Track-by-Track Album Review: kelsea, Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea Ballerini is introspective, self-aware, and vulnerable on her third studio album, kelsea. // Photo Credit: Kelsea Ballerini via Instagram

After months of teasing new tunes on her social media pages, Kelsea Ballerini released her self-titled third studio album March 20. The album, which represents Ballerini’s most mature and introspective work yet, features both country and pop-leaning tracks. Here’s my full break-down:

1. “overshare” (Kelsea Ballerini, Josh Osborne, Jesse Frasure, Tayla Parx)

Ballerini has all the quick wit of a rapper on tongue-twisting opener, “overshare.” Catchy, quirky, and eerily self-aware, Ballerini shares the real-life effects of dealing with social anxiety.

Standout Lyrics: I overshare, because I over-care/About the person over there, who’s completely unaware that/I overthink, then I overdrink to overcompensate/Yeah, I know, there’s moments that I’m missin’/If I’d just shut up and listen/But silence makes me scared/So then I overshare

2. “club” (Kelsea Ballerini, Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy Robbins)

So many pop songs are centered around partying it up and getting drunk at the club, but not this one. Ballerini plays with synths and gives her peers who are just looking to “hook up” the side-eye on “club.”

Standout Lyrics: I don’t wanna wake up on the floor of a bathroom/Lookin’ at the stamps on my hand like a tattoo/Say I’m never doin’ that again if I don’t have to/And I don’t have to go to the club

3. “homecoming queen?” (Kelsea Ballerini, Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy Robbins)

After two more upbeat pop-leaning tracks, Ballerini slows things down with lead single, “homecoming queen?,” a ballad that takes a deeper look at insecurities. Even a superstar like Ballerini deals with confidence issues some days, and guess what? That’s okay.

Standout Lyrics: Yeah what if I told you the sky wouldn’t fall/If you lost your composure, said to hell with it all/Not everything pretty sparkles and shines/And even the homecoming queen cries

4. “the other girl” (with Halsey) (Kelsea Ballerini, Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman)

In the first of two collaborations, Ballerini has a friendly vocal battle with Manic singer, Halsey as they share their experiences dating the same guy. There are no hard feelings between them, but as for the two-timing cheat? That’s another story.

Standout Lyrics: Is it me, is it you?/Tell me who/Who’s the other girl?/Who’s the first?/Who’s the fool?/Who’s the diamond?/Who’s the pearl?/Are you mad?/Me too/And I wonder in his world/Is it me, is it you?/Who’s the other girl?

5. “love me like a girl” (Kelsea Ballerini, Lauren Grieve, Ross Copperman, Hillary Lindsey, Jordan Minton)

In this track that’s somewhat reminiscent of Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy,” Ballerini wishes her man would know her the way her friends do. She doesn’t need him to try to “put [her] back together again,” she just wants him to listen.

Standout Lyrics: I know, you don’t mean to be insensitive/And I know, you’re never tryin’ to brush me off/The truth is me and you, we’re wired different/So it makes sense sometimes we get crossed/So when I’m cryin’/Baby pour some red/When you want to kiss it better/Listen instead

6. “love and hate” (Kelsea Ballerini, Ed Sheeran, Ross Copperman)

Now happily married to fellow country singer, Morgan Evans, Ballerini draws on the pain of an old breakup on “love and hate.” Vocally, this track is one of the album’s strongest, and Ballerini is backed by a gorgeous string quartet.

Standout Lyrics: Now there’s a thin, thin line between you and me/Between what this is now and what we used to be/The one that you choose to the one that you cheat/Now there’s a thin, thin line between you and me

7. “bragger” (Kelsea Ballerini, Shane McAnally, Jimmy Robbins, Nicolle Galyon, Ross Copperman)

Ballerini is not a fan of love songs. (See her 2017 album, Unapologetically’s cheeky track, “I Hate Love Songs“) She finds an alternative on “bragger,” talking up husband, Evans and his many attractive qualities. The haters can hate all they want; she’s got the last laugh and her forever guy who’s “hotter than a Saturday night.” (Fun fact: In a recent interview with People, Ballerini shared that the track was inspired by the Jonas Brothers‘ song, “Sucker”).

Standout Lyrics: I’ve got his nights/I’ve got his name/There ain’t no shame in this girl’s game/If he were yours, you’d do the same without apologizing/And he’d never tell you he don’t want attention/But he’s just too damn good not to mention

8. “hole in the bottle” (Kelsea Ballerini, Steph Jones, Hillary Lindsey, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley)

Every country artist needs a good ole’ drinkin’ tune, and “hole in the bottle” is Ballerini’s first. What’s the best way to cure heartbreak when you’re in denial? With a bottle of Cabernet, of course.

Standout Lyrics: I keep my cool/Play by all the rules/I swear ten minutes ago that bottle was full/I won’t cry/About love gone wrong/’Cause tears would water down this ruby red I’m sippin’ on

9. “half of my hometown” (feat. Kenny Chesney) (Kelsea Ballerini, Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, Jimmy Robbins, Nicolle Galyon)

In the album’s second and final collaboration, Ballerini teams up with fellow Knoxville native, Kenny Chesney to take a musical trip back to the place that raised them and notes what has and hasn’t changed. Knowing how much country fans love collaborations between their favorite artists, “half of my hometown” has the potential to dominate the airwaves at country radio stations everywhere.

Standout Lyrics: Half of my hometown’s still hangin’ around/Still talkin’ about that one touchdown/They’re still wearin’ red and black/Go Bobcats, while the other half/Of my hometown they all got out/Some went north/Some went south/Still lookin’ for a feelin’ half of us ain’t found/So stay or leave/Part of me will always be/Half of my hometown

10. “the way i used to” (Kelsea Ballerini, Steph Jones, Cass Lowe, Marcus Lomax, Samuel George Lewis, Julian Bunetta, Ian Kirkpatrick)

Ballerini wonders what an ex is up to with the help of some “liquid courage” in this guitar-driven pop track that she first previewed on Instagram prior to her album release.  Ballerini shines vocally on “the way i used to;” the song has a similar feel to her Songland grab, “Better Luck Next Time.”

Standout Lyrics: Does somebody love you/In the way I do/I mean the way I used to/Does somebody touch you/In the way I do/I mean the way I used to/I know it’s three in the mornin’/It’s tequila talkin’/Damn, your voice is all up in my head again/Does somebody love you?/In the way I do/I mean

11. “needy” (Kelsea Ballerini, Ross Copperman, Julia Michaels)

Ballerini, a self-proclaimed “independent” person learns that it’s okay to let herself need people on this tender track that’s also dedicated to husband, Evans.  “Look at what you’ve done to me,” she sings.

Standout Lyrics: If touchin’ you’s gonna make me easy/That’s okay, cause I don’t want space/If not sayin’ enough’s gonna make you leave me/I swear to God, I’ll talk all day/You’ve never needed anybody, but now you need me/I was the same/But things have changed/I’m needy, I’m needy

12. “a country song” (Kelsea Ballerini, Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy Robbins)

In modern society, where there’s been much debate over what is considered country music–see Lil Nas X–Ballerini silences her naysayers with kelsea‘s second-to-last track. Country music is her identity and her coping mechanism for all of life’s ups and downs-from past heartbreak to her parents’ divorce. She’s grown up writing songs about trucks, lies, first kisses, and last call, and she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Standout Lyrics: But I wanna write a country song/When nothin’s gentle on my mind/And I’m needin’ somethin’ strong/And I’m almost out of wine/When I get so lonesome/My truth gets told some whether it’s right or wrong/I stay up all night/Done it my whole life/Sometimes you gotta write/A country song

13. “la” (Kelsea Ballerini)

Ballerini closes out her third studio release with this solo write that examines where she fits in the world and in the music industry. She may be caught between Tennessee and California and country and pop, but in the end, she’ll always choose what is home to her.

Standout Lyrics: Confetti’s fallin’, friends are callin’/Saw me on the TV/But if I let down my hair in the ocean air/Will Tennessee be mad at me?/Yeah, I know it ain’t a one-way road/But sometimes it feels that way/I’ve got a love and hate relationship with LA

Ballerini manages to both evolve and stay true to herself on kelsea; the album serves as the perfect re-introduction to one of country music’s most successful modern artists.

Following her Friday release, Ballerini is currently sitting at number four on the iTunes sales chart with kelsea.

2 responses to “Track-by-Track Album Review: kelsea, Kelsea Ballerini”

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