It's almost impossible to find Jennifer Nettles without a smile on her face, but on her new album, That Girl, she turns the happiness down a notch.
When I first heard that Nettles was coming out with a solo album, I fully expected to hear a bunch of pop-infused country jams. Well that theory was totally off base.
There aren’t very many pop songs on this album – not in the way “Like Sugar” was.
What That Girl does have is emotion. It’s dripping with emotion. It’s reflective and covers a range of topics, but most songs have roots in love. Songs that may be generic for other singers end up being impressive pieces of work when Nettles gets involved.
The writing on That Girl probably isn’t as amazing as some of Sugarland’s best work, but they’re still better than your typical pop song.
Jennifer Nettles starts off this album with a light, nice, country sound that features the impressive range of her powerful vocals. Just like some of the greats in the music industry, there’s no doubt when Jennifer Nettles is singing on a track.
While the music may be light, the topic isn't.
The song is about a young girl who, well, loses her virginity to a young man who was her summer love. He’s about to leave town though:
"That summer came and went.
You were working for my family,
one more job and then your classes would begin.
And you promised we'd be quiet,
and we hid behind the garden.
I walked out more than a woman than I walked in."
She has a night with him and, even though they parted ways, she still remembers him.
A song about losing your virginity – beat that Rihanna. In all seriousness, the song has a bit of romanticism to it. It's almost like a Romeo and Juliet song -- young romance that isn't deemed 'wrong,' but 'beautiful' instead.
Me Without You
Although this song practically shares the same name as Gary Allan’s “You Without Me,” it’s a very different song.
Even though the song is fairly sad, it’s oddly uplifting and independent. It's soulful and elegant. It’s like the recovery after a strong storm or the healing of a deep-cut scar.
“You left the cage door open and your pretty bird just flew,” Nettles sings.
She winds up discovering that she enjoys her life better now that she’s escaped her previous relationship. There’s a very identifiable sound of sadness in Nettles’ voice though. It’s definitely a bittersweet kind of song.
This song combines Jennifer Nettles’ loveable country twang with a little bit of Jewel and a funky tune.
Nettles sings about the various ways life has changed:
“Come into this world with a will to survive
Facebook emoticon replaces the high five.”
She also touches on how miniscule our lives are in the grand scheme of things:
“And the sun shines down on music city
And the Lord smiles down on us all
And a thousand years have passed
And we’ll be memories and food for the grass.”
It’s almost like a series of thought-provoking statements set to a happy, little tune. Nettles’ vocal variations are really the highlight of this song though.
The concept of this song --- coming from Jolene’s perspective in the song “Jolene” – was creative. It didn’t really pan out though.
It’s not a bad song, but it’s one I’ll frequently skip over. I don’t mind listening to it if I’m busy doing something and am not close enough to my iPod to switch songs.
If my iPod is within reach, though, I’m usually clicking onto the next song by the halfway point of “That Girl.”
The folksy feel to the song is nice, but it needs to pack a little more of a punch in my opinion.
Another sad song here. Just like the other sad songs on That Girl, there’s something very likable about this song. It’s slower, but Nettles’ vocals keep you captivated throughout the song’s entirety.
Just like “Me Without You,” there’s an uplifting feeling here, despite the somber music.
There’s a nice orchestra bit that gets a nice 10 seconds to shine in this song. That was a nice touch.
A little musical Mexican flare starts “Jealousy” off right.
The song is about a jealous woman sending a message to the woman she’s jealous of.
“I didn’t really mean to cause such an ugly scene,” Nettles sings. “Sure went up at your house, half drunk and crazy, bitch, I called you out.”
With lyrics like that, it's definitely one of the more light-hearted songs on the album. With so many reflective songs here, it's nice to hear some of Nettles' Georgia attitude on this uptempo song.
This One’s For You
This is smooth --- like something you’d expect from an old jazz lounge.
The theme is kind of like Elton John’s “Your Song."
"The silence is singing and it's got me to thinking of
so many love songs, so many love songs,
but this one's for you," Nettles sings.
She worked with Sara Bareilles on this song, so the fact that it heavily favors the piano shouldn't be a surprise.
A good, old-fashioned love song. It's hard to go wrong with that, especially with the help of someone like Sara Bareilles.
Know You Wanna Know
Nettles tackles the gossipy nature of the entertainment business, but she has me wondering: was this song inspired by LeAnn Rimes?
There were a couple of cheeky lines that made me question whether it was:
"Saw them holding hands, knew he was a married man,
Did she forget the ring on her own finger?
His wife has a baby on the way, friends all said he had it made,
Gave it all up for a huzzy country singer."
She goes on to make the song more of a general statement about how consumed people get with the lives of any random celebrity.
"Everybody wants to know everybody’s business. Everybody needs a ticket to the show,” Nettles sings. “Everybody claims to be an eyewitness.”
That first part had me thinking of LeAnn Rimes though. I wonder if Nettles knows Rimes?
In her battle against tabloid rumors, Internet gossip and Twitter nastiness, Nettles enlists pianos, guitars and drums.
Wow! This is such a beautifully sung song. It primarily consists of some peaceful guitar strumming and features Nettles powerful (yet controlled) vocals.
“A lifetime to count the ways wouldn’t be enough to say I thought you should know how much you’ve helped me grow." That's a nice way to say 'Thanks' isn't it?
She hits her high notes, but brings her voice back down to a softer level. When she sings, you feel like she’s singing directly to you.
Good Time To Cry
This is kind of the female version of Keith Urban’s “Tonight I Wanna Cry.”
It’s the type of song you’d expect to hear in a piano bar. Nettles, once again, has some incredible vocals in this love forgone song. It’s about being in a loveless relationship and trying to deal with that.
“I think it’s time – a good time to cry.
Let it all go – a good time to cry.
When the sorrow and the laughter
And the good time you’re chasing after
Make you question why
I think it’s a good time to cry.”
The lyrics are as good as the vocals on this track.
“Reach for his hand
Take him home and let him prove he’s a man
He’ll never know
You’re making love to a ghost
You can fill your arms
You can’t fill your heart
It won’t even come close.”
Like A Rock
Remember those Levi’s commercials and that memorable “Like A Rock” song -- by Bob Seger? Nettles gives us a cover of that song, as you may expect from the title.
It's not an exact replica of Bob Seger's version though. The guitar matches nicely with the bluesy sound on this one. It's a strong way to end the album and the slight reworking of the song puts Nettles' powerful vocals, once again, front and center.
There’s some more impressive piano playing on this song. Not one to stray away from sensitive topics, Nettles sings about an abusive relationship.
“His hands felt like thunder on my skin,” Nettles sings. At first those lyrics are used to describe the woman's attraction towards this guy. Those same lyrics take on a much different meaning, however, when it's revealed that this is an abusive relationship.
"Yeah I should have known better when the last three times he swore
that he would never lay another finger on me but the truth's on my face."
It would be easy for this to come off as gimmicky given the subject matter, but Nettles has a quality that allows her to make just about any song feel real. Domestic violence is a very real thing that a lot of men and women deal with on a daily basis.
I would imagine it’s hard to make a song about it that doesn’t come off as a public service announcement. Nettles does it though.
Every Little Thing
I’m not sure why this song was only included on the extended version. It’s a sing-song, Broadway type of tune that makes you want to break out your jazz hands. The piano and Nettles’ gorgeous voice work perfectly here.
Nettles brings the mood up a little with a happy little love song.
“I’m just so crazy about every little thing you do,” she sings with a carefree attitude.
That Girl took quite a different route than I expected it to take. It was more soulful and reflective than country-pop. It absolutely worked, however. Nettles will make you feel a little bit sad at times, but she takes you back to a positive place by the time it's all said and done.
Songs worth checking out:
-Me Without You
-Good Time To Cry
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