Lady A Shows the Power of Song in New Album “What a Song Can Do”

Lady A returns with the genre-defying album “What a Song Can Do.” (courtesy of Facebook)

Lady A returns with the genre-defying album “What a Song Can Do.” (courtesy of Facebook)

The country genre changed when Hillary Scott, Charles Kelly and Dave Haywood burst onto the scene with their debut self-titled album, “Lady Antebellum,” in 2008. The fruits of this change would come over the course of the next three years, with 2010’s chart-dominating “Need You Now,” which won record of the year, and 2011’s smash hit “Own the Night.” After nearly a decade of heart-wrenching songs about love or lack thereof, the five-time Grammy award-winning band’s hit songs like “Just a Kiss,” “Need You Now” and “Love This Pain” continue to captivate audiences, even outside of the confines of the country genre. In 2021, Lady A’s lyrical prowess and emotional depth is not lost in its new album “What a Song Can Do,” even if the album struggles to keep listeners engaged.

This is not to say the album is without the charm the band infused into its earlier works. There are still plenty of brilliantly sung verses from Scott and Kelly to leave listeners nearly in tears with the vocal chemistry the two share. The sun has far from set on these modern pioneers of the country genre, but it seems dimmer as the latter half of the album lacks the passion and ambition the band was previously known for. Unfortunately, the album opens with one of these songs in “Talk of This Town.” Although the song has its interesting moments, it feels largely stripped back in comparison to the band’s other songs about heartbreak and drinking. Between the weightless drums, lazy acoustic guitar strumming and an uninspired chorus, it seems highly likely this song will never be the talk of the town compared to Lady A’s best songs. 

However, things pick up quite well with title track “What a Song Can Do,” in which singer Kelly makes up for his slow start on the opening track. The song sees the band bursting back to life with guitars blazing thanks to Haywood. The upbeat track serves to reassure fans and casual listeners alike. The band still knows how to pack a love-filled punch some 13 years later when Kelly sings, “It can make you dance and make you cry / Make you wanna give it one more try / Start a band and kiss that girl, and break some rules / It’ll make you give your heart and get it back / Change your mind just like that / When it’s like every single line was written just for you / Ain’t it crazy what a song can do?” 

However, “Like a Lady” is a different kind of track as it sees Scott opting less for an emotionally distraught approach regarding love, and more for one liberating for women. The song is refreshing not only because it is sonically invocant of the uplifting tone of 2008’s “Love’s Lookin’ Good on You,” but it is lyrically reminiscent of their 2014 track “Bartender” from the album “747.” Here, the band recaptures and ultimately maintains what made them a staple attraction in their debut-era, with Scott brightly and boldly announcing, “Boy, I’m not the kind of girl to go and fight for all your attention / I’m not too afraid to call this off and go see what I’ve been missing / Leave the dress at home ’cause it makes me too polite / No more waiting by the phone, I’m stepping out tonight.” The track is particularly special because it dares to delve deeper into the heartbreak the band so notably sings about, with Lady A telling women they don’t need to be at the receiving end of a bad relationship that does not work for them. Rather, they can take control of their happiness and sip tequila with their Levi’s on, as Scott puts it.

Tracks like “Fire,” “Chance of Rain” and “Worship What I Hate” mark the highest point of the album, as these are the tracks where the band shows the sheer power of song. “Fire” is a masterfully-crafted ballad that tells the ultimate story of resilience, and “Chance of Rain” is a Tom Petty-esque blast from the past with Kelly urging listeners to take a chance on love. “Worship What I Hate” is Scott’s most personal piece yet as she takes on issues like body dysmorphia with piercingly beautiful lyrics like, “I’m seeing every flaw like a failure / I’m using every cure like a savior / Like trying to build a church out of all my hurt when it really needs grace.”

Half of the latest 14-track outing may feel forgettable, but when the band gets it right, it becomes clear just how much a Lady A song can still do in 2021.