Album Review – Reba’s ‘Love Somebody’

Reba Cover

Reba, arguably the most powerful female voice in the country music genre, has released her twenty-seventh studio album, “Love Somebody.” On this past week’s Billboard Country Update (4/20/15), Reba’s first single, “Going Out Like That” sits at #31 on the country airplay chart. Although women are relatively scarce in today’s country radio climate, Reba is a legend in her own right and won’t be ignored as she has a consistent fan base. “Love Somebody,” essentially is the theme of the album as each song is about love in some way. From the upbeat songs like “Going Out Like That” and “Until They Don’t Love You” to the sentimental ballads like “Just Like Them Horses,” this album has a song for every emotion.

The album opens with the current single, “Going Out Like That.” This song is a great introduction into the album as it sets a tone for what’s to come. Although much of the album is ballad heavy, there are songs like “Going Out Like That” on this album. The auto tune is somewhat audible to my ears throughout this song but I don’t think it takes away from Reba’s voice. Reba and her team made the right choice when pushing this as the single because it’s an uptempo song that will connect with country radio listeners. This song leans on the “pop” side in terms of instrumentation and country radio is in this phase as we speak. There’s nothing magnificent here lyrically, but it’s a good opener to the album.

The next song, “Enough,” is a power ballad with two strong female voices: Reba and Jennifer Nettles. Nettles is a strong vocalist who didn’t see much success with her debut solo album. I feel like “Enough” could fare well on country radio with Jennifer’s name attached to the song. The reason her solo album didn’t do much on country radio was because it didn’t sound like anything being played on country radio. “Enough” is just a beautiful song, lyrically, emotionally, and instrumentally. After two relatively strong songs, “She Got Drunk Last Night,” although not a favorite track of mine, is instrumentally and vocally, beautiful. I didn’t enjoy the song because I felt like the story had been used before. Reba’s voice really shines on this track and I enjoy it well enough.

The next song, “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet,” is a high-energy song about overcoming all the obstacles that are experienced throughout a lifetime. It’s a different side to Reba as much of the songs before this were ballads. Reba’s vocals are spot on in this song and I believe this song could make a dent on the charts if it were released as a single. “That’s When I Knew” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s a beautifully sung ballad. It’s as simple as that. The story being told in this song is so heartbreaking and just beautifully crafted. I think that’s why I enjoy this song so much. “I’ll Go On” is another strong ballad. Its lyrics are simple, but it sells heartbreak with Reba’s vocals. She’s so emotive and that’s hard to achieve especially when country radio is the total opposite during today’s time.

“Until They Don’t Love You” has to be a single at some point. This song is sassy and Reba’s voice is perfect for this song. I really enjoyed the originality in the lyrics (A-B-C-D, 1-2-3-4) and the instrumentation really matched the amount of sass in this song. This is a song I can hear on country radio and jamming to with the windows rolled down. It’s fun and catchy. “Promise Me Love” is another ballad that I would label as a favorite. It’s more upbeat than the previous ballads. I would really love this to be a single but I’m not sure it’d be successful on country radio. That’s a shame because it’s a beautifully sung ballad and the instrumentation is surprisingly upbeat for a ballad. The next song is “Just Like Them Horses.” This is the song that Reba sang at her fathers funeral. What a beautiful song…lyrically and vocally. I can’t imagine how a live performance of this song would affect other’s emotions because hearing this song gives me goosebumps. It’s well-written and Reba’s voice makes this song so emotive and heart wrenching.

“Love Somebody,” is the title track and it’s a co-write with Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osbourne. Hunt is going to catch some listener’s eyes but make no mistake, this song is a great addition to the album. It’s upbeat and catchy. The instrumentation is incredibly contemporary and this song would make a great single at some point. Reba’s voice shines here as she has to hit her upper register at points in the song. It’s not a lyrical masterpiece but it’s better than most songs on Hunt’s debut album. “Love Land” is a song originally sung by Martina McBride. Listening to both songs side-by-side, you may not notice a difference. I didn’t either until I realized Reba was singing this song in third-person. McBride’s version was sung in first-person. Reba’s vocals are tremendous here and I kind of wish the album ended here because the next song is kind of the “dud” of the bunch. “Pray for Peace” is the last song and I don’t really know why they included this song on the album. It’s literally the same line being recited over and over again. The only good thing about this song is the instrumentation. Did you hear the bagpipes? It’s definitely something absent from country radio which makes it a unique song, but it’s just kind of there for me and doesn’t really have a message that had an immediate impact.

Although this album was ballad heavy, I hope listeners take the time to listen closely to the lyrics because this album is lyrically, a masterpiece, in my opinion. There are some amazing tracks on this album and I can only hope Reba finds some success on country radio.

Grade: 9/10

Please listen to the album below and respond with your feedback! I’d love to hear from you!

Review – Toby Keith’s “35 MPH Town”

Toby Keith 35 MPH Town

(Editors Note: Please welcome our newest writer, Ryan Scott! This is his first post on the site.)

Toby Keith has always been just kind of there for me. He has some great songs but for every great song, there’s a “Red Solo Cup.” His newest single, “35 MPH Town,” has a different sentiment than “Drunk Americans” which I found to be severely underwhelming and boring much like the rest of his songs that are about drinking. “35 MPH Town” is much more well-crafted lyrically, emotionally and vocally. The production and vocals are spot on in this song. It makes me wonder why Toby Keith continues to put out songs that are sub-par when a song like this one, although not perfect, is released and has some sentimental value in its lyrics including:

The “yes mam’s” gone and the “please’s” too,
It’s out the door with the “thank you” in the evening
You don’t see a front yard football game
The neighbor kids have done away with the shirts and skins
No one hits the front porch lights to get their kids to come inside
Cause the streets ain’t safe for a bike to ride down
Since they planted a prowler in this 35 mile an hour town
No they’re going nowhere fast tonight, no matter how fast they drive this 35 mile an hour town

“35 MPH Town” is a song about how times have changed. Keith incorporates many of the things he has seen change within the past decades including the absence of Christianity, manners, and children playing outside because it’s unsafe. This song may irk some listeners as there’s debate as to whether our society has changed, the absence of the above are evident and whether those absences are affecting how we grow up and teach future generations.

Toby Keith achieves something great with this song bringing him out of the drinking songs into something more sentimental. There’s a lot of factors that contribute to radio airplay. Keith is 53 years old and country radio has been focusing their energy on playing younger, emerging, country artists rather than the veterans with a few exceptions. I believe this song has a chance at a top 20 peak but I’m not sure what to expect considering the state country radio is in. The lyrics, vocals, and production are spot on. There’s also going to be some country radio listeners that may be against this song due to its lyrics if they listen to the lyrics closely. I don’t find this song offensive at all and find it to be somewhat true in today’s society. It’s changed a lot from decades ago and “35 MPH Town” does a great job of illustrating that with its imagery and emotion.

Grade: 7/10