Lady Antebellum – “American Honey”
Songwriters: Cary Barlow, Hillary Lindsey and Shane Stevens.
Country music’s group du jour Lady Antebellum blends post-teenage angst with ’70s soul-rock, riding the youth wave that’s washed over Music Row. While today’s pop radio relies often on empty boasts and ironic poses, the trio has lept onto the Top 40 charts by singing earnest, self-serious numbers that stress the comforts of country living.
Following form, “American Honey”–wrapped in red, white and melancholy blue–is a wistful waltz down memory lane. Hillary Scott, a less-feisty heir of Natalie Maines, takes the lead on this gently-jangling shot of nostalgia. Her voice: a soft hum, sad and pensive and the slightest bit off-pitch against a distracting drumbeat. Her character: a twenty-something woman, strung out by the demands of her day-to-day and longing for a bygone era pre-Y2K.
Those younger years were spent getting a strong grip on her virtues and–apparently–her virginity: “She grew up good, she grew up slow.” Now, she’s no longer that pure, child-like figure.
The plot has holes big enough to drive a John Deere through. “Honey” is a lazy depiction of a chaste young lass chasing after a fuzzy memory. She pines for the past without showing what made those days so special (cf. “Coal Miner’s Daughter”). The song leans on cliché catchphrases–the title line is the main offender–and the listener’s left to suss out the details.
What’s worse is the rinse-and-repeat portrayal of the American daughter. In these crazy days of country music, the mainstream has mostly reverted to trusted stereotypes. With too-few exceptions, country radio spins hits from two clear camps, good girls and wannabe bad boys. These songs are rarely sharply drawn, but the gender lines are: Little girls are made of sugar, spice and everything nice. Little boys become men who become backwoods barbarians, thumping their chests and thumbing their noses at sissified city types.
Full-grown, fascinating women have fallen off the airwaves; routine, naive tunes like “Honey” are now the norm for the females of mainstream country.
Lady Antebellum’s much-buzzed-about second album will likely squash any doubts of their commercial clout. (Sorry, Rascal Flatts.) By banking on catchy jingles in favor of quality songs, though, the music pales beside their sales magic. This “Honey” is sweet, but it spoils quickly.
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