Prediction – there will never be a more interesting photo of this lot than this one…
Edward Okulicz: Glorious and romantic, like a sepia-toned shot over the top of some cornfields, but while the arrangement and singing are fond, they don’t grab the listener and make them feel the longing for lost youth that the lyrics are striving for – its nostalgia is wistful but empty. You get the feeling someone like Natalie Maines would have nailed its affectionate weariness, but Hillary Scott comes up a little short. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pretty melody, it just doesn’t have the same emotional hit that made “Need You Now” my favourite single of 2009.
Martin Skidmore: I say the same things every time about them: Hillary Scott’s voice is likeable, and suited to this regretful song, but I could do without the rest of the band. The male vocals are fine as harmonies, but I wanted a more country ambience rather than a ’70s soft rock one. Go solo, Hillary!
Anthony Easton: The first Lady Antebellum song that convinced me of the potential other critics saw. The fiddles are subtle, the drums are steady but do not overwhelm, and her voice, bourbon soaked and tobacco smoked, not nearly as sweet as the lyrics suggest it could be. It is also nice to have a song that could be a hit for Brad Paisley or (especially) Kenny Chesney be taken by a woman. Reminds me of “Strawberry Wine”.
Chuck Eddy: Beyond its perfect drunk-dialing title track, I’d been thinking the same thing about Need You Now that I’ve been thinking about Vampire Weekend’s new album: Too many snoozarama ballads plus not enough energetic hooks adds up to a sophomore slump. But now I’m starting to notice some beautifully atmospheric and architectural production touches. And shameful as it is to admit, I didn’t get “Need You Now” at first, thus proving great Lady Antebellum ballads don’t always have an immediate impact on me. Still, I’m fairly confident “American Honey” is not a great one, opening ’90s-alt-rock-as-bluegrass chord progression or no. But it does have some wide-open bittersweet summertime cornfield stretch to its melody, and seemingly its words too, so who knows? Also, these folks outsing Vampire Weekend.
Alfred Soto: The acoustic instruments and mandolins summon Every Picture Tells a Story for a few seconds, which is fortunate; the rest summons little else. “Gotta get back to her somehow,” Hillary Scott sings, and for another few excited seconds I imagine she’s referring to a girl she crushed on. Ill-formed nostalgia may work when the arrangements aren’t. Alas, Lady Antebellum acknowledge the possibility of releasing another “Need You Now” by nodding to the future (or the present) with a drum machine, but the rest of this innocuous number looks towards the past without figuring out why.
Michaelangelo Matos: The tune’s decent enough, but this is so thoroughgoing professional it’s dispiriting, like an ad for its title metaphor-that-isn’t: since when does honey “grow up strong”?
Pete Baran: What is needed instead of this blanding of country is a hard hitting track about the disappearance of the bees and its effects on the American Honey stocks. Perhaps its sweetness will be down to its scarcity.
Martin Kavka: “American Honey” is just as nostalgic as “American Pie,” but far more soporific and without a smidge of the complexity of the latter song’s lyric. A little “American Woman” or “American Idiot” or even good ol’ American song-writing knowhow would go a long way.
Hillary Brown: Okay, it’s pabulum, but it’s kind of well-made pabulum. Sometimes we don’t want challenging; we just want pretty. I’m sure a robot wrote this song, but that robot knew how to push some buttons in the listener’s brain.