"Own The Night," Lady Antebellum

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

source: LadyAntebellum.com

I was first introduced to Lady Antebellum in late 2008 in increasingly gnawing doses, until one night while in their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee where my defenses had been worn thin to country music, I gave in and sang (and maybe even danced) along to "Lookin' For A Good Time" on CMT. I've been a fan ever since.

I've had over 24 hours to digest the new album by Lady Antebellum ... it's very good, but it's not "Need You Now." I think the main reason for this is that they didn't take enough of a break between writing music for "Need You Now" and "Own The Night," which resulted in a sort of slurred mix between a sometimes stale rehashing of the storylines and sounds of the previous album and something that sounds like it may have been trying to go in a different direction.

The overarching theme of "Need You Now" was nostalgia, dotted with a few bursts of momentous youth ("Our Kind of Love," "Stars Tonight"), and it seems that the overarching theme of "Own The Night" is again nostalgia, albeit through a fairly more mature and sorrowful lens. While I have always seen Charles Kelley as the real singer of Lady Antebellum, Hillary Scott almost comes into her own on "Own The Night." She seems to challenge herself more on this album, with vocals that are surprisingly emotive and at times haunting ("Dancin' Away With My Heart," "Wanted You More").

The leading single "Just A Kiss" is very reminiscent of the song "Need You Now," but instead of the potent intensity of the moment that "Need You Now" captures, "Just A Kiss" seems diluted and generic. I would go as far to say that it is one of the weakest songs on "Own The Night." The first track, "We Owned the Night," is a more cheerful and more hopeful version of "Lookin' For A Good Time," from the band's debut album. It is entirely possible that "We Owned The Night" is about a one-night stand like "Lookin' For A Good Time," and if it is, the song romanticizes the notion with a sophistication that its predecessor did not.

The one standout on the album is the achingly sentimental "Dancin' Away With My Heart," which I already have a hard time listening to without getting clouded with emotion. From this track onwards, the band seems to crawl closer and closer to its comfort zone, with the exception of the self-assured and infectiously feel-good "Singing Me Home." The unusually folksy "Cold As Stone" is nice in its bareness and appropriately vulnerable lyrics. Something about "Somewhere Love Remains" feels like home, perhaps in its comforting predictability. And "Wanted You More" shouldn't work, but it does -- its lyrics are simplistic and over another melody would probably be annoying. Instead, its melody is sprinkled with a few twists and turns that keeps it from becoming a completely formulaic pop-country song (e.g. "Just A Kiss").

The rest of the album, while pleasant enough, seems redundant.

To be fair, it would have been nearly impossible to match or surpass expectations after an album as big as "Need You Now." Even John Mayer's fourth album, the follow-up to "Continuum," fell pretty flat. "Own The Night" does not show the progression one would expect of such a successful group, but then again, the group jumped very quickly back into the studio. My hope for Lady Antebellum is that "Own The Night" is not an indication of where they hope to "take" their music or that they have already plateaued as artists. Though if it ain't broke, I guess there's really no reason to fix it.

Own The Night

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