Review – Brandy Clark’s “Girl Next Door”

Brandy Clark hit the country music scene like a train crashing through a wall at full speed. Her 2013 debut album, 12 Stories, was released to critical acclaim and considered one of the best albums of the year. Clark’s traditional approach to the songs’ production was noteworthy and her no-nonsense writing set her apart from most other country songwriters. Brandy Clark has been a critical darling since 12 Stories‘ release, and it’s fair to say that her eventual next album has been highly anticipated. While most details for the album remain hush-hush, we finally have a taste of what’s to come with her first single from the new album, “Girl Next Door.”

“Girl Next Door” is a big shift for Brandy Clark because the song abandons any semblance of country music in exchange for a dance beat melody and pop anthem production. The opening chords of an electric guitar combined with a percussion beat that sounds like it came out of a computer program set the stage in the first 10 seconds of the song. That beat holds throughout the verse and then gets cranked to eleven for the chorus. “Girl Next Door” is an over produced pop dance song produced by the one and only Jay Joyce. The production drowns the rest of the song. Clark’s voice is almost unrecognizable as she screams over the music of the chorus.

The real shame of the production is that it distracts from Clark’s signature, no bullshit sass in her lyrics. “When you took me home, you knew who you were taking. Not some Debbie Debutante standing in an apron, frying up your bacon. My house and my mouth and my mind get kind of trashy. I’ve never been to jail but hell I wouldn’t put it past me.” That is 100% Brandy Clark. As the song continues, she tells this man to accept that she isn’t the girl next door, or to leave for good and go next door. She’s not Marcia Brady and she’s not sorry about it, so take your pick. “Girl Next Door” is a well written song, but you can’t catch the lyrics right away because of the overproduced mess.

I’m not quite sure what to expect with Clark’s upcoming album, but “Girl Next Door” doesn’t get me excited for it. I wasn’t a fan to read that Jay Joyce was her producer, and this song confirms some of my worry for the album. Go listen to “Stripes” and hear how a sassy song like this can be upbeat and country. This “edgy” production doesn’t suit Clark’s voice. She’s really at her best with a simple production behind her, best exemplified in “Hold My Hand.” I hope the rest of her album isn’t like “Girl Next Door” and features some actual country music, but at least Clark didn’t abandon all her roots for this song. “Girl Next Door’s” lyrics are a saving grace; the only good thing about this song.

Grade: 5/10

16 thoughts on “Review – Brandy Clark’s “Girl Next Door”

  1. Raymond February 1, 2016 / 11:12 am

    I actually really love this song. I like the lyrics a lot as it’s very sassymand very great. I don’t see really any problems with the production as it still sounds pretty country in production more like a country-pop-rock-dance mix. It’s definitely interesting that’s for sure. Sounded like a dance beat and a country pop rock production I guess like maybe I’m a sucker for Brandy Clark’s music. Maybe I’m reading this song wrong I don’t know.

    I’m still very confident the album will be good if not great. Look at what Jay Joyce did with Eric Church’s latest. I happen to think Jay Joyce is turning things around. Maybe this will be like what we saw with Ashley Monroe where it’s a radio friendly song and the rest of the album is marvelous, even if “On To Something Good” has grown on me and became a rather happy carefree song that is very nice.

    Like

    • Derek Hudgin February 1, 2016 / 11:20 am

      This sounds like “Dance Remix” of the song, if you ask me. I don’t hear any country within the production at all. Brandy Clark is a great writer and I think her lyrics on the album will be just as good. But listening to this song as a whole compared to 12 Stories, and it sounds like a complete sonic shift away from country into pop.

      Like

      • Raymond February 1, 2016 / 11:32 am

        I guess like maybe I didn’t hear it right. Maybe it was how country sounding her voice is that made me like it. I wouldn’t worry about how the album would turn out. I think it will be plenty great, and I still remain very certain that Brandy will deliver. I guess I’m hearing something different I guess. Eh I like the song so into guilty pleasure it goes.

        Like

  2. Scotty J February 1, 2016 / 11:41 am

    This song is just not that good and even more disappointing is that this theme has been covered so many times by this same group of writers/singers. The whole Musgraves/Clark/McAnally group has grown so stale and repetitive.

    They are beginning to move into the active dislike area with me because of these types of songs and it’s too bad because I know they have others that aren’t like this but these types of songs are just so played out.

    For God’s sake we get it you’re tough and aren’t going to take any crap from anybody so please move on!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kevin Davis February 1, 2016 / 11:52 am

    The production is not even “edgy” in any meaningful sense of the word. In terms of a grab for radio play in today’s market, it is safe and yawn-inducing. As for the lyrics, I must disagree with you. I didn’t mind the sassy rebel stuff — contrasting with traditional mores and small town expectations and so forth — when I heard it the first dozen times over the past three or so years, from Brandy Clark herself and her friends (Musgraves, Monroe, Lambert, et al.). Now it is bordering on cliché. I know that is not a popular opinion, and I don’t expect that most of y’all will agree with me. Lyrically, this is exactly what I expected in terms of content from her next single, and it is hard for me to get excited about it.

    Like

    • Derek Hudgin February 1, 2016 / 12:17 pm

      I see your point on the lyrics, and I agree that I’d like to see more variety from Clark and company in terms of writing. I felt like 12 Stories was an album with considerable variety with respect to song content. I’ll admit that I looked at this song from the view of Clark’s own recording catalog and didn’t expand to her writing catalog with Kacey & Shane.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. NoahHibiscusEaton February 1, 2016 / 1:12 pm

    I’m actually the direct opposite in my opinion of this song.

    This isn’t country in any way, shape or form musically……..but that aside, I don’t mind the production nearly as much as the lyrics, which I consider to be the track’s weakest link.

    It’s trying too hard to be like Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch’ for Millennials, except it overlooks the fact that the key to the cult classic’s charm is that it was nuanced with a merciful, understanding sweetness to complement the sass. Here, both Clark’s delivery and lyrics come across as pissy. Not to mention ultimately come across as pointless when she utters in the bridge that the subject has a better chance at stopping a train than making the necessary changes he needs in her eyes. What’s the frickin’ point in spending two and a half minutes lecturing the subject then?

    This isn’t bad necessarily, just a major downgrade from “12 Stories” as a whole. And a rather tired retread of the Clark/Musgraves/McAnally trifecta.

    I’m thinking a Strong 5 to Light 6 here.

    Like

    • Kevin Davis February 1, 2016 / 3:34 pm

      That’s a brilliant point about the Meredith Brooks song in relation to this song.

      Like

      • Nadia Lockheart February 2, 2016 / 1:13 am

        Thanks! =)

        Another thing that made “Bitch” so effective at the time of its release, and explains why it continues to have a timeless charm now, is that it was bereft of pretense. It had a very conversational flow to its writing that felt natural. You could easily picture someone reciting the lyrics back to you while at a corner cafe and it would sound like something many women would want those they love and trust to say.

        “Girl Next Door”, in contrast, suffers from a pretentious air to its lyricism. From mentionings of a Debbie debutante to Virgin Mary metaphor to Marcia Brady………………who talks like that? Aside from perhaps certain feminist group meetups at bookstores or campuses, it just comes across as a string of lyrics that sound too self-important to be broadly accessible and anthemic.

        But, again, it is Clark’s tone that most works against the song’s favor. As opposed to Brooks coming across as equal parts sympathetic, sweet and sassy………………………….perhaps she was intending to come across as cautionary, but somehow the vibe I get from the overall presentation is that Clark and McAnally were aiming for an empowering female anthem. And…………………..it just sounds too disgruntled to be as effective as it could have been.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. lorenzofloris96 February 1, 2016 / 2:21 pm

    woah, I might be in minority here, but I find this just as bad as Sippin on Fire by country music disgrace FGL. And I think this is even worse, because yeah Tyler Hubbard and Bryan Kelley are two douchebags, but you don’t expect this kind of putrid garbage from a talented act like Brandy. It’s like hearing George Strait rapping, like seeing Alan Jackson wearing wallet chains and bandana singing ‘Hey Mama’ with Nicki Minaj. I don’t know, I flat out hate this song. And I believe the lyrics lose all their meaning with such terrible production choices. Very bad, disgusting. This is what would get a 0/10 in my book.

    Like

    • Kevin Davis February 2, 2016 / 3:45 pm

      “…because yeah Tyler Hubbard and Bryan Kelley are two douchebags, but you don’t expect this kind of putrid garbage from a talented act like Brandy.”

      Exactly. I am beginning to wonder if 2016 will prove to be even more disappointing than 2015 when it comes to artists that we respect. It was disappointing but not too surprising when Eli Young Band, Randy Houser, and Jake Owen all released terrible singles last year, even coming off of some very solid previous singles (Houser and Owen especially). Gary Allan was probably the most disappointing of all. Now, just a month into the new year, we already have a massive disappointment with Dierks Bentley’s new single and now, most unexpectedly, Brandy Clark’s new single. These are not good signs. I half expect Sturgill to release a Euro-dance-pop album! Okay, that is probably beyond the pale.

      Like

      • lorenzofloris96 February 2, 2016 / 6:37 pm

        I’m sure Dierks will put out a great album: he loves music with meaning, but he also like to have fun occasionally, so as long as he gives us great albums like he always does I’ll trust him. Gary’s song is idiotic but musically it brings me back to a song Gary had covered on his old album Smoke Rings in the Dark. That song was called Runaway and I can’t help but think of it when I hear Hangover Tonight.
        I don’t know what the hell Jake had in his head when he recorded that Real Life mess but his album will probably be good as well (expecially since his label is holding it back).
        We Went is a dumb vapid song that will soon be forgotten.
        Of all these, Eli Young Band made the biggest sellout move by releasing that horrible EP at the beginning of 2015 and they’ve been off the radar ever since. I hope they’re going back to their roots.
        BTW I hope that Sturgill’s album will still be country and not Euro Dance Pop LOL

        Like

        • Kevin Davis February 2, 2016 / 8:47 pm

          I actually saw Eli Young Band a few weeks ago, and they played their older material and not their new 2015 stuff, from what I remember. That is a good sign. They were playing with A Thousand Horses for a charity benefit concert here in Charlotte, and I went because (1) the tickets were cheap and (2) A Thousand Horses is an excellent live band. But I was pleased by EYB’s performance.

          Like

      • Nadia Lockheart February 2, 2016 / 7:55 pm

        While I sympathize with how easy it is to feel pessimistic looking forward, it’s also important to maintain perspective toward the following in 2015:

        *

        1) Both Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe released lead singles that were considered by consensus to be letdowns compared to what they’re capable of achieving, only to follow them up with strong albums.

        2) Love & Theft, known for releasing their share of mediocre at best, insufferable at worst material…………….released their amazing current single.

        3) Eric Church followed up an era wrought with polarizing reception with a universally-acclaimed one.

        4) Jon Pardi fought to release an EP of his even more country-sounding B-sides, then proceeded to continue doing what he does best with his lead single for his current project.

        5) Despite being shunned out of radio as of late, Josh Turner has stuck to his guns insisting that he would release his new album this second if he could and that he would only do the kind of music that’s true to him.

        6) Despite mediocre-at-best lyricism, Joe Nichols appears to be putting his foot down in maintaining a traditional-leaning country sound.

        7) Pat Green, after a string of underwhelming and overtly commercial single releases, returned to his roots and released a respectable (if uneven) album with moments that prove he still hasn’t fully lost his touch.

        *

        Those are just some examples.

        Anyway, we probably won’t have a clear picture as to whether things are trending better or worse in 2016 until around Spring Break at the earliest.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kevin Davis February 2, 2016 / 8:43 pm

          Those are solid examples. I’m curious to see what happens. I am far less optimistic about country airplay than the larger country landscape, where I expect the momentum created by Stapleton, Isbell, Musgraves, et al. to continue.

          Like

  6. Eldan April 25, 2016 / 1:45 am

    I’m more classic country, having come up through The Highwaymen era. I heard this song while driving home the other day & it really caught my ear, so to speak. I had no idea who sang it, but found it online and got introduced to Brandy Clark in the process. She’s got another new fan today! I’ll have to check out her other music and see if it stands up to what I like in country. So far, so good. GO BRANDY!

    Like

Comments are closed.