I can’t say I’ve listened to Kelsea Ballerini very much, nor have I listened to much country pop. I also can’t say that I’m very interested in the genre in general (I think Florida Georgia Line ruined it for me, if I’m being honest). But I remember hearing about her a few years ago and decided to take a listen to one of her full-length albums. I chose Unapologetically, her second album, for no specific reason; truthfully, I liked the album cover and I find that normally sophomore releases are better than debuts. Going into it initially, I had low expectations, simply because of my own person bias around the genre. But I was wrong, and I’ve never been happier to say that. Unapologetically is wonderful when it comes to vocals, instrumental and lyrics, exploring themes of heartbreak, growing up and self-assurance. Each song is composed of very balanced country pop, where we’re offered pop melodies blended with subtle guitar and a sweet country twang. There is never a dull moment on here and I found it very easy to daydream and reminisce on memories with this record playing in the background.
There were many songs that I found to be particularly intriguing, mostly because they felt like little storybooks and hearing them felt almost like flashbacks. “High School” is a prime example, where Kelsea sings about someone who can’t move on from their high school years (I’m sure we all know a few people like that), or “Miss Me More” where she talks about re-discovering herself after a failed relationship. “Roses” is one of my absolute favorites, where she’s comparing another failed relationship to a blooming flower and how they were beautiful for a time but the ending was inevitable. Although there were so many songs that I wanted to talk about, I specifically want to highlight “End Of The World” and the writing and production behind it.
This is a song that was instantly captivating, with both the charisma and charm that country music and pop have to offer. When I heard this for the first time, it felt like a film, but it was nice because it wasn’t so rigidly based on one thing. Lyrically, it allows the listener to apply whatever scenario they want to it, whether it be about someone they love, a religious experience or even a friendship. Sonically, it’s energetic and emotional the entire way through, even in its slower moments. The song opens up with a soft acoustic guitar with lyrics about basically being frustrated with love, feeling lost and not really knowing where to go. The verses feature some gorgeous high notes and melodies, which lead us into the chorus, which is just as lively. The instrumental builds up while the lyrics become more optimistic, describing a situation where things worked out just when you thought they wouldn’t. When we finally get to the bridge, things slow down a little bit before picking up for one more chorus, this time coupled with more pronounced drums for an even fuller effect. After all that excitement, the song fades out with the same soft acoustic guitar that we started out with, and this little mini movie is over. Let the credits roll.
“End Of The World” finds the balance between inspiration and imitation, as it is reassuring without sounding as redundant as every other “inspirational” song out there. The lyrics have enough ambiguity in them to apply to anyone and any situation; they reel you in and let you decide what you want them to mean, which is always an important factor when writing music. Relatability is a great thing and it’s what makes music worthwhile at times, and it’s something that makes an artist approachable. Along with that, just the overall delivery of the track from the way it’s sung to the very balanced instrumental keeps it from feeling overly sappy or like it’s asking for too much. The vocals are so smooth and light, and there is never a moment where this feels too heavy or oversaturated, or corny for that matter. Unapologetically is filled with songs that fit that mold but this one is undeniably a standout among them all.