One of the problems with her debut album, That Girl, was that she wanted to do something out of her comfort zone. This is actually a great thing for an artist to want to do, but not for their debut album. Granted, one could argue that the album could be an exception to the rule given that we’ve already heard her with Sugarland, but still, the album was a way for Jennifer to wipe the slate clean and start over as an artist. A song such as “That Girl” leaves you scratching your head rather than enjoying the song. And then after the second single “Me Without You” failed on the charts we got the horrid summertime song, “Sugar” which found Jennifer trying her hand on a disastrous trend. That is why with her new single “Unlove You”, we finally have Jennifer matched with a song that plays to her strengths, and is pretty solid as a result.
“Unlove You” revolves around a woman who is heartbroken by a man. She tries to shake him off by doing things such as crying and laughing but it’s to no avail. No matter what she does she can’t unlove this man who hurt her. She can’t fight her feelings and succumbs to a continuous, tortuous love. Written by Jennifer and Brandy Clark, the song tackles a familiar theme that isn’t exactly new in country music. That being said, the lyrics here are pretty damn solid and do a good job of avoiding cliches. The best example of this may be in the second verse when Jennifer acknowledges that if this had happened when she was younger, she wouldn’t have contemplated her decision for a minute. She would have kept on being blind. Now that she’s older she at least knows something is wrong. She still can’t overcome her feelings but she’s at least a little wiser. As great as the lyrics are however, I think they go a little too deep in the wrong direction. I would liked some background on what the male did to hurt her as bad as he did. After all, with the emotion the song carries it could have been a great way to support the overall strength of the song.
Another issue that I take with this is the production. The song is fantastic until the chorus, with the verses led mainly by acoustic guitar (with an opening that sounds sort of similar to Jana Kramer’s “I Got The Boy”). When the chorus hits however, there are some pop beats present that seem frivolous rather than necessary. They don’t hurt the overall song, but I definitely think some steel guitar would have sounded better.
Vocally, this may be the best song of Jennifer’s career so far. It’s hard to deny that Jennifer has a strong set of pipes on her, and they fit very well on this mainly acoustic ballad. In a song such as this, it’s easy to become shouty, especially on the usual boisterous final chorus that usually accompanies this sort of song. Jennifer does a great job of keeping her vocals from doing this, which in turn elevates the overall listening experience.
I know I’ve had some things to criticize about this song, but this may be Jennifer’s best single in her solo career thus far. The fact that this is the first single for Jennifer’s new album makes me excited to see what direction she takes her music. If I was her, I’d focus on honing in on my strengths like she does on “Unlove You” rather than pandering to the lowest common denominator such as on “Sugar”. Jennifer will certainly be someone to watch in 2016.
Listen: “Unlove You”
Author: Zackary Kephart