1. Track List (31)

Just When I Thought I Was Out, Maren Morris Pulls Me Back In With Her Latest Album GIRL

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 10 mins read

In a move that certainly confuses my girlfriend to no end, I’ve developed an incredibly unhealthy obsession with the music of Maren Morris, a love affair that started just a few years ago when I first heard her fantastic contemporary Country Pop jam “80s Mercedes.” At the time, I had just started exploring the newest wave of Country artists who were trying to bring the genre back to its former glory as artists like Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson & Midland defiantly fought back with astounding compositions hearkening to the older drifter tunes of the eighties, giving me hope that my opinion of Country could expand beyond my prior prejudices to give me a new appreciation of modern music. I’d come around to the idea of not feeling embarrassed by my newfound love of the genre, but then Morris came out of the blue with a phenomenal performance on Saturday Night Live that made me absolutely lose my shit, delighting me in ways I really didn’t think Country ever could. This track – along with “My Church” – was so exceptionally crafted, utilizing some of the best recording techniques & compositional structures to make a tune that felt simultaneously anachronistic & futuristic, what with its killer blend of epic Gospel vibes, classic New Wave electronic instrumentation & fiercely driving chord progression which filled my bones with such satisfying warmth I couldn’t put it down for weeks; It certainly didn’t hurt the track at all to have a wonderfully imaginative music video with some eye-catching visuals, aiding the entire piece in showing me that the upcoming generation of young musicians really do have something of value to behold in the face of so many cookie-cutter clones elsewhere in the Pop industry, thus solidifying Morris as an act I’d love to continue following for years to come – Sadly, much of this popularity led to her inevitably partnering up with artists like Zedd for the Dance Pop tune “The Middle,” which by all means is a thrilling Synth Pop number in its own right but seemed to indicate that Morris was taking a sharp left turn from the solid showing she’d produced only a year or two before, essentially signifying that the Pop machine had taken its hold & that we’d never get such inspiring Country Pop tunes from her in the future. Combined with her less-charismatic persona following her shotgun marriage soon after, I’d pretty much written her off from that moment on as another victim of mainstream media, doomed to go down the same route of generic banality the previous Country queen Taylor Swift did once the fame went to her head, but like a shining ray of hope for humanity Maren Morris persevered just long enough to drop yet another top-tier album in 2019 with GIRL, a home-run of a production equal to & even surpassing the magnificence of her last record – If you’re reading this, I doubt you’re not already familiar with how dope this album is, but just in case let’s take a look at some of its high & low points.

Celebration Of The Backwoods Kind

Much of the reason Country has become the unstoppable barrier-crushing force it is today can be directly attributed to the presence of bands like Florida Georgia Line who broke new ground in the early-teens, taking the fading model of Country Pop music & injecting a more urban feel into it that could satisfy listeners of all demographics, due in large part to their systematic shunning of Country’s hick-like twang in favour of party anthems that softened the strong personalities of southerners. As successful as this machine was, the rest of the industry took it a bit too far in the ensuing years, perfecting & watering-down the style so much that the liveliness of the scene was lost entirely as everyone started shelling out the same boring, formulaic numbers year after year, drowning Country Pop once again until it was unrecognizably homogenous to your average mainstream radio Pop tune – That’s where Maren Morris comes in on GIRL, bringing back that overwhelming sense of elation to the genre with her undeniably fun mixes, toeing the line between early-noughties Country Rock, Classic Pop & modern Stadium Rock in the best of ways with songs like “Flavor,” an upbeat & wholesome barnyard jam all about celebrating the beauty of life & love one day at a time. It certainly has elements of the FGL aesthetic, most notably the very strict rhythmic system it employs in the bombastic instrumentation & her reliance on catchy one-liner phrases during the choruses that get stuck in your head for ages, although it switches things up a bit to be much more engaging thanks to an incredibly noisy, full-bodied Country Rock feel that makes the whole track explode with stunning colour, literally assaulting your ears with raunchy Chris Janson-esque Blues-centric guitar riffs that blare out through your speakers over a frenetic hi-hat drum groove whilst Morris sings ever-so-coyly with the slightest hint of raucous feminine sensuality. The following tune “Make Out With Me” finds a similar middle-ground between genres, capturing the rounded-mouth vocal timbre of your traditional Country jam, the uplifting Gospel-influenced chord progressions of a Miranda Lambert joint & the tender salon-style slow dance momentum of a Keith Urban tune, putting you in the shoes of a late-nineties R&B fan’s state of mind as the song focuses entirely on promoting good vibes through soulful reverie; You can hear even more of this in “Gold Love” as well, wherein a clever mixture of electronic sampling, bold Trip Hop basslines, Hip Hop-like percussion grooves & bright piano melodies fill the air with the most brilliant sonic atmosphere, spawning a laidback jam of intimate perseverance akin to Macklemore’s “Good Old Days” & “These Days” or any of the religiously-inspired power anthems Kesha came out with when she finally made her triumphant return to the music industry last year.

No Album Is Without Its Faults, Right?

To show that I’m not just some bleeding-heart superfan who’s foaming at the mouth with passionate love for Maren Morris, I have to admit there are times within GIRL where I think to myself ‘I think my biggest fears might be validated,’ as there are numerous tracks within its walls that carry the same generic Pop characteristics I’d hoped she would shy away from I time. On the bright side, they’re only a handful amidst a selection of fantastic tracks I’d gladly share with even my most aggressively opinionated Punk & Metal brethren, but the fact remains that Morris is fading ever-so-slightly into the same traps nearly every young female Coutnry artist is forced into by their labels in the last two decades, seemingly enacting a negative progression of musical development back to the basic-as-fuck Teen Pop idol aesthetics artists like Kelsea Ballerini, Lauren Alaina & Cassadee Pope adhere to – For example, numbers such as “The Feels” carry a decidedly early-noughties Pop/Soft Rock energy, utilizing a happy-go-lucky melody & rhythm that bounces along in the same way an old Natasha Bedingfield or Sugarland joint would, while others like “Common” are – as the name would imply – so basic that you get a tune as far from Country as you can possibly get, joining the ranks of every other popular vocal act these days by employing Trap-like vocal rhythms that carry an incessantly monotonal triplet-talking pattern & an ever-so-prevalent airy Alternative R&B instrumentation vibe throughout the entirety of the song, only just barely touching on southern sensibilities in the symphonic accompaniment you hear during the choruses, although even then it’s far more reminiscent of a hyper-stylized Adele or Kelly Clarkson ballad than something you’d have expected from Morris – To my relief, these few instances of plain-Jane Pop music flowing over into the Country sounds on GIRL are just that, few & far-between, allowing you to reasonably overlook such transgressions as there’re such phenomenal mixes waiting on either side of them which showcase just how incredible Maren Morris & her writing team are at constructing songs that appeal to modern sensibilities whilst pushing the envelope forward little by little.

Your Inner Indie Kid Is Showing, Maren

Now, is it just me, or does it feel like Maren Morris is secretly trying to make the seldom-spoken-of mid-noughties Progressive Folk & Indie Pop scenes come back? I mean, the majority of the tracks on GIRL sport either a New Wave-ish fusion motif or a rather modern Country Pop sheen, but every track has a very slight electronic energy lying underneath & an incredibly cinematic melodic structure that’s reminiscent of the hopelessly-romantic, soft-spoken narratives of the late-noughties Indie scene, unmistakably influenced by the specific time-period where Emo had begun transitioning into Indie music around the time when the Hardcore & Scene Kids of Myspace started making their way over to Facebook – I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first until I stumbled upon what’s easily the best track on the album, “Great Ones,” an exceptional tune that charges forward with a delightfully engrossing side-chained synthesizer melody, a half-speed Garage Rock percussion groove which stays laser-focused on maintaining a very stoic presence throughout, quirky quitar lines that twinkle along in the background & some of the most inspiringly grandiose vocal melodies Morris has ever put to tape, totally embodying the whimsically fantastical mentality of the second-wave Emo generation. It’s stunningly clear she found inspiration from the emotive Progressive Folk & Indie Pop music from that period, particularly bands like Copeland, Vedera, early-days Hrvrd when they were still called Harvard & A Rocket To The Moon, totally encapsulating their shy, unfathomably romantic lyrical stylings & multi-layered instrumentations that filled your ears with incredibly lively melodies that always gave you something stellar to focus your attention on, leading to what is perhaps the most thrilling factor of Morris’ newest album as she shows she’s willing to improve upon previous trends to take her favoured genre in a brand new direction, in turn enriching the lives of a new generation of listeners who don’t even bother to do their research on musical techniques – So, yeah, I guess you could say I’ve fallen in love for the second time with Maren Morris & her whole schtick, finding a wealth of talent I unrightfully assumed she’d squandered now that she’s a top-billing artists in the mainstream eye. For the most part, GIRL shows how malleable Morris is as an artist, making intriguing music choices & implementing a new Country Pop aesthetic that’s wholly unique in comparison to her mostly-male contemporaries who’re still rattling out the same mixes we’ve been hearing since 2010, but even more than that it just goes to show once again that you have to dig past whatever’s being played ad nauseum on the radio, ‘cause even though those songs might annoy you from sheer exposure you’re almost guaranteed to find a selection of incredible gems waiting just beyond the Billboard Top 100 lists.

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12. Artist Info

About

Maren Larae Morris (born April 10, 1990) is an American country music singer, songwriter, and record producer. She has released four studio albums. Her 2015 extended play, Maren Morris, charted on two Billboard charts. Her major label debut album, Hero, reached number five on the Billboard 200 chart and number one on the Top Country Albums chart.
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Born

    1990-04-10

Active

    2005–present

Label

  • Columbia Nashville