With Boyfriend country on the rise, it’s only natural that an answer song would arrive at some point.
Tenille Arts is the better of the two Tenilles in the genre for my money, but the radio doesn’t seem to agree, as her highest peak in the US is a #41 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart and her previous single “Call You Names” didn’t chart at all. Undaunted, Arts and Reviver Records are pushing forward now with “Somebody Like That,” the third single from Arts’s Love, Heartbreak, & Everything In Between album. It’s a track that projects confidence and experience along the lines of what Runaway June has been releasing lately, and it’s yet another example of women beating the stuffing out of men right now when it comes to making quality country songs.
The production here leans heavily towards the pop side of country, but it does a nice job setting the appropriate atmosphere for the track. It opens with spacious synth tones, a restrained drum machine, and a keyboard and banjo-like instrument buried in echoey audio effects parroting each other’s riffs, but it eventually settles into a bright, simple guitar-and-drum mixture (a Wurlitzer piano also pops in and out, and some electric guitars add some sizzle and volume during the chorus). The key is the overall tone of the mix: It’s got a few minor chords here and there to convey the seriousness of the narrator’s quest for love, but the breezy, bubbly vibe of the arrangement and feels-brisker-than-it-is tempo creating a feeling of hope and optimism, and despite all the bad experiences the narrator lists, there’s a strong conviction in the sound that they will eventually find the relationship they desire and deserve, making the lyrics feel less like wishful thinking and more like a eventuality. It’s a great match of sound and subject that really draws the audience in.
Arts’s vocal performance here is a noticeable improvement over “Call You Names,” especially on a technical level. All the issues I had with her flow before are nowhere to be found, and she injects a bit of Hillary Scott-esque power into her usual Carly Pearce impression, adding some much-needed presence to her delivery for this track. What’s even more impressive is that after I called her “a perfect fit as a newly-minted young-adult narrator” in my “Call You Names” review, she’s able to turn around and project a surprising amount of maturity and experience on this track, making her seem believable in this role by convincing the listener that she’s seen her share of, er, stuff over the years, and that she’s willing to wait until the right person comes along. Going from wide-eyed to world-weary in one single and sticking the landing isn’t always easy, so I’m impressed by the amount of flexibility and charisma Arts demonstrates here, and I can’t wait to hear more.
The lyrics tell the time-honored story of a narrator on a longstanding quest for love, and feel like a response to the reheated, overbearing pickup lines coming from songs like “Kinfolks,” “10,000 Hours,” and “I Don’t Know About You.” This narrator has seen every possible way love can come together and fall apart, and they are putting the world on notice that they are not settling for anything less than a strong, long-term relationship. I wouldn’t call the “somebody like that” hook terribly strong, but I like how the verses paint vivid pictures of romance at its worst (“I’ve seen that Cinderella fairytale go up in cigarette smoke, I’ve seen two hearts bet it all and still end up broke”) and its best (referencing her parents and how “they had their share of ups and downs, and I saw the best, and the worst, and the work, and the worth it”). The latter line even dares to break the verse’s rhythmic structure to get its point across, and while it’s a bit jarring, it works in that same weird way that “Lovesick Blues” does by letting the listener quickly recalibrate to keep up. Doing something right is as good as doing something new, and by depicting both sides of the romantic coin in such detail, the writing provides its own credence and believability to enhance the performer’s own gifts.
“Somebody Like That” is a solid, uplifting track that just makes you feel better when you hear it. Nothing’s particularly novel here, but the production is bright and forward-looking, the writing does a great job looking at how love can go right or wrong, and Tenille Arts’s charisma and style behind the mic are a real revelation. While I don’t have terribly high hopes for this song’s radio prospects (sadly, county music has yet to cure its allergy to female artists), this is still a welcome addition to anyone’s playlist, and with any luck this will lead to us hearing more from Arts in the future.
Rating: 7/10. Check this one out.