The good news is that RaeLynn sounds a lot more grown-up and mature than she did on her earlier material. The bad news is that she sounds just as uninteresting as she always did.
RaeLynn reached the quarterfinals of The Voice back in 2012, but her forays into country radio have never quite managed to capture the public’s imagination. Outside of her controversial 2014 single “God Made Girls” (which peaked at #7 at Billboard’s hot country chart and #16 on its airplay rankings), nothing RaeLynn has released has managed to crack the Top 25, despite her move from light fluffy material like “For A Boy” to a darker, more-serious tone on her previous single “Love Triangle.” “Lonely Call,” the second single off of her WildHorse album, is a continuation of both her journey towards more-mature material and her complete inability to make her songs sound compelling or interesting.
The production here is a strange mix of real, effected, and synthetic instruments that seems to lack the necessary punch to get its point across. The song opens with a banjo whose tone is oddly bright, like it’s being run through a post-production filter or two, and the track relies on an acoustic guitar and a mixture of real and fake drums to drive the song forward. (Electric guitars are added for a bit more atmosphere on the choruses, but they seem overly restrained and don’t add much besides a little background noise.) What stands out the most here is the song’s complete lack of energy—the mix feels overly quiet and restrained, even when the key is bumped up on the final chorus, and it just resignedly plods along without building any momentum. The guitars needs to be louder, the drums need to be sharper and more impactful, and even the vocals needs to be turned up a tad. As it is, the song’s vibe is more boring and sleepy than anything else, and it leaves absolutely no impact on the listener.
I’ve never been a huge fan of RaeLynn’s voice, and while her delivery is marginally better here than in the past (she actually stays on-key for the most part), her tone is as flat and lifeless as ever, and she simply lacks the vocal charisma to convey her emotions to her audience. There are slight hints of Miranda Lambert in RaeLynn’s voice, but Lambert can effectively express her emotion in a way that connects with her listeners, whereas RaeLynn seems to be just stoically describing her relationship. The narrator here requires a complex mix of sadness, defiance, and nostalgia to seem believable here, and RaeLynn doesn’t even coming close to pulling this off. Throw in a slight range mismatch between the song and the singer (RaeLynn sounds more comfortable in her lower range, and the upward key shift at the end of the song does her no favors), and you’ve got a recipe for one big forgettable mess.
It’s a shame the vocal and production are so disappointing, because for the most part the songwriting is sharp and on point. While the topic (a ex calling for comfort because they’re lonely) isn’t exactly a novel one (Drew Baldridge covered almost this exact topic on “Rebound,” and did it better), but the imagery used is vivid, specific, and unique. The description of the opening scene, complete with a “thrift-shop couch” and “bowl of Cheerios,” does an exceptional job setting the stage for song, and the drawn-out countdown of the time since the breakup signals that beneath the narrator’s insistence that she’s finished with the relationship, the pain is still there and the door to a reconciliation isn’t completely closed. It the sort of detailed, nuanced writing that could serve as the foundation of a really great song, but it isn’t able to rise above the mediocre execution around it.
Overall, “Lonely Call” is a boring song from a boring singer, and doesn’t rise above the level of mere radio filler. RaeLynn’s taken some big swings at improving the content of her songs, and while they’ve been mostly successful, her delivery (and her producers) continue to hold her back, and she needs to get these issues straightened out quickly to have any hope of achieving country music stardom.
Rating: 5/10. You’re not missing anything here.