Review: @LadyAntebellum Flies High on “747”

When Lady Antebellum released their last album Golden, they seemed to rest on their laurels, and the album proved lackluster. For 747, however, the trio took a different approach, enlisting a new producer, Nathan Chapman, and seeking inspiration both inside and outside of country music. Those outside influences are evident on the album’s funkier tracks like “Freestyle” and “Bartender.” However, despite a clearly cognizant shift towards uptempo tracks on 747, the band continues to soar high on their harmonic and impassioned anthems such as the title track “747” and “One Good Mystery.”

Speaking to Billboard, Charles Kelley opened up about the new sound that the trio worked to achieve on this album. “We wanted to sound a lot bigger and a little more in your face than records in the past. We went out of our way to make sure that we found songs that had a lot more drive and energy to them. We really wanted to find songs that would translate to the live show like ‘Freestyle’ and ‘Bartender,’ so that’s how we approached this record.”

While the shift towards uptempo tracks on 747 is clearly intentional, it never comes across contrived. The tracks are each diverse, fresh and driving, a spirit and energy remnant of Lady A’s early (and arguably best) work like “Love Don’t Live Here.” Six of the album’s eleven tracks were co-written by Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott. They were joined by some of Nashville’s hottest songwriters including Josh Kear of “Need You Now” fame, Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird, Gordie Sampson and Shane McAnally.

While the album is a strong offering from the group, there are certainly standouts. There’s “Long Stretch of Love, ” a track the trio has been previewing on the road. It’s a driving and rocking country anthem with single written all over it. There’s the funky hip-hop inspired “Freestyle,” which namedrops everything from Macklemore to McConaughey and proclaims that the trio is going a little “wild and freestyle.” There’s also “Down South,” an unapologetically country pop dirge celebrating everything appealing about living below the Mason-Dixon Line.

While Lady Antebellum may have gotten their groove back on this record, they don’t lose any shine on their mid-tempos and ballads, Kelley and Scott effortlessly trading lead on songs like “One Good Mystery” and “Lie With Me.” While the latter is all about enjoying one last night with a lover on the way out the door (“Make me believe you’re not already gone.”), the former tells of a couple in much happier times. “There is only one great mystery and I keep searching for the answer desperately,” they sing with Scott on lead. “Tell me, tell me baby, tell me please, what did I ever do to make you fall for me?”

The album’s title track “747” is a clear high point of the album, opening with a Coldplay-esque piano intro before segueing into a full-fledged Lady Antebellum anthem in the vein of “Hello World.” Speaking about the album, Hillary Scott opened up about the song and the decision to name the album after it. “We unanimously knew that our album title had to be 747,” said Scott. “The track itself has this pushing, driving spirit about it that sums up our attitude right now. We are pushing ourselves as a band and as songwriters…taking ourselves out of our comfort zone and not taking ourselves too seriously. There’s an urgency and an energy to it that we’ve never released before.”

The album slows down a bit in its second half, but doesn’t lose any momentum. There’s the romantic “She Is,” written and originally recorded by Nashville singer-songwriter Ben Rector. The track is followed by “Damn You Seventeen,” a piano-driven ode to lost young love. The album closes with the McAnally-penned “Just a Girl,” a banjo-riddled track about a girl who’s sick of being second best. “Now I know I’m just another one of your Friday nights,” Scott scowls. “But I’m no pastime, this is gonna be the last time, just a call when there’s nowhere else to fall, just a number on your wall in a pretty dress and curls, to you I’m just a girl..” It’s very much a bookend to “Bartender,” but rather than drinking the jerk away, it’s time to confront him and move on.

While Lady Antebellum have proved themselves a force to be reckoned with since their enormous 2008 debut, at times they’ve struggled to top their previous successes. That’s no longer the case on this album, and the trio should be applauded for taking risks and stretching their own sound. It’s great to finally see them turn off the autopilot and truly soar again on 747.

Listen to Lady Antebellum get funky on “Freestyle” here!

Follow me on Twitter @NicolePiering and let me know if you have any questions or comments!

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Author: Nicole

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