When it comes to Kelsea Ballerini, I have mixed feelings. She is seen as the next Taylor Swift in country music, a comparison that is both fair and unfair in some ways. They are both more pop than country, but I actually preferred Taylor’s brand of country, and certainly her songwriting, to Kelsea’s. Having said that, I had far less of a problem with “Love me Like You Mean It” than many traditionalists, and while I didn’t feel that it deserved country airplay, I thought it was a good pop song and was proud of Kelsea for hitting No. 1 with it. I’d prefer a more traditional artist, but seeing as “country” radio is basically pop radio with banjo these days, Kelsea must still be recognized among her piers as having a remarkable achievement for a female country artist, even if “country” is nothing more than a label to her.
This brings us to Kelsea’s second single, “Dibs.” For me, the instrumentation here is slightly better than in “Love me Like You Mean It.” I base this on the fact that when I first heard “Love Me,” I thought I was listening to a pop song. When I play “Dibs,” the thought that comes to mind is pop country. The bigger problem with “Dibs” is the lyrics. Basically, it is about Kelsea calling “dibs” on some guy she sees at a bar. Here are the lines in the chorus that made me lose all hope for this song:”If you’ve got a Friday night free and a shotgun seat, Well I’m just saying I ain’t got nowhere to be.” Really? What happened to “Girl in a Country Song?” Maddie & Tae said, “We used to get a little respect, Now we’re lucky if we even get to climb up in your truck, keep our mouth shut, and ride along.” Apparently Kelsea doesn’t want respect and is fine with riding shotgun. I don’t know about the rest of the women out there, but I’m with Maddie & Tae.
At the end of the chorus, Kelsea goes into a very annoying Sam Hunt style spoken-word list of what she’s calling dibs on:
I’m calling dibs
On your lips,
On your kiss,
On your time,
Boy, I’m calling dibs
On your hand,
On your heart
Later in the song, she actually sings these lines which is much less annoying and makes me wonder why we had to be subjected to the spoken-word bit in the first place. Oh, right…because it worked for Sam Hunt so it must be awesome.
Bro country was bad enough, but now we have females singing it? The worst part about this is that there are actually some decent songs on Kelsea’s debut album that I wouldn’t mind being released as singles. It’s actually a decent pop album–a terrible country album, but a decent pop album–so if she released “First Time” or “Secondhand Smoke” or “Peter Pan,” all of which are closer to pop country than this spoken-word pop song, I’d have less of a problem. Even “Xo” which is a straight pop song like “Love Me” that doesn’t belong on country radio at all would bother me less. This is upsetting because a woman has stooped to singing the bro country crap…and it will get played. I would rather Kelsea identify herself with pop because that’s what she really is, but as long as she continues to call herself country, she could at least refrain from releasing singles like this. I’ll take straight pop labeled country over female bro country any day.