Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Kelsea Ballerini – I Hate Love Songs

But judging by our sidebar, we like love songs quite a bit…


Thomas Inskeep: I like Kelsea Ballerini more and more as her career keeps rolling on. This stately midtempo waltz with a clever lyrical conceit (which you’ll figure out pretty quickly nonetheless) is smack dab in her sweet spot, youthful yet classic-sounding. I can hear someone like Loretta Lynn singing this 45 years ago, and what’s that if not a great sign? 

Alex Clifton: This isn’t the first take on the “bah humbug romance” genre I have ever heard, but it is one of the better ones. Ballerini has an ear for lyrical detail that helps her stand out from the generic country girl lineup, and also has the charisma to match. (The Ryan Gosling lyric is the one line that sold me on it, mostly because I too feel that.) Were it anyone else I’d hate the twist of “I hate love songs, but I love you”; however, in Ballerini’s capable hands, I like it very much.

Alfred Soto: Gosling/frosting is a decent half rhyme; even better is the throwaway “We were drunk when we met/That’s why I don’t know our anniversary.” The singsong verse melodies impose a songwriting manual roteness. Knowing that Kelsea Ballerini has sung her share of love songs crimps the intended humor.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: If you’re going to spend your verses shit-talking the concept of love songs, you probably should write a better one in the rest of your song.

John Seroff: The obvious knock is that if you hate the sappy clichés of love songs, why make one that catalogues the worst of them into a forgettable junior prom slow dance? The greater sin to my ears is the crime of attempting a presumed “anti-love song love song” that instead presents as an ironic “love song.” Why not just serve me wedding cake made with Sweet’N Low on our first date?

Stephen Eisermann: You see the twist a mile away, but this schmaltzy, sugary-sweet ballad is just endearing enough to work. Kelsea does an excellent job selling the track with her vocals, and the production isn’t too heavy to drown out her voice, so it’s easy to get lost in the romance of the track. 

Ramzi Awn: The ramshackle production on “I Hate Love Songs” is on point, and the guitars drive it home. Kelsea’s voice is rousing enough, and her “no butterflies” approach to love is exemplified by the line “roses just die in a week.” But the chorus falls short, and the song sounds more like a single from a movie about country music than a single released in 2018. 

Katherine St Asaph: Meghan Trainor was a Nashville songwriter, remember, and if she somehow escaped thinkpiecification and Remember-The-2000sization, she’d probably still be recording doo-wop tracks like this. It’s a bit too obviously a piece of songwriting — the rhymes click dutifully into place, the images are flipped with writing-exercise neatness. Besides the tossed-off Ryan Gosling namedrop, it’s more interested in romance as a stock concept than actual romantic expectations in 2018, which’d make for riskier songwriting. And worse, the old-fashioned goody-goody arrangement does to Kelsea Ballerini’s voice and charm what “Space Cowboy” did to Kacey Musgraves. (The “we were drunk when we met” line is the best one, both because it busts the formula and because it’s the only place Ballerini sounds animated.) But at least she’s trying, which alone puts her above 75% of her country peers.

Reader average: [5] (1 vote)

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