Kelsea Ballerini - Unapologetically Album Review
Kelsea Ballerini gets personal in her sophomore album Unapologetically and, sticking true to the album title, she isn’t sorry about it. The 12 songs on the album were co-written by Ballerini and sound like they came straight from her diary. Unapologetically is vulnerable, with songs about heartbreak, new-found love, feeling lost in life and growing up.
Country music has changed in the past few years. With the genre being mostly male dominated, 24-year-old Ballerini proves she has a powerful presence and staying power in country music. In 2015, she released her first album The First Time, that produced three number one hits for Ballerini, making her the only female artist in country music history to achieve this milestone. Her first single, “Love Me Like You Mean It,” made her the first female country singer since Carrie Underwood in 2006 to have their debut song become a number one hit. It was a breakthrough that marked her as the most promising new female country singer, filling Taylor Swift’s absence from country music.
Uniquely, Ballerini wanted to make the album a story from the first song to the last. It’s arranged thematically to past events that happened her in life, beginning with the death of love in a painful breakup and ending with finding new and better love. The first track “Graveyard” is about struggling to get over a breakup. She compares the start and end of the relationship to the dash between two dates on a headstone. The song has an eerie sound to it that builds up to a catchy chorus. “Miss Me More” is the perfect breakup anthem with its edgy sound. Ballerini didn't shy away from exploring more of the pop side of country music with this song. The song talks about how she lost herself for a boy who didn’t want her and in the end she missed who she used to be more then she missed the boy.
“Roses” is another song on the album that is more on the pop side of country with its heavy upbeat sound. Even though this song reminisces on past love, she has a more positive outlook in this tune. She released a sound bit of this song a year ago on her Instagram and it immediately became a fan favorite.
Unapologetically may seem like a breakup/love album, but Ballerini also throws in songs about life lessons of growing up. “In Between,” a song she said is “the most honest she’s ever written,” showcases her diversity in songwriting. The song is mostly piano as Ballerini sings with breathy vocals about a woman in between childhood and adulthood. Mixed in the background of the music at the end of the song plays a voicemail from Ballerina's mom.
The title track is the first real love song she’s ever written, penning it just three weeks after meeting her now fiancé Morgan Evans. It’s another song on the album that is more pop than country with its programmed drum beats. The song gives a glimpse of the early stages of a relationship and how it’s turning into something wonderful. Already a beloved song among fans, it’s bound to become her next single and has a strong possibility of having a pop-crossover on radio. “Music” is a new sound for Ballerini. It’s bluesy and soulful and showcases the singers vocals with its variety of different pitches used throughout the chorus. It talks about how life is like a sympathy every time her love interest is around.
Unapologetically is one of the best albums to be released in 2017 by a country singer. More impressively so is that it’s by a female country singer at a time when female country singers being heard on the radio are few and far between. Ballerini has grown up a lot since her first album. You can hear it in her lyrics, her voice and the added production on this album that lacked in her first one. She lets fans into her life in a more personal way than most singer/songwriters would. Her lyrics are relatable and her vocals shine on each track.
All though Ballerini hasn’t reached the success level of some of her peers like Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood, she recognized she is in the in between of it. Unapologetically has a good chance of being the album to give her that push to be the dominate female voice in country music.
Lauren Smith is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Lauren is an on-air personality for Penn State’s web-based CommRadio station. She is also a member of the CommRadio arts department writing music reviews. Lauren attended the Confer Radio Talent Institute in 2016 and was accepted to attend the National Association of Broadcasting Convention in 2016 and 2017. She is also certified by the RAB and the Radio Marketing Professional Program For Radio Sales. She aspired to work as an anchor, reporter or on-air for radio and television. Her dream is to work for a station in Nashville.