Sugarland – “Tonight”
Songwriters: Jennifer Nettles, Kristian Bush and Kevin Griffin
This is where the machine needs a little more oil. On the third single from The Incredible Machine, Sugarland trades bare emotional honesty for bad inspirational goop that hardly satisfies those who look to the duo for their humorous and heartfelt recordings.
“Tonight” centers on one of country music’s most reliable subjects: unrequited love. There’s such promise in hearing Jennifer Nettles’ declaration of devotion in the opening lines (“If words could make it real/I’d tell you how I feel”) that what follows is a disappointment. Only rarely does she fully describe the pain of being separated from her beloved: “A lifetime for a day would be an even trade,” she sings in one passage. An odd admission, but one that might begin to divulge her devastation.
“Tonight,” with its mix of weighty emotions, is consistently dull in content. The repeated uttering of the title line, each more impassioned than the other, grows grating as the song ticks past the two-minute mark. On 2008′s Love on the Inside, Sugarland also employed a number of sparsely-worded choruses based on emotion rather than poetry. The effect makes “Tonight” feel unfocused, without an anchor.
Even Nettles, one of the most capable singers in the genre, gives a below-par performance. Surrounded by the intense arrangement, she feels smothered and made to sing above the noise. The drum sections here are sterile, and lend an anonymous quality to the recording. The elongated vowels and gentle sighs of Nettles’ twang have always been her hallmarks as a song stylist; now she forgoes finesse and grace for powerful fury.
As the duo (Kristian Bush is largely absent from “Tonight”) progresses through this album cycle, country fans can catch up to their dizzying array of musical tricks. “I’m waiting for, waiting for you,” Nettles begs on more than one occasion. She could be singing as much to her audience as to her man. The response might not be what she was wishing for.
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