Canadian country singer Whitney Rose released her second album, Heartbreaker of the Year, to the U.S. on August 21st. Produced by Raul Malo of The Mavericks, this album brings a unique sound that Rose describes as
“vintage pop-infused-neo-traditional-country.” It’s certainly unique and a sound that may not appeal to everyone, but as far as “vintage-pop-infused-neo-traditional-country” goes, it’s a pretty good album. It took some time for me to wrap my mind around Whitney Roses’s style, and this review was easily the hardest I have done so far. This rating is more of a comment on the songs themselves than the style. Whitney’s description is a good one, and it is a style that really has to be heard to either be appreciated or disliked.
The album begins with “Little Piece of You,” a love song where Whitney sings of a man with an “old school soul” and a “heart of gold” and wonders where he found all those “little pieces” of himself. It’s an interesting theme and this is one of the album’s better songs lyrically, but it leans much more toward the “vintage pop-infused” side. Because of this, I’m not sure if it was the best choice for the opener. Next is “My First Rodeo,” an upbeat song that again is more “vintage pop-infused.” This one is more catchy and might have been a better opener. There is also more country blended into this song. Speaking of country, the next song, “The Last Party” is the most country song of the bunch. It is a classic country heartbreak song, complete with plenty of steel guitar for traditionalists. The piano in this song adds a nice touch as well, and the harmonies between Whitney Rose and Raul Malo work really well. Having said that, the lyrics simply could have been better.
“Only Just a Dream” is a better balance of vintage pop and country featuring more prominent piano play. Whitney sings about a man she loves, but he is “only just a dream.” Again, the harmonies work really well in this song. The bluesy title track follows; here is a unique heartbreak song where Whitney is asking if she can “pat the back of the heartbreaker of the year.” She treats the whole thing like a pageant; his mother must be crying and his hometown must be proud. In contrast to “The Last Party,” this song gets everything right–the instrumentation, Whitney Rose’s vocals, and the witty lyrics. It’s definitely a standout on this album.
“Be My Baby” is next. This is a cover of the song by The Ronettes and is a duet with Raul Malo. Their interpretation of the song is remarkable and it’s one of the better songs on the album. Their voices blend nicely together too, and it’s also great to see a cover like this as opposed to a cover of some pop or hip-hop song. “The Devil Borrowed My Boots” is a country song that would have done well on radio ten years ago. Whitney tells us about the night before, which she spent drinking, smoking, and starting trouble in a bar. There’s a catch, though–it wasn’t her. “The devil borrowed my boots last night,” she sings. This is a clever hook, and this is my personal favorite song on the album. This song has an infectious rhythm, and it’s easy to tell Whitney enjoyed singing it as much as I enjoy listening to it. If you only listen to one Whitney Rose song, make it this one.
“Ain’t it Wise” is a love song that is more “vintage pop-infused.” The song basically says, “Ain’t it wise to love someone” in different ways all the way through it, and for me, the lyrics are forgettable. The melody is a plus, and it’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t stand out. Next is “Lasso,” a song about a man who has Whitney “caught in his lasso.” This song is catchy, and the instrumentation is a nice blend of that “vintage-pop-infused-neo-traditional-country.” My only complaint here is that the vocals are sometimes drowned out by the production. I’d probably enjoy this song more if I could understand more of it. This is a problem in parts of her other songs too; I just feel the need to mention it especially in this song. The album ends with another cover, this time of the Hank Williams standard “There’s a Tear in my Beer.” (Yes, a modern country singer covered Hank Williams.) Now, I’ll be the first to say I am not a fan of the original version of this song; that’s just personal taste, not critical review of Hank Williams or that song. However, Whitney’s version is a completely different song; it sounds almost like a lullaby. It is the perfect example of taking a song and making it your own. Her cover is a good 2015 version of this; I say that as a reviewer. I actually like this song now; I say that as a fan. Once again, the cover choice by Whitney Rose was a smart one.
Overall, this album is unique and the style might take some getting used to. However, Whitney Rose’s album is a true “evolution” of the country sound, and for that, she should be commended. This is, for the most part, a good pop country album. There are some great examples of her songwriting on here–her songwriting can be found on every track besides the covers. She picked smart covers and interpreted them well. Something I didn’t mention enough is her unique voice; much like Lindi Ortega and Kasey Chambers, Whitney has a sound that’s all her own. If you’re not familiar with Whitney Rose, this is a good place to start.
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