Lauren Alaina is one of multiple country artists who broke their way into stardom via American Idol. She was the runner-up on season ten, which was won by fellow country artist Scotty McCreery. Like most country artists who gained fame on a music TV show, it’s been a struggle for her to break out at radio. It’s just an innate problem those not named Carrie Underwood have had to deal with at radio. Alaina released her debut album six years ago and ever since has essentially been grinding away at breaking through before her moment came when her single “Road Less Traveled” got the On The Verge treatment. It was a big moment for Alaina’s career and more importantly is what has allowed her to finally release her sophomore album of the same name. I honestly did not expect much out of Road Less Traveled, even though I’ve always found Lauren Alaina to be a pretty talented artist. Well after giving it many thorough lessons, I shouldn’t have had such low expectations because Alaina pleasantly blew my expectations away with Road Less Traveled.
The album’s opening song “Doin’ Fine” sees Alaina singing about the feelings she experienced as her parents marriage broke down and ended in divorce. While a softer production could have really helped, this is a solid and deceptively deep song. “Three” is one of the most honest songs I’ve heard from a major label country artist in the last few years. Alaina sings of how she has to spend six years on the road to just get played for three minutes on the radio. It doesn’t get anymore honest when describing the life of an artist trying to break out at radio to please their label. Alaina also really showcases her big voice well here. One problem this album has is some of the songs are disingenuous to label country. “Queen of Hearts” is most certainly an example, as it’s loud and lacking any country elements. But as a pop song it’s decent and has a catchy hook. There are a couple of songs that fall into the generic inspiration trap. “My Kinda People” is one of them, as it’s basically a re-skin of “Road Less Traveled.” These songs aren’t necessarily terrible, but just done to death and uninteresting. But then we get to the moments that surprise and straight up impress me. I was most surprised by “Think Outside The Boy.” Based on the title I was expecting something shallow, but it’s quite the opposite. The song is about a woman urging a young woman to not base her life around the boy she’s head over heels for and needs to think about herself because basing your life around one person can lead to heartbreak and disappointment.
Another highlight of Road Less Traveled is “Painting Pillows.” It’s a straight-up heartbreak song about being alone and crying tears into your pillow. This is a modern-day heartbreak country song done right. “Crashin’ The Boys’ Club” is a song I have complicated feelings about. On one hand the production can be annoying and the lyrics are thin. But on the other hand the beat is admittedly catchy and infectious. It’s one of those songs I feel like I should hate, but I just can’t. It’s too fun for me to get grumpy about. The most critically acclaimed song on this album has been “Same Day Different Bottle.” It’s for great reason too because it’s awesome and for me the best on the record. The song is about watching someone destroy their life with alcohol. When you factor in that Alaina based this song off watching her own father go through this, it makes the song even more powerful (kudos to writers Alaina, Caitlyn Smith and Dan Couch). Then you throw in that great pedal steel guitar. It’s simply a phenomenal song. Road Less Traveled concludes with “Pretty.” It’s another song on this album that surprises me with its depth and also sees Alaina incorporating a personal experience. The song is about sending a message to girls that you’re pretty as you are and that skipping meals to get skinnier isn’t the answer. Alaina herself went through an eating disorder, so it’s admirable to see her put this experience into a great song that it can help others in this situation.
Lauren Alaina really surprises me in a great way with Road Less Traveled. I was expecting mostly songs like the album’s title track and there were a few like it on this album. But for the most part this album delivers really good music and at times even great music. I really enjoy the majority of this album and there are multiple songs I would love to see released as singles. I’m still not hopeful radio will take to her, but they should. Alaina reminds me of just how talented she is on this album and I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be one of the best country records from a major label in 2017.
Recommend? – Yes
Album Highlights: Same Day Different Bottle, Pretty, Think Outside The Boy, Painting Pillows, Three, Doin’ Fine
Bad Songs: None
Wallpaper: Holding The Other, Queen of Hearts