Album Review: Hunter Hayes - “The 21 Project”

Singer/Songwriter gives fans the complete process of writing, recording and performing seven song EP spread over three different “sets”: Studio, Acoustic and Live.

The concept behind releasing an EP of seven songs is pretty set these days but the idea of showcasing the seven songs in three different paths to come up with The 21 Project is just another innovative idea from Hunter Hayes and likely the first attempt in mainstream country music history. Hunter Hayes’ The 21 Project peels back the curtains to give fans the complete “history” of the seven tracks which make The 21 Project. Since it’s a seven track EP spread out over three discs, this EP has 21 songs.

The first single and title track “21” is the Top 25 and rising hit from Hunter Hayes and it’s also the most-streamed (on Spotify) single in all of mainstream country music at the moment. The song sounds remarkably different in all three incarnations and the acoustic version hits home for me the most while “Where It All Begins” was written with Lady Antebellum while out on tour (the Live tracks were recorded as Hunter was opening the trio’s Wheels Up Tour this summer) and it’s markedly different from version to version because the trio only appears on the final studio version, a song that could be a hit at radio if its released. The acoustic version of the track uses piano as a main instrument instead of guitars like the other two versions.

The Acoustic versions of most of the songs have the feel of celtic influences coming through and people who like traditional sounds are likely to enjoy that disc more. Fans who want something to remember Hunter’s live performances from 2015 may wish that there was a bonus disc of live hits but this will do for now. The twenty-something singer/songwriter worked with some new outside writers this time around and that’s influenced the sound of “21,” “I Mean You” and “Suitcase,” all the latter two potential radio hits.

This record is going to hit home for Hunter Hayes fans and people who just like good music. It’s an innovative look into the songwriting process and something that leaves us all wanting to hear more, a full-length album, from Hunter Hayes but in all honesty, with the way the music world’s changing such LP’s may be harder to come by in the future so this is clearly a special, innovative way to share music with fans. The 21 Project is a success by any measure.