After recording what felt like the same album for the past three releases, trying to chase the huge success if “Need You Now” (the song and album), Lady Antebellum decided to take the whole of 2016 off from band endeavors to recharge the batteries. They reconvened late in the year and into 2017 when they composed and recorded Heart Break, their sixth full-length studio album.
And after listening through Heart Break a couple of times, it’s easy to see that Dave, Hillary and Charles are entirely refreshed and ready to take on the world. The album does still have threads of the adult pop style they became known for but there are more of the vibrant stories and melodies of their first two or three albums than the last couple ones. And that, friends, is what makes Heart Break such a strong return to form for Lady Antebellum.
“Teenage Heart” feels ready for anthemic sing-a-long’s in the live show while “Big Love In A Small Town” chronicles young love the best of ways, with a tinge of nostalgia. Known for their “Booty call songs,” “You Look Good” could technically fall in line with “Need You Now” and “Bartender” but it has a vibrant horn-drenched feel that feels more jovial than those. In fact, it’s about living in the moment and having fun. The opener — and title tune — "Heart Break" is perhaps the best potential follow-up to "You Look Good" as a radio moment with a song about taking care of yourself and enjoying a breather as a single person rather than fall into the trap of a relationship. Remember the “booty call songs,” well that’s exactly what “Somebody Else’s Heart” is only this one cuts to the bone more than some of their others have. Busbee’s production adds a layer of Hall and Oates-like sophistication to the melody.
There are a handful of gorgeous ballads on Heart Break and “Hurt” is one of those songs. There’s a bait and switch with the lyrics and that it’s a really romantic love song, even if it’s about loving for moments at a time instead. The tender orchestral arrangement and vocal from Hillary Scott leaves it as a clear standout on the record (and it’s one of two songs not written by Lady A on Heart Break, the other being “You Look Good”). “Army” showcases a trio firmly in touch with maturity that a family brings with them with the love the narrator has for his wife, the rock in the relationship. “The Stars” is an uplifting song, a song inspired by their children, that every youngster (or adult) who ever feels down can gain inspiration from. “Home” may have a generic title but it’s far from a generic song. It, too, is a song inspired by a strong love. “Famous” is a piece of social commentary which could be about someone like Anna Nicole Smith, Amy Winehouse or even Mindy McCready. All stars all now gone because of being too famous for their own good.
After a year away from the spotlight — as a trio — Lady Antebellum has roared back with a rousing, wondrous baker’s dozen songs. Heart Break is a strong collection which finds Lady Antebellum knowing who they are but building on with new layers and musical textures.