on some of these songs. “Feel Somethin'” and “Honeysuckle” are just pretty unremarkable, and yes, suffer from overproduction. “You Know Where to Find Me” does capture more of Pearce’s individuality–it’s not as much of a standout as some of the others, but it does manage to separate itself and showcase Carly’s voice. And then we get “Dare Ya” for the closer, which, although I’ll give it credit for featuring more pop country instrumentation, suffers from truly stupid lyrics. This one’s essentially “Catch Fire” Part 2, except that she says she’s not going to make the first move because “I’m a lady like that.” IN a way, this is almost more obnoxious than the “attitude” on “Catch Fire.” That said, nothing past track 8 here really does anything for me significantly either way.
So, overall, this is a mixed effort. It’s literally half promising and half discouraging. You can tell that Carly Pearce made an effort to bring songs of substance to this project, and you can also see that she can blend pop and country well if given the chance. But there’s also the mark of Nashville and pop producers littered all over this record, and often, Carly’s individuality is forsaken for misguided attempts at popularity. But let her develop–“Every Little Thing” is selling well, and it’s not straight pop. It’s a pop country ballad. It’s got a dobro solo, for God’s sake. Music row needs to learn from this and let Carly Pearce become a unique, cool artist, blending the traditional and the modern. If they get out of the way, I can see a lot of potential from her, but unfortunately, it’s only allowed to blossom for half of this record.
When it Works
When it Fails