A few words to describe this album right off the bat would be: honest, yet gentle.
Kelsea’s second album is a strong declaration of herself, as befitting of the title. Yet, it is strong and honest not in a blunt or in your face way, but in a confident and soft tone that truly comes across as comfort in her own words and assertion of herself.
An important aspect to talk about with this album is that it is an honest introspective that doesn’t make her out to fulfill the antiquated “I’m not like other girls, so therefore I’m special” stereotype. Rather, it is an assertion as an individual about knowing themselves and communicating that effectively with others. It does not villainize others different from her due to their differences, but celebrates and explains what makes her, her.
The album begins fittingly with the song “Overshare,” immediately addressing her issues with social anxiety, expectations, and how she, well, often overshares in an attempt to make up a perceived gap in a conversation when silence arises. This is a strong declaration and admission to make, especially on the first song of an album, but it could not be more fitting. “Overshare” is in fact, oversharing, portraying itself perfectly Kelsea herself has said that she thinks a lot about the first songs on an album and that overshare only felt fitting as a true introduction to her and the album.
Kelsea focuses heavily on the concepts of growing up and maturing through experience and introspection as well as appreciating what she has. The album has plenty of snappy beats to accompany her catchy choruses, but also provides a softer feel to the melodies, giving an almost pastel color texture to the overall album as she addresses these issues.
Songs such as “Needy and Club” truly address an element of self-realization in maturity as Kelsea exclaims in the latter song her not desiring to go to clubs and why. She sings at the end of the chorus “Say I’m never doin’ that again if I don’t have to, And I don’t have to go to the club.” Her declaration of choosing herself first, a struggle many young adults might relate to, especially at a time in their lives so often defined by social interaction and experiences.
“Half of My Hometown” is a heart-wrenching ballad about the reality of what it is like to live in rural, especially small, rural towns. Coming from an extremely small rural town in Tennessee, this reviewer recognizes firsthand the realities mentioned in this song and can verify them. It showcases a nostalgic and yet truthful look at what happens to younger generations as they grow up in an environment very centered on tradition, but unable to escape the winds of change. While half of the town remains in tradition, others move on, and others bring change back with them. It is the both the continuous dichotomy of the evolution and tradition of town which make people nostalgic for what they know, yet hungry for more outside their sphere. Ballerini nails the reality for some of the never-ending search for something the town can’t provide, while also providing everything for others.
On another note, the song “Bragger,” is a fun, upbeat song Kelsea wrote inspired by her husband Morgan Evans, a fellow country artist. At the core, it’s simply a song about how hot and wonderful her man is, how proud she is of him, and furthermore, why she loves to show him off. A small detail I appreciate in the song is the move to not villainize those who want her man, instead saying she understands and doesn’t blame them, a sign of security and comfort in the relationship: “I understand why you would want him (I don’t mind)” The chorus is easy and fun to dance to with a quick tempo swaying confidently along to her words. “Bragger” is a welcome bop of confidence which can quickly turn into an earworm if the listener isn’t careful.
Finally, the ending song, “LA,” is another insightful ballad which Kelsea says she wrote on the floor of a hotel room in LA. The song discusses, as she states blatantly, her “love and hate relationship with LA”. This song follows her as she deeply soul-searches for meaning through her location and what benefits it provides, if any at all. Her retrospective look at the good and the bad accompanies her feelings of possible guilt, or rather homesickness, towards leaving her home in Tennessee. She sings “But if I let down my hair in the ocean air will Tennessee be mad at me?” “LA” really delves into a dilemma people face when going somewhere else outside of home to find themselves, finding they don’t perfectly fit in, but yet still finding positives in the experience and wondering if the quasi-home betrays their old home. In my opinion, the most powerful lyric on this album lies within this song,”Does it feed my soul or my anxiety?” An extremely important and prevalent question for anyone doing introspection addressing their actions, hobbies, locations, and more. Kelsea’s ability to confront herself with this question, especially at the end of such a personal album full of reflection and growing, leaves the listener with questions of their own about themselves.
Overall, Kelsea by Kelsea Ballerini is a pretty and intuitive album full of personal assertions and questions which listeners will often be able to relate with, or be sympathetic to. Kelsea showcases her talent for being a genuine person, but also for writing sharply perceptive lyrics and melodies. Kelsea’s soft, yet powerfully honest touch is welcome in the world of music, and if you get a chance to listen to this album, I highly recommend listening to the piece all the way through for a delightful experience.