Antebellum carries swooning sound

Matt Busekroos

Step aside Taylor Swift because the members of Lady Antebellum are country music’s latest sweethearts with the January release of their sophomore album, “Need You Now.”

Comprised of Charles Kelley (lead and background vocals), Dave Haywood (background vocals, guitar, piano and mandolin) and Hillary Scott (lead and background vocals), the trio’s “Need You Now” sold 481,000 copies in its first week. The album is nearing double platinum and remains one of the best-selling albums of the year thus far.

Lady Antebellum first gained traction with their self-titled debut album and hit singles “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” and “I Run to You.” The group won new artist awards at both the Academy of Country Music Awards (AMA) and Country Music Awards (CMA) in 2008. Their single “I Run to You” won the CMA for “Single of the Year” at last November’s awards and helped them defeat six-time recipients Rascal Flatts as “Vocal Group of the Year.”

Lady Antebellum continue their streak of good fortune as they head into next month’s ACM Awards with seven nominations, including “Top Vocal Group of the Year,” “Album of the Year,” as well as “Single of the Year” and “Song of the Year” for “Need You Now.”

Lead single “Need You Now” is a slow burn ballad of heartbreak and hope that calls attention to needing someone when they are no longer around. Lyrically, the song is simple, but evokes common feelings of yearning and quiet desperation. Whether we take those couple shots of whiskey hoping that person will come sweeping through the door or wondering if we cross their minds just as they do ours, Lady Antebellum knows their audience. The success of “Need You Now” is apparent as it’s played on multiple radio formats, including country and pop. The tune is even remixed on some rhythmic stations.

The rest of the album is a perfect concoction of country and pop that could satisfy any detractor of country music. In general, country music is often stereotyped as just meaningless lyrics about honky tonks and “badonkadonks,” but artists like Lady Antebellum are helping re-define country at its core through their storytelling.

Current single “American Honey” is the perfect follow-up to “Need You Now.” While it will not cross over the way “Need You Now” has, “American Honey” is a warm song as winter’s chill passes and the feeling of renewal as spring enters. The lyrics call for going back in time to get the girl back; however, the production still feels bright and sounds fresh on radio as the months become warmer.

“Hello World,” “When You Got a Good Thing,” “Stars Tonight” and “If I Knew Then” make up a significant portion of the album. Any of these specific songs would make strong singles.

The final track on the album, “Ready to Love Again” could very well find similar success to “Need You Now” on multiple radio formats if released. The delicate lyrics and exquisite production cap off an album that promises to be one of the group’s finer achievements.

Photo credit: True Country TV