Song Review: Lady Antebellum, “Heart Break”

They say that confidence is sexy. If so, then “Heart Break” has to be the sexiest song I’ve heard all year.

I was disappointed that Lady Antebellum announced their return from hiatus with the terrible-sounding “You Look Good,” but the song managed to do everything the group needed it to: It had a successful chart run (#4 airplay peak on Billboard), it kick-started their new album Heart Break (it topped Billboard’s country album chart and reached #4 on the Billboard 200), and it re-established the group within the collective consciousness of the industry. Now, the group has chosen the title track as the second single, and not only is it a huge upgrade over “You Look Good,” but it’s a refreshingly interesting take on the typical breakup-recovery track.

Post-relationship songs can go it a number of different directions: The sad remembrance of Carly Pearce’s “Every Little Thing,” the gradual recovery of Sara Evans’s “A Little Bit Stronger,” the power-tool-wielding rage of The Band Perry’s “Chainsaw,” the temporary, alcohol-fueled respites of Walker McGuire’s “‘Til Tomorrow” and Lady A’s own “Bartender,” and so on. “Heart Break,” however, approaches the topic from a surprisingly calm and rational perspective: The narrator confidently asserts her independence and hints that she will be back in the saddle soon enough, but also acknowledges that she needs some time away from the dating scene and makes plans to enjoy her downtime without any romantic pressure. While there’s a line in the second verse (“You might see through it but I’m putting on a poker face”) that suggests her measured response is just an act, the rest of the song stays on message and the implication doesn’t seem to stick. The image the listener is left with is one of a strong woman who pays her own tab, dances to her own beat, and deals with love on her own terms.

The biggest reason this song doesn’t sound hollow or unbelievable, however, is because lead singer Hillary Scott puts her foot down and simply doesn’t allow it. Her flow over the rapid-fire lyrics is smooth, her voice retains its power in both its upper and lower range (although the song admittedly doesn’t test her much), and above all her delivery exudes control and confidence, moving the listener to take her at her word. Even when the lyrics muddle the message a bit during the second verse, Scott’s performance is so strong that it doesn’t even register. After a showing like this, I can understand why Charles Kelley needed to put out a solo album: When you have a powerful, earnest performer like Scott around, why would you let anyone else touch the mic?

The production is the weakest link in the chain here, as it’s a standard modern pop-county mix that doesn’t quite fit the vibe of the song. Just like with “You Look Good,” the percussion is the most prominent part of the mix and still drowns out the other instruments, but the drums are dialed back just enough to let some guitars (mostly an acoustic one, with some electric guitars providing some atmospheric background) peek through and attempt to carry the melody. The song is also littered with minor chords, and while the guitars are fairly bright, they’re overshadowed so much by the percussion that they don’t impact the mood of the sound much. As a result, the song comes off as very dark and serious, which isn’t a great fit for a confident “I’m good” track. It’s a testament to Scott’s skills as a singer that she basically overrules the production and uses her voice to set the song’s tone herself.

Overall, “Heart Break” is a decent song with an pseudo-empowering take on life after a breakup, and while there’s a bit of conflict between the production and the writing, the vocal performance is strong enough to quell the dissent and pull everything together. I wouldn’t call it one of Lady Antebellum’s best songs, but it’s a major step up from “You Look Good,” and shows that when the trio is on point, they’re still capable of making some magic.

Rating: 6/10. It’s definitely worth checking out to see what you think.