Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Tenille Arts – Somebody Like That

If you feel like you’ve been waiting for a new solo female breakout country star for two years now, you probably have.


Edward Okulicz: Everything about this screams high quality pop-country crossover, and could have been a hit in any year where x>1997. I don’t know why that year is 2021 instead of 2019, but the country charts do move slow. While I suspect someone thought “Well, I’m sure a lot of people like Red, and Kelsea Ballerini’s second record, and Miranda Lambert generally” and willed this song into existence, but I’m glad they did. Arts has a great presence, taking a sweetly optimistic song that could have been utterly buried by the crunchy, loud chorus and making this charming and triumphant. Hope she’s written a few more of these in the last little while.

Thomas Inskeep: I like this a lot. Arts has crafted — with an all-female songwriting and production team, which in this moment in country music definitely matters — an ode to “old fashioned”-sounding love, with the recognition that it’s not easy and may take longer than picking up someone in a bar. Yet in doing so, she doesn’t judge those who might prefer one-night stands — that’s crucial, because that would be the easy way out (lyrically speaking, and wouldn’t be uncommon to come from the somewhat conservative Nashville industrial complex), and she doesn’t take it. Arts simply sings about what she does want, and does so on a buoyant, uptempo record that just oozes joy. Accordingly, it’s a joy to hear, too.

Sonya Nicholson: I, personally, spent the mid-90s listening to alt-country (Jayhawks, etc) and missed the big 80s-90s pop country revival when Shaina Twain and Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks ruled the airwaves. This opens with a misdirection that it’ll be a standard 10s pop song with a repetitive melodic hook (dun dun dun DUN, DUN dun dun DUNN!!!) but by the time the chorus hits the 90s Shania Twain vibes are obvious, and I mean that in the best possible way. She’s a great vocalist and the production is just so *classy* with nice, well-timed guitar flourishes. I love that bit at 1:30 where the instrumentation stops to follow the vocals! I love the trick of repeating the chorus twice at the end, once with ringing chords and once with the full band! It’s just solid pop songwriting and overall feels like something someone put time, effort, and craft into. More like this please. 

Samson Savill de Jong: I’m told country charts are slow, but this should’ve been a hit straight out the gate. “Somebody Like That” has got there eventually though, and once you hear it it’s a pretty much impossible song to resist; balancing the cold nose reality of the difficulty of finding deep love with a determination to try anyway. The singing and instrumentation are great (and having heard the acoustic version, the instrumentation deserves extra praise because the song is significantly worse without those guitars) but the real kicker is in the chorus, where it sounds like she’s about to end on the title, before swerving to add a few extra lines in. This pulls you in and then catches you out, showing you all the thoughts that are barely contained in Tenille Arts’ mind, before she ends up spilling them all to you anyway.

Alfred Soto: She sounds strong, and I like the solo, but if a Miranda Lambert Primer existed, Tenille Arts studied it, yellow highlighter in hand, when writing the first verse. Let’s see: one night stands, rebounds, happy hours, Cinderella fairy tales goin’ up in smoke, mama sharin’ memories, and so on. 

Mark Sinker: So it’s late and the bar’s lit up and noisy and you are too, and you’re telling stories — maybe to friends, maybe just to yourself — and the stories start by pushing thru the wrong turns and the obstacles you’ve known and you know, and then suddenly you hit this riff, and it’s a lie really or at least a fable, but it’s a glorious wonder too, as you leap into it and convince yourself just for now, feeling as you do, fully oiled and happy and free not to worry about the things that will mutter back you come morning time: will find love and it will be right and yes I’ll stick to it and to see and to catch at and to be in and to know it will be a marvel. Forever. I mean why not say forever? It’s late and the bar’s lit up and noisy and you are too…

Jeffrey Brister: Corny arrangement with lots of watery, legato piano hits and finger-picked guitars, backed by a straight-ahead drum pattern. Sweetly earnest lyrics and vocals, to the point of making my teeth hurt. No frills, just a pretty average pop-country song. But it’s executed with a level of professionalism and gusto, and hitting the fundamentals makes for a successful pop song more often than not. And Arts’ voice has a smoky, twangy character, one that can burst into a open-throated chorus with ease. It’s just good! A big, toothy grin in song form.

Katherine St Asaph: An exuberant hook and fizzy, pneumatic chorus arrangement trapped in a song with one dynamic: leaden, smothering. Not a bit of air is left to breathe.

Vikram Joseph: Feels appropriate that we should review this in the week that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) came out, because the surging country-pop and full-throttle romantic idealism of “Somebody Like That” is a fitting tribute to the songs that Swift was writing in that era. Tenille Arts is still in her 20s but significantly older than Swift was when Fearless first came out; her belief that she’ll find a love that falls as fast as a body from a balcony feels more effortful, clung onto despite years of close calls and cul-de-sacs. This gives it an emotional grit that counterbalances the wide-eyed optimism of the terrific chorus (which is beautifully constructed — I love the way the two halves of the chorus run together like a skipped heartbeat). I wish the main riff was a bit less simplistic and the middle-eight a little more penetrating, but there’s a lot to like here regardless.

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