Today’s review is quite interesting because I never expected to review this album. When I saw Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale cut a country album, I didn’t expect much from it. We’ve all seen this song and dance before where an actor or actress from Hollywood tries to crossover into the music world and expand their star power. Many times they choose country because they think it’s the easiest to break into. Most of them bomb and go right back to Hollywood where they belong. I saw Hale was also signed with Hollywood Records, who doesn’t exactly have experience when it comes to producing country music. So I pretty much brushed this album off at first. Then I saw it gaining a lot of popularity and I started seeing positive reviews for it pop up. Like most good reviewers, I like to see what other reviewers have to say. One reviewer I respect is Mark at Spectrum Pulse, who I saw gave this album an 8/10. This shocked me. I couldn’t believe how much he liked it. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me take a look at Lucy Hale’s Road Between.
Make no mistake this is a pop country album. But it’s a pop country album that has a surprising amount of depth and quality writing. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill pop country songs (for the most part). Road Between starts off with “You Sound Good to Me,” a teenage love song. This album is really targeted toward younger girls, from teenagers to young adults and this song is a perfect example. It’s certainly not targeted towards and that’s fine with me. It makes sense to target teenage girls when Hale is quite young herself. While this song is shallow in terms of content, the next song is a little deeper. “From the Backseat,” seems pretty low in-depth upon first listen, but really tells a story of what can happen in the backseat of a car. There’s an attempt at it being more than a song about riding in a vehicle (thankfully not a truck) and I appreciate that.
“Nervous Girls” is a song that could be a hit for Hale. It deals with the peer pressures that young girls deal with growing up in school, along with older girls dealing with heartbreak like a marriage that fell apart. This is a song I think many females can relate to and with the lack of female representation on country radio, I’ll be shocked if this doesn’t gain a lot of popularity. It should gain popularity because it’s one of the best on the whole album and actually deals with real life issues. Hale is joined by Joe Nichols on “Red Dress,” which is the lone duet on the album. The choice of Nichols is interesting because of the 12 year age difference between the two. You would perhaps expect somebody more Hale’s age for a love song duet like Scotty McCreery. But Nichols and Hale work well together and I think it’s a more than decent pop country duet. It’s nice to not hate a Nichols song again (I hate his singles “Yeah” and “Sunny & 75”).
“Goodbye Gone” is one of the songs on Road Between that is hard for me to listen to all the way through. The repetition of words in the chorus gets annoying the more you hear it. This song also comes off a little bit like a Taylor Swift song with the slight immature attitude and nature of the song. I hope this isn’t a single from the album because it’s one of Hale’s weaker efforts. “Goodbye Gone” tries too much to sound like other pop country songs on the radio. If Swift, Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert sung this, I wouldn’t like it either. This is just a bad song.
The songs “Kiss Me” and “Road Between” are the two most interesting songs on Road Between. That’s because there are two versions for each song, the regular versions and live acoustic versions. “Kiss Me” is another teenage love song. The regular version doesn’t interest me at all and quite frankly isn’t that good, but the acoustic version is much better and is a song I can listen to. I enjoy both versions of “Road Between,” which is a song about self-discovery. But the acoustic version is also better here too. Simply put, I think Hale is a lot greater when you strip down the songs and remove the background noise. The producers need to let her voice shine through and be front and center in the songs. She has a great voice and it shouldn’t be hampered by stupid production choices.
The next song, “Lie a Little Better,” is an upbeat song about a girl struggling with her feelings toward a guy and how to express this. It’s got a catchy beat and melody, making it easy to like. “That’s What I Call Crazy” was a song I was looking forward to listening to because Kacey Musgraves is one of the co-writers of it. This song is not only one of the best written songs on the album, but one of the most country songs on Road Between. It tells the story of a woman’s breakup and how she’s coping with it. I want to hear more songs like this from Hale because it deals with a real issue and has meaning behind the lyrics.
“Love Tonight” is the other song on this album I didn’t like. It’s too pop sounding for my taste and is yet another love song. The songwriting isn’t that spectacular either. “Just Another Song” is the first on the album that Hale has a hand in writing. It’s about a song that is close to a woman and has significant meaning to her. I can tell Hale connects with this song more, further proving that if you write your own music it’s going to sound a lot better. It’s an above average song.
I hope the final three regular songs on the album are an indication of Hale’s future because it will make me a fan of hers. The first of the three is “My Little Black Wedding Dress,” a song about a woman always being the bridesmaid and never being the bride. This song has a lot of depth and symbolism in the lyrics. The woman talks about her black dress “fits like a glove” and how she wishes it were white instead of black. The choice of an organ in this song is great and gives it more of a country feel than the rest of the album. “My Little Black Wedding Dress” is an all-around great song that is relatable to many women.
“Feels Like Home” is the second song Hale co-wrote and is about Hale’s journey from everyday girl to celebrity. She sings about how no matter how much she likes life in Los Angeles, it doesn’t compare to the feeling of being home. I’m glad Hale wrote a song that relates to her own life and gives a glimpse who she is to listeners. It’s a feel-good song about never forgetting your roots. The final regular song and Hale co-write is “Loved,” which is about a woman finding the right man who will make her feel loved. I love the use of the mandolin in this song, giving it a relaxing and romantic feel. Hale demonstrates in her three songs she co-wrote that she is capable of writing good music and is something she should do more of on her next album.
With Taylor Swift and her team saying she’s leaving country music for pop, there’s now an even bigger void for females in country music. I think Hale can help fill this void and have a successful career in the genre. I think she is capable of making real country songs and not just good pop country like she did on Road Between. Hale is getting good radio time and the album is charting well. I’ll take Hale over Swift any day because I enjoy Hale’s voice a lot more. It’s not whiny like Swift’s voice and Hale has a little bluesy sound in her voice too.
Like many others, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this album. I’ve always said I have no problem with pop country if it’s well-written and put together good. And this album isn’t too bad in these aspects. Road Between starts off rocky and ends on a pretty high note. I can’t believe I’m giving out this grade.