Kelsea Ballerini – “Ballerini” Review

Story posted September 14, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Alina Lebedeva

After a six-month break, country singer and songwriter Kelsea Ballerini surprised the world with her fourth album, “Ballerini.” Ballerini's new album is a transformed version of the singer's previous country-pop album, "Kelsea," that was released in March.

In comparison with the preceding album, new recordings on "Ballerini" seem cleaner and smoother. Soft banjo, guitar and piano accompaniments without too much autotune make the album songs sound genuinely close to the original country sound.

However, this album is not solely an acoustic remake of the prior one. On her Twitter, Ballerini maintains that the latest compositions have “different keys, tempos, melodies, lyrics, production,” and these changes can be easily noted by listeners.

Moreover, in contrast to her previous album, all tracks on “Ballerini” are sung individually, without any featuring performers, which encourages listeners to look at the latest compositions from a different, more self-reflective perspective.

The songs are mainly focused on two topics: self-determination and relationship struggles. Ballerini attempts to find a balance between her old life and the lifestyle that her music career has brought her to. She does not want to give up on her past, but does not want to fully engage with her new life either.

The same applies to her music styles; Ballerini is not entirely a country singer anymore and some of her pop songs are becoming hits. However, it seems like the singer is feeling guilty about it, and she hopes not to lose herself and her unique style in the massive world of pop.

Speaking about the relationship-focused tracks, Ballerini appeals to people just like her to say that she has been through some unpleasant moments such as being cheated on, or yearning for more support and understanding from her significant other.

The opener of “Ballerini,” “Overshare,” talks about personal insecurities that Ballerini found herself dealing with. She opens up to a wide audience saying that “silence makes her scared” and sometimes it is easier for her to talk about private issues than to handle her own thoughts.

However, the catchy, repeated chorus takes listeners’ attention away from the point of the song and makes it sound less intimate.

“Half of my Hometown” symbolizes Ballerini’s conflicted state of mind in her life and career. She states “part of me will always be half of my hometown” meaning that no matter where her life turns next, she will always be loyal to the place where she grew up: Knoxville, Tennessee.

One of the key songs of album, “Kelsea,” that was featured by Halsey, “The Other Girl,” takes on a fairly different sound on the revamped album. While the previous version of the track sounded like two girls were fighting over an unfaithful boy, here the sound becomes more melancholic.
Ballerini makes perfect use of her sing-song tone to navigate listeners through her emotions. The songwriter wonders why she was betrayed, and if she still takes a special place in the heart of her betrayer.

Another meaningful element of “Ballerini” is the track “Love Me Like a Girl,” a letter to Ballerini’s special other. She notes that she is not always treated the way she’d like to be, shown in the lines “I wish you could get inside my head, /Baby, maybe then you’d understand.”

The differences that she has with her husband often lead to conflicts, which is shown in the lyrics “The truth is, me and you, we're wired different, /So it makes sense sometimes we get crossed.” Using her silvery voice, Kelsea points out that these words do not mean that her spouse is not her “whole world,” she just asks for more emotional support at occasional, troublesome moments of her life.

The “Country Song” starts off with the lines “when I need to put my feet back on the ground I go back to my hometown,” once again showing the singer’s attachment to the place where she grew up. Music plays a therapeutic role in the life of the artist and helps her to get through the times “when nothing’s gentle on mind.”

One song that looks a little out of place in comparison with other songs is “hole in the bottle.” It is an upbeat song, and even the stripped-down version does not make it sound less rhythmic and stimulating. For the most part, it’s just a fun, drinking song without any emotional baggage the other songs carry.

The conclusive song on the album, “La,” is the most complicated of the bunch. Here, Ballerini discusses her mixed feelings about life in Los Angeles. She tries to convince herself that she should be happy about the life she finally earned with her work. However, living this life leaves her with lots of questions like “does it feed my soul or my anxiety?”

It feels like Ballerini forces herself to make a choice between two possible scenarios of her future as a person and as a singer.

Overall, Ballerini’s album “Ballerini” gives the impression of a rethought and more personal interpretation of her previous album “Kelsea.” Nevertheless, the songs on the recent album do not overtake their previous versions. But, they supplement them with new meanings and show the other side of the singer’s nature, which makes the album refreshing and compelling even for the listeners who have already heard her previous album.


Rating: 8/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “Overshare”, “Half of my Hometown”, “La.”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Songs: N/A

 

Alina Lebedeva is a freshman majoring in telecommunications. To contact her, email at axl5837@psu.edu .