Kellie Pickler — “100 Proof”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | May 14th, 2012

kelliepickler18-x600Songwriters: James T. Slater and Leslie Satcher

On her third album, 100 Proof, it’s clear that American Idol alum Kellie Pickler has learned a thing or two about making entrances.

The opening line of the record’s title track and second single packs a punch and sets the tone for the sleepy, satisfying tune to come: When Pickler winces at “Ain’t no rain as cold as the look she just gave him/Everyone around us knows a storm has just rolled in,” a spark of a standout storyline lights up.

It’s not the flashiest, or the honky-tonkiest, or even the most romantic song from 100 Proof, which Pickler has rightly claimed as her most traditional-leaning album to date. But “100 Proof” may well be the most well-rounded of all of its tracks, bringing together classic country themes of love, lust and alcohol. Pickler sounds at ease here, in no rush to make it through meandering lyrics such as “We’ll dance all night long/On the edge of can’t-get-enough.” And even when the moonshine metaphor stretches thin, the combination of her restrained vocal performance and Rob McNelley’s steel guitar files away any sharp corners.

But as an advertisement at radio, is it enough to pull fans to the album as a whole? The North Carolina native has faltered on her follow-through on follow-up singles post-Taylor Swift, when the teen queen’s co-write “Best Days of Your Life” boosted Pickler into the top ten at country radio. And while “100 Proof” is a beautiful showcase of the singer’s more mature sound and song selection, as a single it misses the sass of “Where’s Tammy Wynette” or the beautiful bite of “Long As I Never See You Again.”

Radio nay-players aside, “100 Proof” manages to stand on its musical merit alone, remaining filling long after those powerful introductory lines.

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Preview or purchase “100 Proof”

  1. Ken Morton, Jr.
    May 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    It’s unfortunate that this whole album hasn’t gotten more love from radio. There are some great authentic-feeling classic country songs on the album including this track. It’s not that Pickler needs heavy radio play to be successful by any means, but it would help cement her opportunity to deliver more really quality music like this down the road. The genre needs more Music Row-signed artists like Lee Ann Womack preaching the classic country gospel.

  2. nm
    May 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    I haven’t been the world’s most enthusiastic Kellie Pickler fan, but I definitely enjoy this album.

  3. Ben Foster
    May 15, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I enjoy this song quite a bit, though it’s not one of my all-time favorites from the ‘100 Proof’ album (and yes, what a great opening line). I would love to see radio paying more attention to Pickler for the excellent material on her new album, but it’s hard to be optimistic. I echo all of Ken’s preceding comment, particularly the closing sentence. At any rate, we’ll see how this single does for her.

  4. Dan
    May 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Just curious, Ben, what are your favorites from the album? You’re pickier about lyrics than I am, and a few of my favorites (“Unlock That Honky Tonk,” “Rockaway,” “Little House On the Highway”) aren’t anything special lyrically, but sonically I can’t get enough of them. Usually the way a song sounds matters more to me than what the words say.

  5. Rick
    May 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Ken said: “It’s unfortunate that this whole album hasn’t gotten more love from radio. There are some great authentic-feeling classic country songs on the album including this track”.

    I think you answered your own question there Ken. The last thing most Top 40 AirHead Country Radio programmers are seeking after these days is “authentic-feeling classic country songs”. I just hope that this album doesn’t sink Kellie’s career at country radio.

  6. Barry Mazor
    May 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    For many perfectly good performers, maybe even some of the best, given the slow moving playlists and the programming tendencies everybody’s talking about, the question is how far they can go and where without pop mainstream radio–which is not the be all and end all of making it in music. Gee, maybe even selling 100,000 or 400,000 records rather than 5 million is NOT failure. Maybe there are other sorts of sustainable country careers and ways to have them. I think we see plenty of sustaining alternatives even when, I note again, it’s tough all over.

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