Album Spotlight: Lady Antebellum, ‘Golden’ – ToC Critic’s Pick
The best moments on Lady Antebellum's fourth album 'Golden' find Charles Kelley or Hillary Scott singing solo, with minimal help from the other on harmonies. There is no shortage of songs that act as features for the two talented vocalists. The evolution of the trio finds them becoming a dual threat super power instead of a two-headed pop-rock-country group.
Scott shines on this album in a way she never has before. 'Golden' is her album, with the singer sharing a new confidence with every note. Her performance can't be overstated. 'Downtown' is more fun than any Lady A song to date thanks to her sass, and 'It Ain't Pretty' is as real and hopeless (in a good way) as anything they've cut yet.
"I got my high heels in my hand / I'm ready for the walk of shame," she sings during this song about a shallow one night stand. It's more effective -- although probably not as catchy -- as 'Need You Now.'
Kelley hardly takes an album off. His sparkling moments are on the current single, 'Goodbye Town,' and the title track. 'Golden' is a beautiful love song and the tallest of the three members of this trio pours his heart into it. If he's not thinking of someone specific as he sings, then he deserves an Oscar for his acting.
The organic and innocent 'Nothin' Like the First Time' and the frisky 'Long Teenage Goodbye' are also highlights that, despite being collaborations between the two, manage to keep from being bogged down. That's not the case with 'Can't Stand the Rain' and 'Generation Away.' One sings while the other harmonizes, but the mix is turned up so loud that it sounds more like a duo. By stepping back, the true potential of Lady Antebellum steps forward. At times, it's as if Kelley and Scott are battling for mic time, but to be fair there are fewer of these moments than on any previous album.
The always reliable Dave Haywood's performance on 'Golden' isn't as obvious, but one can credit the tight songwriting and sharp production to him. One or two songs might be too simple to keep up with some of the other fuller arrangements, but that's really just personal preference. There's a new maturity on this record that, if allowed to progress, promises something even bigger with the next album.
In the meantime, one is left with a project with few -- if any -- skip-ahead tracks and more than a handful that could make a 'Greatest Hits' CD.