Steel Magnolia – “Just By Being You (Halo and Wings)”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | July 23rd, 2010

Steel MagnoliaSongwriters: Britton Cameron and Patricia Conroy

With a name like Steel Magnolia, it’s easy to wonder if Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott also have affinities for the Dukes of Hazzard, Designing Women or any other stereotypically Southern television show or movie.

The clichés continue on the duo’s latest single, “Just By Being You (Halo and Wings),” from their upcoming self-titled debut. There’s no shortage of heavy-handed, Lifetime Movie sentiment in the tune’s tit-for-tat declarations of love: Lyrics such as “You’ll always be my angel no matter what you do/’Cause you take me to heaven just by being you” attempt to tug at heart strings by awkwardly contrasting comparisons connected to angels, halos and wings with passionate vocal deliveries.

However, despite its bloated title and trademark Hallmark inspiration, occasional moments of refinement and emotion save the song from automatic relegation to the power-balled discount bin. Lest the lust seem tampered by cheesy lyrics, Linsey and Scott’s bluesy vocal chemistry enjoys a Tim and Faith boost from the pair’s real-life romance. It’s a tight race between the pair and the song’s longing steel guitar for the title of most soulful element of the song, resulting in a rare balancing act of schmaltz and sincerity.

Unfortunately, the spotlight on the singers’ vocal chops is drowned out halfway through the song, when producer Dann Huff, who has worked with Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, apparently decides to drive home the song’s power-ballad status. Opening strains of guitar that allow the pair to trudge above the song’s lyrical dead weight are replaced with sweeping string movements that put its lovey-dovey cheesiness over the top.

Does “Just By Being You (Halo and Wings)” have that critical sophomore single staying power? When placed beside Lady Antebellum–who, for all intents and purposes, is country music’s current reigning “duo”–and its far superior song catalog, it becomes painfully obvious the pair should put its edgier eggs in a more soulful basket.

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  1. Ben Foster
    July 23, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Great review. I think Steel Magnolia has a lot of talent, but their material is a long way from catching up with it.

  2. Thomas
    July 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

    …they are a very talented example of today’s young pop-country. barely any country but lots of pop. i like their voices more than their songs, which i don’t dislike at all. this one is no exception.

  3. grumpiestoldman
    July 23, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Severely off topic, but the local station just played the new Sugarland…..ick, what a piece of trash.

  4. Benny
    July 23, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Spot on review except I disagree with the last paragraph, Lady Antebellum aren’t that superior, they have one great song with “Need You Now” but otherwise their style is very bland and not much soulful with the same cliché lyrics about “open highways” etc. I think Steel Magnolia have more passionate vocals, but they need better songs indeed.

  5. Matt Bjorke
    July 23, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Dann Huff never produced Carey or Celine, so why drive home that he worked with them? Producing Lonestar and Rascal Flatts would’ve done the same thing.

  6. Karlie Justus
    July 23, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Matt – I just mentioned Huff’s experience working with the Queens of Power Ballads because the label is billing this as such.

  7. Michael A.
    July 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    This review doesn’t inspire me to find this song and give it a listen. It did, however, make me want to seek out some reruns of Designing Women. And for that… I thank you. :)

  8. Nicolas
    July 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    For me, its a step above their debut single, but still rather unremarkable for me

  9. Rick
    July 23, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Just based upon Karlie’s description without even listening to the song, it sounds like a potential AirHead Country radio hit to me! Bombastic production combined with overly sentimental lyrics and powerful “pop-rock hardly country” vocals. I mean what better describes the average song on Top 40 country radio these days? I’ve always preferred artists who write (or co-write) most or all of the songs they perform and these two sure aren’t changing my mind about that…

  10. Kyle
    July 23, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Something kind of rubs me the wrong way about Steel Magnolia. Yes, they’re very good singers, and no, they haven’t released any particularly interesting songs yet. Normally, that would just make me indifferent towards a new country act.

    I think what bothers me is that their complete and total of effort to emulate anything ‘country music’. Lady Antebellum is fairly pop, but there are elements of country to them – at their best, at least, they offer clear, visual lyrics, honest emotional themes, and interesting melodies with a fair amount of minor chords mixed in. You get the sense that they understand and appreciate country music, and are just putting their own modern twist on it.

    I don’t get that same sense from Steel Magnolia. Their sound and songwriting is pure adult pop, with no attempt to involve anything country in it. It doesn’t help that they look like indie rockers from Belmont. Nothing against that crowd, but if you’re going to stamp yourself with the “Country” label and try to capitalize on its cache, at least make SOME effort to know the genre and carry the torch…

  11. WAYNOE
    July 23, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Grumpiest,

    Sugarland is pathetically egotistical and EVERYONE in the music community knows it’s about one person. Them being a duo is like calling Elvis Presley the lead singer for a group. Just does not compute.

  12. K
    July 23, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    “Sugarland is pathetically egotistical and EVERYONE in the music community knows it’s about one person.”

    And you know this because…?

    You can’t prove any act is egotistical just based on assumption, or unless you know them personally.

    “Stuck Like Glue” is by far the most annoying (and trite) song so far this year…Too bad it’s already stuck in my head and I only heard it once.

    Damn you Sugarland…

  13. Jon
    July 24, 2010 at 7:58 am

    I always enjoy the way that Waynoe intimates that he’s part of “the music community.” I’m guessing that he’s part of the music community the same that a newspaper reader is part of the journalistic community.

  14. PaulaW
    July 26, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Love the voices. The song, not so much.

  15. JTopps
    August 10, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Meow! I haven’t read so many catty comments on a blog site ever.

  16. Diane
    August 14, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    I personally love the song, their voices and the video – obviously not a popular opinion but its my honest one.

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