Sara Evans – “Feels Just Like a Love Song”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | July 9th, 2009

sara-evans-love-songSongwriters: Nathan Chapman, Sara Evans, Chris Lindsey and Aimee Mayo.

The redundant “love song about a relationship feeling like a love song” concept has received recent creative treatments from Jason Michael Carroll, whose likable “Livin’ Our Love Song” owed much of its charm to its attention to detail, and Taylor Swift, who used a similar sonic-based metaphor in “Our Song.”

After a long radio drought, Sara Evans’ “Feels Just Like a Love Song” joins that list with the requisite love song imagery: The sun is shining, the laughter is flowing and the stars are twinkling, along with some other feel-good images I wouldn’t normally associate with a fairytale romance. (Sun-lit hardwood floors? Feathered beds? Perhaps Martha Stewart is an anonymous fifth songwriter.)

To Evans’ credit, after the personal drama she publicly battled over the past three years, she pulls off the premise with an authentic performance that finds the singer shouting her relationship bliss from the rooftops. Unfortunately, Evans has to shout pretty loud to be heard over the overwrought production choices made in the song, the first single off her sixth studio album due later this year.

Despite starting with a catchy Swift–like beat (the teen queen’s producer Nathan Chapman lends his services here), the tune quickly delves into a mishmash of beats fit for a Top 40 dance floor number. Whereas the more restrained verses showcase the 2006 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year’s singing chops, the cacophonous and confusing chorus drowns her in a sea of backup singers and instruments. For a voice best complimented by fiddle, steel and acoustic guitars, the noise only highlights the uncomfortable symptoms of auto-tuning evident on some of Evans’ notes.

At one point in the bridge, the production and backup singers drown her out to the point the lyrics are nearly inaudible, although the generic, disjointed lyrics that are distinguishable don’t offer much of a reward: “The way we talk, the way you smile/You kiss my lips it drives me wild/I never knew until I felt your touch/That I could need someone so much.”

“Feels Just Like a Love Song” is a long way from the Evans’ traditional roots, and undermines her penchant for choosing interesting, twangy songs that regularly capture rural coming-of-age young women and the struggles they face. In the hands of a borderline talented pop tartlet, Evans’ latest effort would be remixed to include the rapper du jour and pumped through dance club speakers across the country. Evans is too good for a song meant to drown out a singer’s weaknesses.

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  1. [...] The 9513 thinks Evans is too good for the song ;  My Kind Of Country says its more snazz than substance ;  Roughstock thinks its a bit of a letdown [...]
  1. Dr. No
    July 9, 2009 at 9:25 am

    “Feels Just Like A Taylor Song”

  2. Razor X
    July 9, 2009 at 9:51 am

    I could not agree more. This record is a hot mess and a waste of Sara’s talent.

  3. Leeann Ward
    July 9, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Great review. Just how I feel. Especially love your parenthetical commentary in the second paragraph.

    I’m hoping for much better from the upcoming album.

  4. Drew
    July 9, 2009 at 10:15 am

    The idea can be done right though, like you outlined with Jason Michael Carroll’s track… but this is just a paltry attempt at mainstream fluff.

  5. Vicki
    July 9, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Yup a Great review. I am so disappointed. Sara has such a good country deep voice that can sing a great Patsy Cline song. Why waste it on more drivel like this that is so abundant already? Wasted talent.

  6. mikeky
    July 9, 2009 at 10:34 am

    as a new song, that sure is a good picture.

  7. J.R. Journey
    July 9, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I am a big fan of that photo. This song, not so much.

  8. Jim Malec
    July 9, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I take full credit for photo editing on this article.

  9. Chris D.
    July 9, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Honestly, a lot of top 40 music is better and more interesting than this dumb song. Great review, poor Sara.

  10. CMW
    July 9, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Perfect review, Karlie. I wouldn’t change a word of it.

    Also, I’ll put in another vote for that photo.

  11. Nicolas
    July 9, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I like the photo too, she’s gorgeous <3

    Aaannnddd I also love the song, I think its fantastic =)

  12. PaulaW
    July 9, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    , and undermines her penchant for choosing interesting, twangy songs that regularly capture rural coming-of-age young women and the struggles they face

    Good grief! Do we ALWAYS have to be reminded of the “struggles we face” in every song and every review? Cant we just be happy sometimes?

    That said, I did struggle with the production a bit to hear the lyrics, but the very line you picked out to pick on (sun-lit hardwood floors) was one of the images I liked best. :-)

  13. Nicolas
    July 9, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    ^ Yeah, heaven forbids Sara Evans write a song about being happy with her new life minus scummy ex-husband + new husband Jay Barker

    Besides, we all know “What That Drink Cost Me” is on her new album so its not like she’s not got variety in her

  14. Rick
    July 9, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Can you blame Sara for wanting to sound more like Taylor Swift these days considering the current state of Top 40 AirHead Country radio? If she has to lower her standards and sound more “hip” (example: Gloriana) to remain relevant and garner airplay so be it, well as long as a “Suds In The Bucket” comes along now and then…

  15. Jon
    July 9, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Me, I’ll reserve judgement on the production until I hear something other than a squashed version of the record. Beyond that, I like it fine – not that she can’t do a good job with traditional material, but it’s not ever been where she’s done her best work (attention: “Born To Fly” was not a traditional country record), alt-countryites’ enthusiasm for Three Chords And The Truth notwithstanding; that was Pete Anderson’s record, not hers, as she’s made quite clear both implicitly and explicitly over the years. And I’m puzzled by the swipe at the “hardwood floors/feather beds” line, which seems to suggest that the problem is that it’s not cliched enough.

    Not a great record, to be sure, but I have a feeling that most of the criticism is ultimately based on the commentators’ feelings that Evans ought to be dancing to their tunes, not her own.

  16. Leeann Ward
    July 9, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Technically, I don’t care if she’s purely traditional. Three Chords isn’t even my favorite record of hers and my favorite songs don’t come from that album. I just think there’s nothing about this song that stands out in anyway, including vocals, bland production, melody and lyrics.

  17. Jim Malec
    July 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    “Me, I’ll reserve judgement on the production until I hear something other than a squashed version of the record.”

    Welcome to the new world, Jon. I agree with your sentiment–that listening to lo-fi streaming tracks don’t give a full representation of the nuances of a record–but this is how music is consumed in 2009; Via streams, over Pandora on an iPhone, and, of course, on splotchy MP3s over cheap ear buds.

    If a song has to be heard in redbook on solid speakers in order to sound good, it can be argued that the production is inherently ineffective since almost no one who hears the record will hear it in that environment.

    Besides that, I think it doesn’t make a lot of sense to criticize a reviewer’s characterizations of the record’s production when those characterizations are not really related to specific spacing, compression or other technical details. In this case Karlie is talking about a part of the record that sits on the very outer layer of the record and which can be heard regardless of the quality of the file.

    That said, I think your comment raises some interesting discussion points…although, as usual, you’ve framed it in the form of an insult/criticism.

  18. Leeann Ward
    July 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Jon, I have enough respect for Sara’s taste to think that this is not her dancing to her own tune. Like Rick, I can’t completely blame her for seeking commercial success and this is what commercial success supposedly sounds like right now, but I can’t believe that this is what she would choose to do if it were completely up to her and she wasn’t concerned about staying relevant in current mainstream country music. With that said, I hope the album offers superior material to this, even if it’s not traditional, so that I will be compelled enough to purchase the album when it comes out. Otherwise, I’m doubtful that the Taylor Swift/Rascal Flatts population is going to give her the sales that she’s reaching for here….since I maintain that it’s not where she sounds natural.

  19. Karlie Justus
    July 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    The parenthetical commentary wasn’t a swipe, just a note that, like Jon said, those images actually weren’t cliche in an otherwise cliche song. The Martha Stewart crack was just for fun, but perhaps it didn’t come off that way. Although maybe Leeann got it? :)

  20. Razor X
    July 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Can you blame Sara for wanting to sound more like Taylor Swift these days considering the current state of Top 40 AirHead Country radio? If she has to lower her standards and sound more “hip” (example: Gloriana) to remain relevant and garner airplay so be it, well as long as a “Suds In The Bucket” comes along now and then…

    Seriously, Rick?

  21. Jon
    July 9, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    OK, Karlie, I stand corrected.

  22. Leeann Ward
    July 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Nicolas,
    It’s nice for Sara that she’s singing about being happy with her new husband and all, but she sang and constantly talked about (in interviews) about being happy with her former husband as well. So, that particular backstory is not enough to hook me, as harsh as that may seem.

  23. Leeann Ward
    July 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Ha, Karlie, I got it.:)

  24. Brady Vercher
    July 9, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    If someone described this as a fairytale love song with a poppish production and a poor vocal, they wouldn’t be far off the mark, but I’m sure most people would immediately think of Taylor Swift (“Love Story”), not a 38 year old mother of 3 (or 7) who just went through a nasty public divorce. It’s nice to be able to remain positive after all that, but I’d expect something more revealing and less generic. Now that I think about it, when was the last time we heard a woman sing about her kids and have any success?

  25. Jon
    July 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Jim: ” I agree with your sentiment–that listening to lo-fi streaming tracks don’t give a full representation of the nuances of a record–but this is how music is consumed in 2009; Via streams, over Pandora on an iPhone, and, of course, on splotchy MP3s over cheap ear buds.”

    Well, sort of – I mean, I take your point, but there are a lot of variables, and even the most astute producers can’t account for all of them. Compression artifacts can pretty drastically change the sound of a record, and they’re often unpredictable and of course highly dependent on the details – algorithm, degree of compression, etc. – so when I hear something where I don’t know those details, I tend to, as I said, reserve judgement. And I was responding not only to what’s in Karlie’s review, but to subsequent posts with respect to the matter – although I would love to know specifically at which points she hears “symptoms” of auto-tuning (especially since this is the kind of area where compression artifacts can manifest themselves).

    LeeAnn (or is it Leeann? these all-caps are driving me crazy): ” I can’t believe that this is what she would choose to do if it were completely up to her”

    Why not? And in all seriousness, I’m kind of taken aback at how far folks seem to think this cut diverges from her past work and how pop-derived they think it is; I just don’t hear that. Those “Swift-like beats” in the opening, for instance, have been around in country music for a long time.

  26. Matt B.
    July 9, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    There IS a difference between a low-fi stream and even a 128 sized mp3. Also once albums stopped being made there’s really no reason for ‘mastering’ once a song is determined to be done for digital distribution because a song gets compressed and the mastering is simply a waste of money.

  27. Jon
    July 9, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    “Also once albums stopped being made there’s really no reason for ‘mastering’ once a song is determined to be done for digital distribution because a song gets compressed and the mastering is simply a waste of money.”

    Whoa, who told you that?!

  28. Nicolas
    July 9, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Yes, I take the song as sort of a better version of “As If” – which is another Sara Evans song I just LOVE to pieces – but its more of a generic song… this song stands out because its directly about her, even though some of it may tread ground thats been done before, but I can picture Sara Evans getting married, and her 7 children running around in her southern mansion as this song is player

    You have to know where she’s coming from, imho, to interpret the song correctly. It’s not just a love song, IT IS HER LOVE SONG! =)

  29. Chris N.
    July 9, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Compression is the devil.

  30. Fadi H.
    July 9, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    I’m not american and so, i’ve only been a country music fan for about year. However, i can surely say that this song sounded a bit desperate to me. I don’t know about her previous songs, but from what i heard in this one she has a lot of vocal potential. It’s so sad she’s wasting it on such an average minus song. Not the kind of song i’d listen to more than once.

  31. Hard Times
    July 9, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Re: the photo.

    It looks like she’s trying to knock over a microphone stand with her chest.

  32. Noeller
    July 9, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Sara and LA Womack give me needs for the same reason(s)…

    …..as per the song, much agreed that it’s an effort to mimic the success of Taylor Swift, which is unfortunate, since we all know that Sara actually has more than a modicum of vocal talent.

    Like hiring a contractor to change your light-bulb, this is a song meant for karaoke singers like TS or Julianne Hough.

  33. Nicolas
    July 9, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    I’m just curious also why it matters that she supposedly auto-tuned some of her vocals in the chorus? Its not like its something new for her, it was pretty common on her No Place That Far album

  34. SteveM.
    July 9, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Can’t stand the song, but anyone married to Jay Barker, the QB of the 1992 Alabama national championship, is ok by me.

  35. Matt B.
    July 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Jon,

    Music producers have said that. Waste of time and money to master something that will never get a physical release.

  36. Razor X
    July 9, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    I’m just curious also why it matters that she supposedly auto-tuned some of her vocals in the chorus? Its not like its something new for her, it was pretty common on her No Place That Far album.

    It matters because some of us would rather listen to a singer who can actually hit all the right notes without having to rely on modern technology to do so. I’m curious to know why some people aren’t bothered by the fact that a lot of “singers” these days can’t actually sing without technological help.

  37. Nicolas
    July 10, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Well we know Sara Evans can sing, so if she does that sometimes its okay with me… its not like she’s dependent on it

  38. Steve Harvey
    July 10, 2009 at 12:36 am

    If she can sing, why does she do it at all? Surely it’s not as if they’re running a shoestring recording budget and have to knock over the vocals in an hour – if she fluffs a note, she can record that bit again.

  39. Nicolas
    July 10, 2009 at 12:42 am

    I don’t know, maybe someone thought it sounded better that way when they were producing it?

  40. Lucas
    July 10, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Auto tune would have killed the sound of Ray Charles.

  41. Rick
    July 10, 2009 at 1:19 am

    A couple years ago I purchased a copy of “Three Chords and the Truth” because Sara said in an interview it didn’t sell well beacuse it was “too country” which made me interested. I found the album quite boring and lackluster and had a friend sell it on eBay, and I didn’t even burn a copy either. My favorite Sara vocal is on the song “The Distance Between You and Me” off the Dwight Yoakam tribute CD “Will Sing For Food”. Sara’s voice sounds absolutley free and unencumbered by thoughts of what a record label might think. It sounds like she might derail but thankfully never jumps the track.

  42. Nicolas
    July 10, 2009 at 3:20 am

    ^ Although I like that album a lot, it is by far my least-favorite of her catalogue…

    “Real Fine Place” is the absolute best by far

  43. Steve Harvey
    July 10, 2009 at 6:16 am

    NICOLAS said:
    I don’t know, maybe someone thought it sounded better that way when they were producing it?
    ————

    If they’d thought it sounded better to have the backup singer sing Evans’ part instead of her, would you have been ok with that? It’s an ethical question. If you’re going to artificially create parts of her performance like that, what makes her singing so damn special?

  44. Jon
    July 10, 2009 at 9:30 am

    I’m still hoping to hear from someone concerned about tuning as to exactly where they hear evidence of it in this cut.

    Matt B., I’d be curious to know in what contexts you heard comments that mastering is a waste of time and money for digital-only releases. Mastering covers a lot of ground, and while one important aspect of typical album mastering – normalizing volume across different tracks on an album – wouldn’t count for anything for a digital single release (or, for that matter, for a physical single release), the notion that mastering is pointless for a digital release, period, just doesn’t make sense.

    Back to tuning… The idea that tuning is only used for singers who “can’t sing,” or that “it’s an ethical question” just doesn’t fly. Where are ethics involved? Is any recording other than a live one “unethical?” That would certainly cover a lot of territory. Tuning doesn’t help someone who’s incapable of singing on pitch; it’s too much effort, and for what pay-off? But selective tuning can be a timesaver and a voice saver, and is sensibly used in a number of situations. And so it’s a lot more widespread (and, when done properly, less perceptible) than y’all seem to think. Even a rootsy guy like Buddy Miller has said:

    “You can sing something that has a lot of soul and that communicates. If it’s a little bit out of tune, I don’t have a problem with tuning.”

  45. nm
    July 10, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Back in the day, the Rolling Stones dealt with the question of different media by choosing the version of a single that would sound best on a car radio. Not that that was the only way they expected a song to be heard, or even the most frequent way; they just thought it was the most important.

  46. nm
    July 10, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I love Buddy Miller, but the way he compresses everything, how could anyone tell if it’s been auto-tuned or not?

  47. Chris N.
    July 10, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Compression is the real enemy.

  48. Jon
    July 10, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Well, severe compression is, and there’s certainly plenty of that going ’round.

  49. nm
    July 10, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I don’t know what it is about “compression is the real enemy” that cracks me up, but it does.

  50. Nicolas
    July 10, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Jon:”I’m still hoping to hear from someone concerned about tuning as to exactly where they hear evidence of it in this cut.”

    Supposedly its the high notes in the chorus, when she goes up for words like “destiny” and “you”.

    I don’t think it sounds auto-tuned, I think it sounds like she tapped into her twang and the sound is a little funny because of the heavy production going on.

  51. Lawrence
    July 10, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I heard Sara sing this new song at one of her concerts last week, and there is no auto tuning whatsoever. She sounded better than the recording! She also played some great new songs that were written with her Brother Matt, and Nathan Chapman. My favorites so far are: ”Anywhere”, and “What that Drink Cost Me”. Sara’s albums always have a good mix of songs so I’m sure she will not disappoint!

  52. Nicolas
    July 10, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    ^ I had a feeling that what people are assuming is auto-tuning actually isn’t

  53. AMR
    July 10, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    While we argue the merits and demerits of technology’s impact on music, in general, Sara is a great talent. I have heard her sing live on radio with just herself and Brent on acoustic guitar, and her pitch is fine. I have seen her live many times and heard some of the pitchy-ness (not often) and, other times, stood two feet from her at the stage and heard her sing live (on pitch) into the mic as it was sent out into the auditorium. I don’t care if she is auto-tuned or sings traditional country or “country now.” I accept her who she is. As far as the new single, I say, “go for it.” If it brings her new fans and opportunities to teach these newbies a “lesson,” then deal me in.

  54. Nicolas
    July 14, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    From the review: “2006 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year’s singing chops”

    What does this have to do with Carrie Underwood?

  55. Nicolas
    July 14, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I looked into it, and I think you might’ve meant 2005 ACM Female Vocalist of the Year

  56. Aunt Pam
    July 15, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Meanwhile: Beautiful a cappella rendition of “God Bless America” by Sara tonight at the MLB All-Star Game.

  57. Sri
    July 15, 2009 at 12:11 am

    As mentioned in Sara Evans on MySpace, she is a study in contrasts a smooth-skinned looker hailed by People magazine as one of the world’s most beautiful people, yet one who still embraces the values of her small town Missouri upbringing. The Academy of Country Music’s reining Top Female Vocalist and a Platinum-selling recording artist who is a deeply spiritual woman with an occasionally bawdy sense of humor.

    Accompanying her personal dichotomies, Evans’ recording career has traveled a wide course: She was hailed as a country traditionalist when she made her recording debut in 1997 but freely explored pop and rock influences in her ensuing albums. She clearly knew what she was doing: Her Born To Fly CD earned an Album of the Year nomination from the Country Music Association, and her Restless project garnered a similar nod from the Academy of Country Music.

    If you are interested more I started collecting all the information or sites related to Sara Evans. Check out the below link to know all about Sara Evans.
    http://markthispage.blogspot.com/2009/07/complete-update-on-sara-evans-new.html

  58. Cardsgal
    July 15, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I can’t believe this woman still has a record deal -her voice is like nails on a blackboard.

  59. Chizzie
    August 9, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    This song is AWESOME!!!! Karlie ( and rest of you) that hate this song, can goback, to istening to overated Taylor and Keith Urban. Those two can only wish to be as good as Sara is.

  60. Stormy
    August 10, 2009 at 6:42 am

    But the country music world is not limited to Keith Urban, Taylor Swift and Sarah Evans.

  61. Paul W Dennis
    August 10, 2009 at 8:44 am

    PWD’s rule of thumb – anyone who uses the word “Awesome” to describe a singer or a song (or fashion, a movie, a novel, etc) is clueless and can be safely ignored

  62. Lee
    August 12, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I am going to laugh at all of your negative comments when this song becomes a hit song. It isn’t a bad song just because the few of you say it is. It won’t go down as her best song, but for right now, it’s a good song. I love how people are so quick to judge. People love to be negative, don’t they? I would love to see any of you make a better song. What a joke-

  63. Chance
    October 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    I Hope She’s The Next Person Invited To Become A Member Of The Grand Ole Opry, Because In My Opinion It’s WAY Past Time

  64. Vicki
    October 7, 2009 at 6:14 am

    most definitely, she’s earned it!

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