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Lauren Alaina – ‘Unlocked’ EP review

Grand Ole Opry member and new Big Loud Records powerhouse Lauren Alaina is unlocking a new era, releasing her debut EP with the label on June 9, 2023. The six-song set fittingly titled ‘Unlocked’ reintroduces the multi-faceted star, stripping back every layer and allowing fans to know her more than ever before.

Alaina has earned three chart-topping hits in her career to date: ‘Road Less Traveled, ‘What Ifs” with her childhood friend Kane Brown and ‘ONE BEER’ with labelmate HARDY + Devin Dawson. This Georgia-born force of nature has had a quiet couple of years since her 2021 release ‘Sitting Pretty on Top of the World’ and has gone through professional and personal change and evolution in that time too, leading her to now, in 2023 with a fresh start and a new fire inside.

What is clear from just one listen to ‘Unlocked’ is that Big Loud and uber-producer Joey Moi have got the reckoning of Lauren Alaina: they know what her strengths are and what she brings to Country music, which in the past has been bombastic anthems like ‘Road Less Travelled’, tender ballads like ‘Getting Good’ and fiery, fierce female-first empowerment messages like ‘Ladies in the 90s’. You will find all of that and more scattered across the six songs on offer on this new EP.

If it’s the powerful, bombastic side of Lauren Alaina that you like then check out ‘A Walk in the Bar’ and ‘Smaller the Town’. The former, a very clever play on words around the phrase ‘A walk in the park’, is a post breakup recovery song with Alaina doing what she does best – strong vocals, fiery, empowering lyrics and the sort of huge chorus that makes you want to drink, dance and pump your fist in the air. ‘I’m gonna make moving on look so easy,’ she states, augmented by a good dollop of Joey Moi muscle. ‘Smaller the Town’, meanwhile, is one of a number of songs on ‘Unlocked’ that deal with people’s opinions and perceptions in this very harsh and open modern world, something that has clearly weighed on Lauren Alaina’s mind these past few years. ‘I can’t think of a better place for a good old girl to be raised up but it ain’t where you wanna be going through a break up,’ Alaina sings, confined by the claustrophobic nature of small town America where everybody knows everyone else’s business. It’s a catchy Pop-Country song that deals with a very familiar subject in a fresh and interesting way.

If it’s the funky, ‘Ladies in the 90s’ side of Lauren Alaina’s music you like you’ll find that served here on ‘Hangovers’ and ‘Like Her’. ‘Hangovers’ is a funky, mid-tempo song with a Bluesy cadence that showcases the lush nature of Alaina’s vocals as she wishes that ‘heart aches were like hangovers…..I could hurt like hell and be better by noon.’ ‘Like Her’, meanwhile, is another look at female relationships from a different perspective (for more of that, wait till I tell you about ‘Don’t Judge a Woman’ in the paragraph below) as Alaina bumps into her ex or her crushes’ new girl in a bar and admonishes herself for really liking her. Clever, clever, clever. ‘If it weren’t for you,’ Alaina says to the guy in the story, ‘we’d be friends.’ It’s another catchy, intelligent song that takes a tried and tested ‘bumping into the new girl’ narrative and twists it by putting a fresh, original spin on the story which elevates the song above the usual run-of-the-mill tales of similar happenings.

There are two songs on ‘Unlocked’, however, that will get the tongues wagging and bring all sorts of attention to Lauren Alaina in this next phase of her career. ‘Don’t Judge a Woman’ is a deep, fascinating and intriguing ballad that must be up there amongst the best songs she has ever recorded. The narrative is a fresh, unique one: don’t judge a woman by the company of the men she keeps and the decisions she makes because of them. ‘Don’t judge a mother who stays in it for the kids,’ she urges. ‘Maybe he’s a phase, maybe he’s a rebound…..you ain’t in the heels she’s walking in.’ Plaintive guitars and a lush cadence to the melodies all combine with Alaina’s rich vocals to produce a truly stunning, impactful song that might well fly up the charts and into the consciousness of those who matter come awards season with the right push and some heavy promo. The other song that will send eyes Alaina’s way in this ‘Unlocked’ phase is ‘Thicc as Thieves’. Yep, I spelt that right, despite multiple attempts at auto correct from the damn machine I’m writing this on! ‘….Thieves’ finds Alaina at her bombastic best, celebrating woman’s body positivity alongside the ubiquitous Lainey Wilson. Built on a funky, southern guitar riff with a hint of The B52s to it, ‘Thicc as Thieves’ finds both singers ‘stealing hearts in their jeans’ and during the course of the song they also explain how they manage to squeeze, wriggle and jump into said jeans with both humour, honesty and a great deal of melody! A burst of Luke Bryan’s ‘Country Girl (Shake it For Me)’ in the final third gets the Georgia boy a writing credit and the song plays out with Wilson and Alaina riffing about each other’s backsides in a way that will put a huge smile on your face!

‘Unlocked’ is both classic Lauren Alaina and a breath of fresh air too. There’s a wisdom and a maturity to some of the subject matter here that can only come from living a life well travelled. (see what I nearly did there?) A narrative thread of empowerment and of celebrating female friendship and strength binds the EP together in a loose concept that works really well and as a singer, this powerhouse vocalist has never sounded as good as she does now. If ‘Unlocked’ is the start of a new phase in Alaina’s career I think this partnership with Big Loud will be incredibly beneficial to both parties as the benefit of life experience and wisdom has helped evolve a different facet and side to Lauren Alaina’s songwriting and style. It’s good to have her back and firing on all cylinders. Can’t wait to see the fruits of this partnership in the months and years to come.

Tracklist: 1. A Walk in a Bar 2. Hangovers 3. Don’t Judge a Woman 4. Like Her 5. Smaller the Town 6. Thicc as Thieves Record Label: Big Loud Release Date: June 9th Buy ‘Unlocked’ now

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Grand Ole Opry member and new Big Loud Records powerhouse Lauren Alaina is unlocking a new era, releasing her debut EP with the label on June 9, 2023. The six-song set fittingly titled 'Unlocked' reintroduces the multi-faceted star, stripping back every layer and allowing fans to...Lauren Alaina - 'Unlocked' EP review