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Junk Mail: Lady Antebellum '747' Album Review

by Carolyn Menyes   Oct 1, 2014 15:57 PM EDT

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Welcome to Junk Mail, where a few Music Times staffers email back-and-forth about each week's biggest release throughout the work day. This week, Carolyn Menyes, Kyle Dowling and Caitlin Carter chat about Lady Antebellum's new album 747. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section, and check back next week for more.

Carolyn Menyes: Welcome to our first country music junk mail! Oh man.

I feel like there are two elephants in the room, of different varieties. One, can Lady Antebellum ever live up to the music brilliance of its breakthrough single "Need You Now?" Two, do either of you guys listen to country in your spare time? I feel like I may be the only one, but I tend to prefer roots country and Americana over the more mainstream stuff. Though, once again, Lady Antebellum can achieve massive musical brilliance.

Kyle Dowling: Let me first say congrats to Lady Antebellum for being the first ever country music junk mail on Music Times! I am sure they're thrilled. And if they're not ... well, we're still going to talk about it.

To answer your question: no, I don't listen to mainstream country music. Honestly, I don't really understand the huge takeover that the genre has succeeded in over the last couple of years, BUT I will admit that there's something charming about it. Today's country music seems all about the simplicities of life, which I dig but can't seem to follow myself. So, why don't I listen to more of it? I don't know.

BUT (again with the caps, which means I'm leading to something here), I found this record enjoyable for the most part. Some of the tunes were more likable for me than others, of course, but overall I think 747 is a pretty solid record that fans will enjoy.

Caitlin Carter: To answer your question Carolyn, I don't really listen to mainstream country in my personal life. I tend, like you, to prefer the roots, Americana, bluegrass side of the country spectrum. As far as Lady Antebellum, I think 747 was well written and produced. I can totally see why people dig these guys, even if it's not my go-to music. I appreciate that they talk about more than just the generic beer, whiskey, 'murrica, tractors and "my woman." The songwriting reminds me a lot of Taylor Swift's lyrics -- personal but universal.

CM: That's a great point, Caitlin. A lot of country to me gets a little to bro-y. I don't know how many Florida Georgia Line songs I need about partying... but the answer is not a solid dozen. Bro country is a real problem, and Lady Antebellum are actually a nice anecdote.

The songwriting is really beautiful here... you have the lead single "Bartender," which admittedly is about drinking but it's more about forgetting the pain of yesterday. And maybe I'm slightly homesick, but the theme of always going back to your roots to rediscover yourself in "Down South" really struck me... and I'm definitely a Northerner. "Damn You Seventeen" has a similar reflective tone that I can really connect to.

KD: I agree - I want nothing to do with the type of country music you're talking about. Songs about tractors, ice cold beer and fried chicken quickly earn themselves the "skip" button on my radio... when I listen to the radio, of course. I like something with some sort of emotion and feel to it. 747 does just that.

I'll admit that "Damn You Seventeen" is very striking. Honestly, much of the album does that for me. For some reason, the one that hit home was "747" - I like the lyrics in it. They paint a really great picture.

CC: I thought that "Bartender" was a little cheesy, but better than other odes to drinking away your sorrows. Even though that appears to be their most-streamed song on Spotify right now, it just wasn't for me. Same for "Freestyle," though I enjoyed the little pop cultures references they made about Macklemore and Matthew McConaughey.

As far as what I liked: "Down South" and "747" were my favorites. "Damn You Seventeen" was probably the song that made me make the earlier Taylor Swift comparison, solid track. The guitar on "One Great Mystery" reminded me a lot of John Mayer for some reason, but I liked it as well.

CM:  "Freestyle" drove me crazy... I cannot believe it's the next single on this beautiful album. Like, why is a country song talking about Macklemore? Like, really? Maybe I'm a purist, but couldn't they at least listen to some sort of fellow Southern act? Blergh. I got similar vibes from the bonus track "Slow Rollin'" just wasn't for me.

"747" really is grandiose. It has a great blend of the country ballad, but that guitar solo is pretty pure rock 'n' roll. Like, it SHREDS. I read in an interview somewhere, I think it was Billboard, where the band said they chose that song as the title track because it was the one that really pushed them as songwriters, and I really get that. It's different from everything else on the album, but it still blends in well enough. Definitely another standout track.

KD: Oh yes... everything about "Freestyle" can go to hell. The very start, "We gon' do this thing? Well come on then!" NO THANK YOU! The guitar riff... no. "River road, Chevy van, share a classic Coke" ... no, no, no.

And to be honest, not a big fan of "Bartender" either. To agree with Caitlin, it's a bit cheesy to me.

I'm glad to read what you noted about "747." I'd say it worked out for them. I'm hopeful that the band can one day write more tracks like that because there's something to it. I wonder why it was that track that pushed them as songwriters.

CC: I think Lady Antebellum does a great job pushing the boundaries of the genre. They still fall into some of the classic country tropes from time to time, but at least they're offering more than just that. I'm not that familiar with their debut album, how do you guys think 747 compares?

CM: I'm not hyper familiar with Lady Antebellum beyond the album Need You Now, but I can say that this is much better produced. I mean, just listening to it, you can tell that 747 isn't just a country album. It's really very rich, like a buttercream frosting. And that's what makes it work.

It's why songs like "Freestyle" flop so hard in comparison. If a lot of other country acts dropped that song, it would be whatever. But Lady Antebellum have proved again and again that its capable of so much better. And this is a good thing. When you have stunning, personal lyrics and these glorious harmonies, why would you want to sing about partying down by the creek? It's just a waste, really.

KD: I can't speak to their past material but I can definitely say I didn't hate 747. I think the album is really solid (with the exception of that clunker "Freestyle"). I'd be curious what their diehard fans think about the album. 

CC: So fun little fact: the guy behind a bunch of Taylor Swift hits, Nathan Chapman, produced the album. That's probably why I'm feeling those T.Swift vibes. 

KD: Oh boy... Music Times is on to you, Lady Antebellum! Kidding, I liked your record.

CM: Look at you with your research! Haha. That actually makes a ton of sense. 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

CM: This record was really rich, sans the few bro-country songs, which I'm going to project and say the label insisted on for singles. I think 747 has some beautiful country music. It's not quite the roots country music that I listen to in my spare time and I don't know honestly how much I'm going to return to this album in the coming months, but for today, I am happy.

KD: Well said! 747 is, indeed, a beautiful album... despite a couple of clunkers. But the ones that are good, are good! I think country music fans will be absolutely delighted by this album.  

CC: I enjoyed the album as well. I don't see myself likely coming back to it, as it's not really my thing, but I think they delivered a great album for their fans. 

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