Album Review: Lady Antebellum - Golden
By: Dan MacIntosh
What, might you ask, can turn a Lady Antebellum detractor into a fan? Well, a feel-good single like “Downtown,” the best feel-good radio song since Little Big Town’s “Pontoon,” certainly doesn’t hurt that cause. However, “It Ain’t Pretty” was the musical evidence that that righted this particular skeptic. The way Hillary Scott lives out a bad breakup right before our very eyes -- having a drink alone, kissing a stranger and then crying out her makeup in the lady’s room -- contains more than enough gospel truth to convert this heathen into a true believer.
If “It Ain’t Pretty” was all Lady A had to show for itself, it might have been more than enough to persuade a few doubters. However, Golden reveals a bevy of depth behind the trio that broke through with that drunk dial anthem, “I Need You Now.” For example, “Better Off (Now That Your Gone)” jumps out of the gate with a jangle rock anthem conjuring up Los Lobos, Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers (and The Byrds before them) with a song that legitimately rocks – in the best sense of that term.
Let’s be clear here, though: Golden may be better than all past Lady Antebellum efforts, but it’s by no means perfect. “Generation Away,” which name-drops historical figures in a desperate play for instant relevance, falls a little flat, while “Long Teenage Goodbye” (What is it with country artists that can’t let go of their coming-of-age years and worse yet, won’t stop singing about them?) is nostalgic, seemingly merely for nostalgia’s sake. “Nothin’ Like the First Time,” with its reference to a little high school stadium action – even though the wonderful Sarah Buxton and Jedd Hughes helped write it -- is also a little too backwards looking.
Hyper focusing on lyrics is rather unnecessary with an act like Lady Antebellum, though, as this is a vocal trio after all. Make no mistake about it, these singers sing extremely well here. Some have accused the group of being a latter day Fleetwood Mac, albeit with far more twang. Such criticism is no longer valid now because there isn’t much Nicks-ian or Buckingham-y happening on this release. Furthermore, though, what was ever wrong with comparing any music to Fleetwood Mac? After all, aren’t they the barometer for smart pop-rock? Ah, but we digress.
A cynic might suggest that, by naming its album Golden, Lady Antebellum is prophesying the multiple golden statuettes to be added to their mantel after the next Grammy Award celebration. Let cynics make all the snarky remarks they like; if Lady Antebellum multiplies its trophy collection during the next award season, this time they will have earned them, fair and square.
I dare any Lady Antebellum ‘hater’ to listen to Golden without prejudice, to see if they still walk away with hatred (and possibly jealousy) in their heart. These performers could just have easily thrown together an album filled with light ‘n fluffy country-pop music. Instead, though, they put together a satisfying album filled with substantial songs. The result is an album that is truly golden, and really difficult to hate.