Lauren Alaina’s greatest challenge with her debut album was to deliver something that represented both her young age, appealing to listeners her age, and to which older listeners could also relate.
With the release of her first album, Wildflower, she does just that. Showcasing her young, vibrant personality, she doesn’t shy away from discussing complex themes. Her approach to the love theme is not just fairytales and princes à la Taylor Swift, the soulfulness of her voice adds depth to all her songs.
The album opens up with a highly catchy uptempo and Lauren’s second single “Georgia Peaches,” her ode to her home state’s girls. “Well, our shorts a little shorter,” she sings, “’cause the sun’s a little hotter, sippin’ lemonade while we’re playing in the water. Ain’t nothing sweeter than us Georgia peaches.”
She proceeds with the midtempo “Growing Out Her Wings,” where she sings playfully about growing up in the shade of overprotective parents, without being overly critical about it. In fact, she doesn’t criticize. She sings how they got “her whole life on lockdown, doing time behind her bedroom door… dreaming ’bout the girl she’s gonna be, growing her wings.”
The third song is “Tupelo,” a well written remembrance to a summer road trip with a loved one, all the way down to Tupelo. While Lauren needs a few years to nail the sultriness of the chorus, she will definitely get there. And “Tupelo” remains a very enjoyable song.
The album then proceeds to a a very inspirational ballad called “The Middle” about making the best of the time you have. It is the album’s first track where Lauren Alaina’s emotions shine as she tries to convey the message she’s beginning to learn herself. And she does convey the message at hand, which makes the overall feat even more impressive. “The day you’re born is a start,” she sings, “your last breath is a question mark. The story of your life is in the in between.”
“Like My Mother Does” is the album’s first single, released soon after the American Idol finale and it is about a girl being thankful to her mother. It is a highly emotional song that is bound to get anyone smiling, with their mother’s face flashing before their eyes. “When I love, I give it all I’ve got like my mother does. When I’m scared, I bow my head and pray like my mother does. When I’m weak and unpretty, I know I’m beautiful and strong because I see myself like my mother does.”
The album’s title is based on the song “She’s a Wildflower,” an uptempo about a girl that did not fit in, dreading going on with her life because of the taunting, not knowing that “she’s a wildflower, just waitin’ on the winds of change to blow.”
On the uptempo “I’m Not One Of Them,” Lauren Alaina is telling the boy she wants to date that many girls “might fall for what you got but I’m not one of them.”
And then comes one of the album’s true highlights and a song that will leave you mesmerized: “The Locket.” “Back in ’41, you met a brown-eyed boy, who called you pretty,” she sings. “He’d walk every day, couple miles out of his way to hold your hand and keep you company… he gave you his picture in a locket that you wore around your neck. Left it right beside your heart so you would not forget the way it felt when he held your hand.” The song then proceeds, two years later, and the boy left for war, swearing he’d marry the girl and as she cried while he rode away, she clutched the picture in her locket so she wouldn’t forget how he kissed her, how he spent time with her. 60 years later, the girl is struggling to remember. She’s a grandmother now, her granddaughter by her side writing down her memories of the man she spent 60 years with and who left her two month prior. “And it breaks my heart to see you struggle to remember. I’ve been writing your memories down and I stopped by today to read a couple pages. Grandma, you sure look pretty. And you smiled that smile, the one I haven’t seen in a quite a while. And you said to me I want you to keep his picture in the locket that I wore around my neck, the one I left beside my heart so I wouldn’t forget…”
Following up “The Locket” is the album’s second highlight, the Carrie Underwood co-written midtempo: “Eighteen Inches,” about a young couple who elopes to California. “Eighteen Inches” delivers the album’s strongest hook in the form of the chorus: “Cause when you’re young and in love, you might do some things that don’t seem all that smart. Cause there ain’t no greater distance than the eighteen inches from your head to your heart.” The song features Carrie Underwood’s preferred narrative style of having three parts to the story in three different verses. And while the song wouldn’t have worked for Carrie’s albums, it sure works for Lauren. She doesn’t romanticize their decision. She doesn’t judge them either, which is surely helped by the lyrics. But Lauren’s delivery helps as well. It is Lauren’s youthful innocence that colors this song.
“Eighteen Inches” is followed up by the uptempo “One of the Boys” where Lauren Alaina lays our her preference: “he ain’t too pretty, he ain’t too sweet. A little rough around the edges, cute and country just like me. One of those t-shirt, blue jean wearin’, riverside Saturday night and Sunday mornin’ church kinda goin’ boys.”
“Funny Thing About Love” is a song co-written by Lauren Alaina. Co-writer Luke Laird and Brett James said how she came to them and wanted to write a song about how complicated love can be for her age: “you used to want me but I didn’t want you. Now I want you but you don’t want me. Why can’t our two hearts just make up their minds and want the same thing at the same time.” What’s interesting about this song is Lauren Alaina’s candid approach to the topic at hand. At one point, she sings: “we were best friends until I kissed you. You know you liked it and I did too. As soon as you admit you’re crazy about me, I’m off and running…” While the first verse is the weakest part of the song, Lauren’s conviction while singing it is enough to deliver this song.
And the album concludes with “Dirt Road Prayer,” a prayer to a girl’s family members: her mother, father, brother, grandfather… There’s an element of vulnerability to this that makes it a highlight. It’s a reach out to those family members to feel close again. It’s a reach out to God so He protect them.
“Wildflower” is a very strong album. Debut or no debut. Many country artists, regardless of age, would readily give an arm or a leg to have the caliber of songwriters and artists that worked on Lauren Alaina’s album. Her talent shines through on each track and gives the listener – regardless of age – a highly joyful experience that will fluctuate between getting you emotional to making you smile. The album is safely country-pop. It has a healthy dose of both. Those who watched American Idol will recognize Lauren Alaina’s personality on the album. Those who have not will hear a strong young lady, who knows what she wants and who knows exactly where she wants her career to go. Her songs are rooted in reality. They revolve around friend, family, heartache.
If this is an indication of how Lauren Alaina’s career will unfold, I think country music listeners are in for a treat.