Kelsea Ballerini is up to album number three, and with every release along the way she has shared a different piece of her soul and showcased an impressive growth as an artist and as a human.
Her debut album ‘The First Time’ was dedicated to all the firsts in her life and set the foundations for the huge trajectory her career would have by just being personable and introductory. Then her sophomore record ‘Unapologetically’ theatrically told the story of the cycle of love and heartbreak in a very honest and autobiographical way. And now her third studio album ‘kelsea’ brings together a mature collection of tracks that hears her honing her craft as a songwriter and opening up more than ever before.
Sonically the album sits in between the country-pop sound she has been growing over the course of the three albums, but it’s definitely the most polished it’s ever been.
Album opener ‘overshare’ kicks off the self reflective journey with a whole lot of confessions about the way she acts and the things she does to overcompensate for the way she feels. She ties it all together with this really strong melody that feels so smooth and warm.
“I overshare because I overcare bout the person over there who’s completely unaware that I overthink, then I overdrink to overcompensate”. she quickly admits during the infectious hook that feels so blissfully free because of her honesty.
That personality continues to shine throughout the album through tracks like ‘needy’ which was co-written with Julia Michaels, her first drinking song ‘hole in the bottle’ and the deeply honest ‘the way i used to’.
Reflecting on how you may still have feelings for someone even though you’ve moved on, she combines a catchy hook with a bunch of candid confessions where she catches herself out. “Does somebody love you in the way I do? I mean, the way I used to. Does somebody touch you in the way I do? I mean, the way I used to. I know it’s three in the mornin’, it’s tequila talkin. Damn, your voice is all up in my head again” she confesses.
She combines a lot of experimentation on this record with big horns during the groovy ‘bragger’ as well as intertwining her country roots on ‘half of my hometown’ and ‘a country song’.
The brooding pop track ‘the other girl’ featuring Halsey delivers one of the strongest songwriting and concept moments from the record. It’s one of those songs that will instantly leave you impressed and have you immediately pressing replay to experience all the feelings again.
It hears them questioning who really is “the other girl” in a situation where a guy cheats on two partners. And it’s such an interesting spin on the classic story we hear. “Is it me? Is it you? Tell me who, who’s the other girl? Who’s the first? Who’s the fool? Who’s the diamond? Who’s the pearl?” they harmoniously sing.
But some of the albums most pure and heartfelt moments fall during the stripped back confessions like ‘homecoming queen?’, ‘club’, ‘la’ and ‘love and hate’ which was co-written by Ed Sheeran. These songs allow her vocals to take the reigns as she guides you through these different storytelling modes and again hear her sharing honest reflections.
This whole record is about self discovery and personal growth on a concept level, but artistically it’s really about Ballerini honing who she is as a songwriter as these songs lyrically dive deeper than she has ever before.