Monday, May 30, 2011

Kellie Pickler, "Tough"

Songwriter:  Leslie Satcher

The buzz about Kellie Pickler's new album is that it will closely reflect the sounds of the traditional country music that she cherishes most.  That's right, folks.  Nashville's platinum blonde pop-country princess is going neotraditional.

Well, sort of, at least.  Let us not forget that introspective, emotionally-charged song lyrics are as much of a country music tradition as the sweet sounds of the crying fiddle and steel guitar (acknowledging the fact that such traditions seem to have gone by the wayside in recent years).  On a lyrical level, the album's first single "Tough" is not quite as interesting as one might have hoped, especially considering it was penned by talented songwriting veteran Leslie Satcher.  It's basically a standard girl power/ 'rough-around-the edges' anthem.  She sings about how rough and tough she is, thumbs her nose at the "pretty little high-heeled thing[s]," and predictably concludes that Jesus loves her anyway.

But while the lyrics don't exactly pop, the performance does.  Kellie's vocal is restrained in the song's beginning, but she quickly picks up steam, exhuding a confident bravado as she firmly declares that "There ain't nothin' wrong with a woman that's got a little backbone."  Her sentiments are underscored by a banjo plucking away furiously while fiery fiddle riffs rip through the chorus.  A strong drumbeat keeps the song from falling squarely into the 'neotraditional' category, but this is still Kellie's countriest single release by a long shot.  It could still be considered pop-country, but it clearly draws greater influence from the latter component than the former.  "Tough" is unmistakably country music, and it's a pretty cool sounding country record at that.

It would still be nice to see Kellie delve into some deeper lyrical material on her upcoming album.  But as a performance, "Tough" is still strong enough to keep us interested.  It's a capable vehicle to effectively allow Kellie to showcase her infectious personality, charisma, and energy.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)