Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Sunny Sweeney – Bad Girl Phase

Your daily reminder that we party hard…


Megan Harrington: This is a single that plays like a plot device (I checked, and songwriter Brandy Clark does indeed have some experience writing for television), de-rutting Sweeney from boring, virtuous girlhood and delivering her, a devil on each shoulder, a country woman. It’s a bit overdue in her long career and even a cursory listen to the lyrics should prompt you to wonder, “If this is what being a bad girl is, why limit it to a phase?” Like this tepid version of rebellion, Sweeney’s chug-a-lug rock signifies a wild night out more than it soundtracks one. 

Brad Shoup: True to phase form, Sweeney throws herself into it and slumps right out. “Gonna lose my red lipstick to a whiskey glass” is a killer line, and the rhyme scheme that pairs the last line of the verse and the only line of the refrain is something too. Sweeney smears her lines, hanging words together in twangy chains. The backing vocalists are pretty funny too, although I wish they’d gone full Motown and had a clutch of dudes singing “bad girl phase”. But she’s doing all the work; the riff is buried, and there’s no break to hammer the sleaze (such as it is) home.

Anthony Easton: She seems to be the cultiest of cults — not doing well enough with the critics to win the Nashville Scene or Pazz and Jop or a Grammy, and she isn’t selling well enough, either. Which is a shame, because this uses her voice differently than her usual heartbreak ballad, and pushes it into a historically-minded, quite smart recap of Roseanne Cash back before she took herself too seriously. 

Katherine St Asaph: Between the grumpy “a bottle of red, a bottle of white” from “Drink Myself Single” and this even grumpier retread, Sunny Sweeney has managed to make raising hell and slutting it up sound like the dreariest of chores. She should rename herself Surly Sweeney.

Alfred Soto: Coming from Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson, even Reba, tropes like devils and cigarettes and throwin‘ stones supported by electric rhythm strums sound surprising, funny, and sometimes dangerous. By contrast Sweeney projects the commitment of a student who imitated an A paper so well she knows she’s likely to get one too because teachers are lazy — in her mind at least. The whole point of those songs she emulates is that the women aren’t going through a phase. It’s who they are.

Hazel Robinson: Aside from a vaguely maternal urge to pat Sunny Sweeney on the shoulder, take her on a night out and educate her on an actual bad girl phase there’s no point I’m not totally taken in by anyone who’s advocating “a beer right now and a cigarette and a new boyfriend or two.”

Thomas Inskeep: Sounding like it was tailor-made for Nashville‘s reigning queen Rayna James (Connie Britton), this is twangy enough that it probably won’t be a big country radio hit, but attitude-laden enough that it should be. 

Edward Okulicz: Poor Sunny Sweeney. “From a Table Away” would be getting Musgraves-level plaudits from the country-scenti at large if it had come out in the last year. “Bad Girl Phase” wants to suggest misbehaviour in a snappy way but comes across as terseness as a substitute for a narrative of genuine transgression. Unfortunately, terseness is not what Sunny Sweeney’s voice or songwriting are good at.

Josh Love: The kind of hell-raising Sweeney’s celebrating is certainly adult, but her girlishly chummy vocals render the song’s title an accurate one, making me wish it’d been handed off to someone like Lee Ann or Miranda who can make a woman’s recklessness sound dangerous and genuinely thrilling. Then again, I do start to feel that maybe it’s for the best that Sweeney casts herself as a “good girl going through a gone wild stage” when I remember Louis CK’s thoughts on the distinction.

Patrick St. Michel: “The devil on my shoulder wants a beer right now” is great, but made even better when Sunny Sweeney snarls “and a cigarette/and a new boyfriend or two.” The swagger on display here boosts this up a couple points.

Will Adams: What about anything described here is bad? Drinking whiskey? Having a beer and a cigarette? Looking for a boyfriend? Sunny Sweeney sings as if she’s transgressed all possible boundaries, but to me it sounds like just another Friday night.

Reader average: [5.5] (2 votes)

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2 Responses to “Sunny Sweeney – Bad Girl Phase”

  1. I am always interested in comparative hellraising standards in country songs. I mean, Sweeney appears to be having the average Robinson Tuesday night but obviously not everyone has had their liver and adherence to societal standards replaced with dark matter. I feel like I could take her under my batwing sleeve for a few weeks, see if she got the hang of it or succumbed to, I dunno, sensations of shame and hangover. But relatively, I know that a fortnight with the Pistol Annies would either lead to me evolving into my final form as some kind of shotgun-wielding, whiskey-fire-breathing demon goddess or as is more likely, crying brokenly in a bathroom stall and hoping they’d forgotten about me so I could go to bed for a bit.

    I mean, I’m sure there’s some complex sociological shit going on to do with relative morality and the desire to continue portraying a clean image by damning things as bad even though you wanna sing about ’em but err yeah. Basically: Sunny, if you need me to teach you how to party I am here.

  2. I don’t think she wants anyone to teach her how to party: she wants us to think she can party.