Monday, July 20th, 2020

Kelsea Ballerini ft. Halsey – The Other Girl

From a table away…


Kayla Beardslee: Kelsea Ballerini’s new album can be arranged into two halves. In one half are the slower, less interesting songs, many with lyrics too focused on categorization (whoops) or playing into tropes, in the other are the upbeat tracks that generally have more introspective and interesting lyrical themes. Unfortunately, “The Other Girl” falls into the former category: its premise of blurring the lines between “girlfriend” and “mistress” is decent, but too easy to poke holes in. If the guy is messing around with both women, then the contest over who he cares for more has no actual value, and, of course, Kelsea starts the song with a judgmental verse that ends with “I bet she’s more promiscuous than I,” while Halsey chimes in on the awkwardly conciliatory second verse, the structure privileging one girl’s viewpoint over the other rather than being completely fair. And speaking of unfair, I suppose I could try harder to like this song, but the music itself is just too dull. May I recommend “Hole in the Bottle” or “The Way I Used To” instead?

Katherine St Asaph: Kelsea Ballerini is the latest female country artist to flee the tomato trap that is country radio in hopes of finding airplay, or maybe just stray streams, in mainstream pop. But “The Other Girl” isn’t a massive pop alpha-strike like “The Middle” but something softer and subtler. There’s plenty lovely: the muted guitars, the high pealing synths, that part after the chorus where Kelsea and Halsey echo “girl,” their timbres similar but, like the romantic rivals they play, just different enough to count. There’s a little Lana Del Rey — the lilting intonation on the post-chorus is so similar it’s uncanny — and more than a little “Girl Crush,” in how Kelsea and Halsey’s verses don’t sound jealous so much as scoping one another out. What’s especially weird is that this is a pop song at all — it’s written by Shane McAnally, whose range is broad but almost entirely in country, and Ross Copperman, best known for sensitive-dude love songs, bro-downs like “Tip It On Back” and “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” and on the female side, “Female.” “The Other Girl” is a world apart from them, or for that matter Ballerini’s “Legends” or “I Hate Love Songs”; the only person you’d expect to have this in them is Halsey. How many features is it now that she’s been the best part of?

Jonathan Bradley: Ballerini bends away from country and towards Halsey, which ill suits this song. “The Other Girl” has a strong concept, but one that depends on tension between its leads — not because they should be at odds, but because it might sharpen their revealed allegiance. Halsey herself fails to make much of a mark, because for all that Ballerini tries to construct her counterpart as a real person, with an enviable poise and specific tastes in cocktails, Halsey’s talent is in smearing her emotions into spectral uncertainty. (Consider her track titles: “Nightmare,” “Graveyard,” “Ghost.”) This story’s leads lack chemistry; theirs is a love triangle that won’t stand.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: In the grand tradition of excellent songs about love triangles, “The Other Girl” scrapes the bottom of the barrel. Kelsea and Halsey exchange feckless insults, pontificating about a relationship with no real emotional stakes. 

Nicholas Donohoue: Individual shame stemming from a form of being wronged is such a rich well to draw from. Pondering the desirability of another through the eyes of your partner is too. Even two people simultaneously considering the state of the triangle they are in from a shared cheating partner is workable. All together though, it comes out as way too spread to be as mellow as it is, especially given this is two people who, while sharing a situation, don’t have to be sharing the exact reaction.

Alfred Soto: The hell is this twaddle? So promiscuity and dry martinis are the signs of a slattern? 

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