Song Review: Jillian Jacqueline, “Reasons”

2018 has been a year of uninspired songwriting thus far, so it’s nice to hear someone out there trying to raise the bar for a change.

Jillian Jacqueline is a Pennsylvania newcomer who has been kicking around Nashville since 2010, but despite generating some buzz online with “Overdue” back in 2014, she only recently scored a major-label deal with Big Loud Records last year. Her first official single “Reasons” was released to radio a few weeks ago, and while it’s not the attention-grabbing debut a newer artist requires, there are enough good things here (especially in the writing) to hint at her future potential.

The production here is dominated by three things: Prominent fake-snap percussion (which is a bit louder than it needs to be), a dark, spacious piano, and a simple whistling riff that sounds a lot better than whatever Walker Hayes tried to do on “You Broke Up With Me.” The mix is surprisingly sparse on the verses (you get four snaps and two piano chords for every four measures), but it does a nice job of providing a full-sounding atmosphere while giving the vocals plenty of room to breathe. The choruses introduce a slick electric guitar and a more-complex drum machine rhythm, providing a bit more energy and intensity to the track. While the whole thing comes across as a typical pop-country sound, the piano and the frequent minor chords introduce a layer of darkness that underlines that complements the writing by driving home the seriousness of the protagonist’s feelings. Unlike Jason Aldean’s latest single, this style fusion works, and it works well.

Vocally, Jacqueline’s sound falls somewhere in between Sarah Buxton and Kelsea Ballerini (the Buxton comparison feels very appropriate, given that she and Jacqueline co-wrote the song), and she demonstrates both the technical ability and and earnestness to sell the listeners on the track. The song isn’t actually a great fit for Jacqueline as is (it’s a key or two too low, causing her to sound a little labored and breathy on the verses), but she’s got just enough range to make things work, and she handles even the faster portions of the song with aplomb. Most of all, she does a nice job infusing emotion into the song’s narrator, adding a touch of weariness to the verses and a dash of frustration to the choruses. It’s a solid all-around performance that hints at Jacqueline’s future potential.

Despite the strong production and vocals, the writing is probably my favorite part of the song, because it’s the first time I’ve heard someone dive this deeply into the “Reasons” of a failed relationship. Songs typically address a portion of these reasons (Reba McEntire’s “Somebody Should Leave” talks about the kids, Chris Young and Cassadee Pope’s “Think Of You” talks about how acquaintances react, George Strait’s “Give It Away” addresses the logistical concerns), but I haven’t heard a song bring them all together and paint a complete picture of why people are reluctant to break up. The imagery here is vivid and novel (stuffing belonging into plastic bags, standing together at the sink without a word, eating takeout in an empty room), and the whole thing comes across as personal and relatable. In the end, the message comes through loud and clear (if you don’t love each other, why in the world are you doing staying together?), sticking in the listener’s mind long after the song ends.

Is “Reasons” the song that catapults Jillian Jacqueline to stardom? Depressingly, I would say no: It takes a few listens to really appreciate its construction, it doesn’t differentiate itself enough sonically from the rest of the crowd, and country radio still has a bizarre fear of putting too many women on their playlists. Still, “Reasons” is a great song that showcases Jacqueline’s potential, and it suggests that she’s got a bright future in this league.

Rating: 7/10. Definitely check this song out.

One thought on “Song Review: Jillian Jacqueline, “Reasons”

  1. Huh, I didn’t even know this was a song out at radio right now. Thanks for sharing it! If there’s one thing I hate about mainly doing album reviews on my site, it’s that I get pigeonholed as a hipster traditionalist, and the truth is I do like Pop-Country (or even straight Pop music). I enjoyed the latest albums from Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini, and I like this song too. I’ll likely review it, but certainly not as good as you already did. Fine work as always!

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