Welcome to The Singles Bar, a review series focused on new single and song releases.
Imagine a world without Little Big Town. Go ahead. Imagine it. I’ll wait.
Pretty bleak, isn’t it?
They’ve certainly veered into straight-up pop-country on their most recent records–including the sunny ’70s-vibes of The Breaker, named one of the best albums of 2017 (so far) by B-Sides & Badlands‘ writer Dylan Charles. But that doesn’t make it inherently bad or unlistenable. When pop-country is masterfully and tastefully done, as this harmonious quartet nearly always do, then it warrants credit for upholding the past and directing the future. “When Someone Stops Loving You” (out now) mixes the tenderness of a Vince Gill ballad with the wallop of Reba, while unstoppably tipping their hats to such groups as The Oak Ridge Boys. Their sharply-dressed harmonies serve as support for Jim Westbrook, who often doesn’t get a chance to shine as lead vocalist as much as we’d like. You forget just how raw and passionate his phrasing and delivery really are. Sure, he makes a fine background singer, but when he steps up to the mic, you stop in your tracks.
Written by Hillary Lindsey, Charles McGill, Chase McGill, Lori McKenna, and Richard McGill, the swirling waltz is a magical, ghost-like visitation into heartbreak. “Still gotta walk into a crowded room with the radio on. Crack a smile and crack a beer like it don’t bother you, like it ain’t your song that’s on,” Westbrook opens. “Still gotta cross the bridge to get to work, the one by her place. Make it through the nine to five like you don’t hurt. It goes that way.” But when the chorus kicks in, you can’t help but let your heart bleed out profusely. “When someone stops loving you, it don’t make the evening news,” he sobs, sliding up on the end of the line which ultimately pummels home the pain throbbing in his chest.
“It don’t keep the sun from rising, the clock from winding, your heart from beating, even when you want it to, when someone stops loving you…,” he continues.
Coming off the massive “Better Man” and the under-appreciated “Happy People” (which failed to make a dent at radio), it’s a risk to go for another downtempo song. But they pull it off, marvelously. The song feels timeless but wholly modern and fresh–and given the state of terrestrial radio these days, that’s all you can ask for. Rarely does this band sacrifice quality for commercial appeal–“Day Drinking” and “Pontoon,” excluded–and it’s satisfying to see LBT continue to have such massive mainstream success despite it all.
Grade: 4 out of 5