Kelsea Ballerini is one of a handful of female artists that have managed to make a significant impact on the Country music charts in the past couple of years. The rising singer-songwriter scored three back-to-back number one hits – Love Me Like You Mean It, Dibs and Peter Pan – and narrowly missed out on her fourth with Yeah Boy. Her debut album The First Time peaked at number 4 and she’s been building quite the international buzz over the past year. Two years on from The First Time, Ballerini has just released her second album Unapologetically.
The notorious difficult second album syndrome seems to have bypassed Ballerini as Unapologetically is a huge leap forward for her. More mature than its predecessor with an eye firmly on crossover potential, Unapologetically maintains the Country heart of Ballerini’s previous album but with a stronger pop and radio edge. Lead single Legends was a bit of an odd choice to pave the way to the album as it’s not as instant as previous singles but it does present an artist that has grown a lot since she debuted on the scene.
Unapologetically opens with the subtle but catch Graveyard, which is a surprisingly low-key moment compared to the uptempo XO that kicked off The First Time. Make no mistake though, the song quickly seeps into your consciousness as Ballerini incorporates an R&B light styling into her vocal delivery as she tells a prospective lover to focus his attentions on someone else.
The album really kicks into gear with Miss Me More, a song that transforms from a down and dirty groove to an EDM-tinged chorus. Lyrically the song explores the aftermath of breaking up with someone and realising you’d lost a part of yourself during the relationship. It’s the kind of message that Ballerini’s fans will be able to relate to.
For much of the album Ballerini focuses on the various aspects of falling in and out of love, growing up and being empowered as a young woman with a bright career ahead of her. The beat-laden mid-tempo number Get Over Yourself is bold moment of moving on, High School laments coming of age as you transition from teenager to young adult, and title track Unapologetically is a euphoric expression of happiness and love.
The standout moment on the record is I Hate Love Songs. It has a nice throwback quality to it and shows a completely different side to Ballerini. She sings of hating everything about the clichés of love but admits that she is in love herself. It’s a sweet moment on the record and turns the conventional love song on its head. Another highlight is the atmospheric Music, which marries a driving beat with Ballerini’s falsetto vocals to a lovely affect.
Unapologetically shows huge progression for Ballerini. She’s more confident and she takes more chances across the album’s 12 tracks. The album positions her for the next stage of success and should easily eclipse the impressive success she achieved with her debut. With the right singles and plenty of promotion, Ballerini could be the next crossover artist from the Country genre. I can’t wait to see her perform the record live when she returns to the UK for C2C: Country to Country in 2018.
Track list: 1. Graveyard 2. Miss Me More 3. Get Over Yourself 4. Roses 5. Machine Heart 6. In Between 7. High School 8. End of the World 9. I Hate Love Songs 10. Unapologetically 11. Music 12. Legends Record label: Sony Music Release date: 3rd November 2017