When it comes to taking a risk and failing or playing it safe, I would rather see an artist/act choose the former every single time. But sometimes you can take risks and if you don’t fully commit to it, you can end up with a safe sounding album. This is what I unfortunately see for Little Big Town on their new album Nightfall, as it doesn’t live up to what it aspires to be.
Opening song “Next To You” showcases the band harmonizing well. But then you listen to the rest of the album and it feels like most of this album stays in this same slow pace/mood. There’s just no variety, as it stagnates over this same sounding type of song. It’s not that these songs are bad. But you put them all next to each other and they blend together. And it would make sense if a common theme threaded these songs together, but there isn’t.
The album’s title track flirts with a surrealistic, disco-influenced country sound, but doesn’t fully commit to the sound for it to really stand out. And that’s a shame considering Daniel Tashian’s involvement with the song. The lyrics are your standard, generic tropes about falling in love under the night sky. “Forever and a Night” is an appropriately named song because that’s how long it feels listening to it. It’s an overwrought love ballad that tries too hard to come off as seriously romantic and quite frankly the song never goes beyond second gear in terms of storytelling/messaging.
“Throw Your Love Away” is a throwaway love song. And you know it won’t be a single since Karen Fairchild isn’t on lead vocals. “Over Drinking” is a decent get-over-you drinking song since it has a bit more of a pulse than the rest of the album. The hook isn’t half-bad, but I would have liked to have heard a little bit more lyrically to give the song more meat.
“Wine, Beer, Whiskey” puts me of two minds. On one hand, the lyrics are your standard alcohol name-dropping, modern country song. It’s nothing special. On the other hand, Little Big Town actually do something different, which I love. It has a distinctively Tejano-influence with the vibrant horns, giving it a fun and memorable sound. Why this isn’t utilized more in country music stupefies me. Ultimately “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” is a highlight of Nightfall.
Unfortunately the album falls right back into a lull with “Questions.” For a ballad trying to come off as serious and dealing with the doubts in the fallout of a relationship, why are there snap tracks and clap tracks? This is a guaranteed way to get me not to take this song seriously. But in pop country music today I guess this is a requirement for some asinine reason. I love the message that “The Daughters” is trying to deliver about unfair expectations that get placed on women and unifying through this struggle. It’s a worthy and admirable message. But the ways its delivered is clunky and the religious overtones feel forced and not really necessary.
“River of Stars” would be a good song on an album with more variety. But when you already have how many slow to mid-tempo songs on the album, it quickly becomes another one on the track list. At this point I’m bored and just waiting for something to change in terms of sound to wake me up.
“Sugar Coat” is a song on paper that I should enjoy. It’s a story of a woman who always has to grin and bear it with a husband that’s never there for her and her family enough. But then there’s the chorus, which comes off as sanctimonious to me: “Sometimes I wish I liked drinking/Sometimes I wish I liked pills/Wish I could sleep with a stranger/But someone like me never will.” It paints the picture of someone who views themselves as never making mistakes nor standing up for themselves as also alluded to in the lyrics. This isn’t someone I really want to empathize or connect with as the listener.
“Problem Child” is a ballad about acknowledging we all have problems, whether it being lonely or not being accepted in someone else’s eyes. I would have liked to heard this fleshed out a bit more, as I do like it’s unifying message and the anthemic feel in the delivery. But the message comes off as half-baked, as I’m waiting for it to say something greater.
“Bluebird” sees the groups best embracing of the Tashian/Ian Fitchuk country sound and it makes for arguably the best song on the album. I enjoy the breezy, laid-back feel in this dreamy love ballad. The hook is also memorable and stands out with it’s emphasis on both the harmonies and the melody. “Trouble With Forever” is another sleepy ballad that has nothing interesting to say. It’s yet another case on this album of an interesting topic not being explored enough to deliver something memorable.
Nightfall is an album that shows hints of potential and interesting wrinkles, but Little Big Town for the most part don’t take enough chances and spend enough time on the lyrics. It’s a shame because this group has excellent music sense and can be quite creative when they want to be. The biggest criticism that brings Nightfall down is it’s failure to execute on its idea, as this had potential to be great.