Couldn’t quite get the right grab of them doing the whipped-cream-nipples thing, so this’ll have to do…
Pete Baran: That faint wash of bluegrass and a strong female vocal suddenly offers me up a replacement for that worn-out copy of the Be Good Tanyas’ “Blue Train”. And while that may seem pretty easy to replicate, I’ve been looking for ten years for this kind of good voice, with a convincing bluegrass wash. And a nicely dark vocal conceit: I’ll call it emobluegrass and put it on rotation.
Martin Skidmore: Her sweet, relaxed voice hooked me from the start. The song is a bit overly sweet (mentioning rainbows is an almost infallible sign of sentimentality), but I like the rather trad country arrangement with banjo and fiddle. Mostly the very likeable vocal carries it.
John Seroff: Maybe I’m just showing my limited experience with modern country pop by measuring each banjo-backed bit of sweetness to Taylor, but it feels fair to infer that the major label prayer of catching lightning in a bottle must be behind the sudden and rapid proliferation of twangy princesses all over the Jukebox lately. Kimberly Perry, of her eponymous band, has the buttermint sugar and softness down pat but “If I Die Young”‘s overtly poetic and morbid lyrics never mesh with her pretty vocals, creating an awkward static. Either the writing needs to be better or the vocals need nuance; the product I’m listening to is so simultaneously fatalistic and precious (fatalicious?) it might as well be a murder ballad titled “The Ballad of Cancer Puppy”. Besides all that, there’s a notable lack of development on the track; put the song on repeat and I defy you to tell me where it starts and ends. There’s something talented happening in here somewhere, but this needs more bodywork before it’s road ready.
Anthony Easton: Is this the natural extension of the pining of Taylor Swift? It is as melodramatic as any young folks’ conception of depth, but it also seems eerily suicidal. Planning death to such a capacity, and lines like “I will wear white when I come into your kingdom” adds this vestal virgin component to a fairly violent text, which makes my skin crawl.
Michaelangelo Matos: “A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I sell ’em for a dollar/They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner/And maybe then you’ll hear the words I’ve been singing/Funny when you’re dead how people start listening.” Sure, I’ll take it over Kate Nash’s LiveJournalism, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any good.
Hazel Robinson: “Funny how when you’re dead, people start listening”. For fuck’s sake. Although there is at least something naively pubescent about this anthem to dying pretty and everyone missing you.
Mallory O’Donnell: I’m confused. Do you want us to throw the roses in the river with you? Or is there some kind of intermediary step where we get rid of them? And what about the gown, shall we waste that as well? Don’t be in such a great big hurry to get married to Jesus that you leave unclear instructions as to the dispensation of your corpse. After all, those you’re leaving behind are a good deal older than you, and have practical issues to consider. You don’t want The Family Perry to waste all that money on roses and satin only to dump them and you in a fucking lake or whatever. Also, if your next song isn’t about how pissed off you are to still be alive, I want my money back.
Jonathan Bogart: Apparently this wasn’t on the soundtrack to The Last Song, which was a missed opportunity on someone’s part (someone dies in that, right? Of course they do, it’s Nicholas Sparks). It’s just as tearjerking and preciously cheerful as if it had been, though, platitudes about death from someone who sounds as though she’s never thought about it much. (People start listenin’? If only.) It’s rescued, if it is rescued, by the strategic deployment of the phrase “the sharp knife of a short life,” which many a more seasoned songwriter would kill to have come up with. Too bad the song surrounding it can’t live up to the specificity of that image.
David Raposa: The recurring “sharp knife of a short life” image might be putting too fine a point (no pun) on the song’s story, and Kimberly Perry’s voice doesn’t seem strong enough to soar when the tune calls for it. But she has more than enough character in it to perfectly accent the bittersweet sadness her words convey, and the other Perrys do a fine job paying their musical respects to a song that could have easily become an insufferably maudlin show-stalling ballad. And for the record, I get something in my eye about the time she mentions the pearls.
Alfred Soto: A shame the voice is so damn twinkly, for the arrangement is often pretty in an unforced way, and lots of unpleasant images cut into said voice. Give this to Elizabeth Cook or Lee Ann Womack and it might have been amazing.