This is a good song, but I’m not sure it’s a good song for Ingrid Andress.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was excited about Andress’s prospects in the genre: She’d rode a strong “debut” single “More Hearts Than Mine” to #1, and had released a strong follow-up single “The Stranger.” Unlike with Jimmie Allen and Riley Green, however, it was country radio that walked away rather than me: “The Stranger” crashed and burned at #54 on Billboard’s airplay chart, and Andress wound up sitting on the sidelines for much of 2020. “Lady Like” was actually Andress’s debut single back in 2019, but even after an official re-release last October, the song is only now threatening to crack the Mediabase chart (and ‘”threatening” is too strong a word; it appeared at #54 in Country Aircheck for a single week before getting pushed back down). It’s too bad, because while “Lady Like” isn’t a great fit for Andress as an artist and might be the weakest of her three singles, it’s still a solid empowerment anthem that runs circles around much of its competition on the airwaves.
The production here creates a serious, arena-ready sound, but one that only kinda-sorta supports the subject matter. Like Andress’s previous two singles, this one is primarily piano-driven, with some steel guitar accents to help set the mood. Some mostly-synthetic percussion and atmospheric background electric guitars jump in on the first chorus to help drive the song forward, and a cello is used to give the song a more-polished feel (the token banjo, however, adds little to the arrangement and could have been left out). However, while the mix is mostly unobtrusive and gives the lyrics plenty of room to breathe, the ramp-ups on the choruses are a bit too mild, and lack the punch to help drive home the song’s point—this is a song that is begging for an edge, but everything here has been polished up and sanded down. It’s a sound that looks to generate a swell of power from the inside, but putting it on a track whose attitude seems a bit more rough and raw doesn’t seem like a great choice. Basically, a producer tried to turn an attitude song into an non-threatening pop ballad, and it didn’t quite work out.
However, I think the mismatch between the song and Andress as an artist is the bigger issue here. Up to this point, Andress has relied on songs centered on emotion rather than attitude, and while that doesn’t automatically disqualify you from serving up a track like this (it certainly didn’t stop Kelsea Ballerini from bringing the heat on “Miss Me More”), Andress’s performance here indicates that not quite as comfortable in the role of a forceful, unapologetic narrator. Her softer, understated approach mirrors that of her previous two singles, and it makes her seems less-than-believable in the role of a “controversial, so outspoken” figure. (Give this song to Miranda Lambert, and it’s an instant banger.) Her flow is also a bit choppy on the verses when she’s trying to emphasize every other beat, though it’s not jarring enough to distract the listener from the message. Overall, it’s a performance that feels a bit out of place among Andress’s prior releases, as it lacks to power to leave the impression that it’s looking for.
Being a slightly-awkward fit for Andress, however, doesn’t change that fact that the writing is actually pretty powerful, featuring a narrator who refuses to conform to gender stereotypes and lets you know just how powerful they are. The verses are exceptionally strong, as they go through all the ways the speaker defies dainty conventions and co-opts traditionally-masculine behaviors: “I drink tequila straight,” “I don’t even own a dress,” making the first move and “kiss[ing] on the first date,” bringing up politics in response to pick-up lines, and so on. The “lady like that” hook isn’t great, but what is great is how the narrator uses the chorus to projects her power and let the audience know what’s she capable of (she’s not setting anything on fire, but she’s got passion and love to burn, even if Andress’s vocals don’t reflect that). There’s a defiant confidence in the lyrics, letting the world know that this is exactly who the narrator is, and that they’re comfortable in their own skin and not interested in changing. It’s the sort of empowerment anthem that we still need more of within the genre, especially when it’s put together this well.
“Lady Like” is a track that is both satisfying and disappointing at the same time: It’s a good song with solid lyrics, but it had potential to be great, potential that was squandered by both Ingrid Andress and the producers sticking a little too closely to their existing playbook instead of leaning into the narrator’s attitude. I’ve called out a bunch of tracks for having too much unnecessary attitude (*cough* Robert Counts *cough*), but this song has the opposite problem: It pulls its punches a bit too much and doesn’t have enough attitude to get its message across. Despite that, it’s still a message worth listening too, and a song that runs circles around many of the tracks on the radio right now. Women have been kicking the snot out of their male counterparts when it comes to producing quality country songs over the last few years, and based on recent observations, that trend is set to continue in 2021.
Rating: 7/10. Check this one out.