Friday, November 18th, 2016

Little Big Town – Better Man

The Singles Jukebox: 1 0 days since our last mention of Taylor Swift.


Crystal Leww: Taylor Swift’s obnoxious public persona aside, she remains an incredible country lyricist, and “Better Man” proves again that she can effectively tell stories that feel so specific and so relatable. I’m thrilled that Little Big Town are done with their Aunt Drunk Off Of Boxed White Wine At A Sandals Resort phase. Little Big Town may not have anything that reaches the heights of “Girl Crush” again, but “Better Man” knows what they do well and lets Karen Fairchild be Karen Fairchild. Karen Fairchild sounds contemplative. Karen Fairchild sounds sad. Karen Fairchild sounds strong. Karen Fairchild sounds like so many women who ran away from someone who wasn’t right for them.

Katie Gill: I was hoping this would wash the taste of “One of These Days” out of my mouth. It doesn’t. The idea of lusting over the idea of your terrible ex being not so terrible is something that a really good country song can be made out of. This middle-of-the-road ballad isn’t one of those songs. Add in some curious mixing choices and you’ve got a long way to go to win me back entirely, Little Big Town.

Alfred Soto: I admit to a chill when I heard Karen Fairchild sing “back of the hand” — her character loved a man who beat her? I misheard, but the masochism runs deep anyway. So does the banality of expression (“loaded gun”? Why not “out of the blue” too?).  The background vocals inject the right note of misplaced pathos; the problem is Fairchild, who wails as if willing herself to believe in writer Taylor Swift’s plaint.

Megan Harrington: Gorgeous and rich and with layers and layers of subtext thanks to the supremely nuanced Karen Fairchild, “Better Man” aches beyond the usual break-up signifiers. Fairchild reigns supreme in the arena of poignant longing and misplaced affection — the girl of “Girl Crush” and the better man are both figments, an alternative to the reality of love gone wrong. Fairchild brings him fully to life by power of her desire alone and the result is a song that demands more than pathos, it insists on empathy from its audience. And she gets it, of course. 

Anthony Easton: This kind of peters out into nothingness, not that it started that profoundly in the first place. Even their harmonies, while tight, are more capturing breath as opposed to breathing together. Might work better as a solo performance (well, we know that’s true, we all heard Kelly Clarkson’s “Piece by Piece”).

Thomas Inskeep: Even coming from Karen Fairchild’s voice, the minute you hear the line “I just miss you/And I just wish you/Were a better man,” you can pretty easily identify it as a Taylor Swift lyric — which it is. I don’t so much mind her farming out her poor-me-why-don’t-my-romances-work-out songs, however, when they receive vocal treatments as gorgeous as Little Big Town’s, and production as charitable as Jay Joyce’s. This is how you take a so-so song and make it better.

Edward Okulicz: The song’s from a woman to a man who hurt her, but in Karen Fairchild’s hands, it’s sung like a protest from a heart against a decision weighed out and made for the best. I’m won over by the measured use of space and silence through the song but I can’t decide if the muffled march of the drums is safe adult radio bait or an ideal backdrop for Fairchild’s voice. If there’s a criticism is that this is so recognisably Swift that some of the flourishes a different singer puts on it (the last minute) feel a bit weighty for the devastating economy of her songwriting.

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One Response to “Little Big Town – Better Man”

  1. This is one of those songs that does hit deep, especially to someone who understands the lyrics so well. It does not necessarily have to be related back to physical abuse, but deals with the effects of toxic relationships in general. While someone can be mentally toxic, there is still a feeling of longing which I believe is perfectly balanced in the song. This is especially seen in the lyrics “the bravest thing I ever did was run” with the chorus of “and I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man” Little Big Town did an amazing job with this song and it will remain close to my heart.