“Well, I’m tired of being perfect … And I’m bored of being good.”
So goes the triumphant opening of the titular track from Jennifer Nettles’ second solo studio album, ‘Playing with Fire’. The American country singer, who has previously fronted the bands Soul Miner’s Daughter, The Jennifer Nettles Band and most famously Sugarland, provides a natural successor to 2014’s ‘That Girl’, albeit with a more country-pop tinged sound.
Lead single ‘Unlove You’ sounds like an old-school country ballad and along with ‘Stupid Girl’ provide some of the more melancholic moments of the album. However, these tracks are juxtaposed by upbeat numbers, such as the defiant ‘Playing with Fire’ and the tongue-in-cheek ‘Sugar’. Nettles gives us a nice blend of country styles that is sure to please fans of her earlier work, as well as providing an opening for new fans, who may not have encountered her before.
The instrumental opening of ‘Chaser’ is reminiscent of Dolly Parton’s iconic ‘Jolene’ and the song sees Nettles assert that she doesn’t want to be her lover’s second choice. The motivational ‘Hey Heartbreak’ also promotes the idea that you should put yourself in control when it comes to your relationships. This independence and self-assurance is a prominent theme through the album. We also see this prominently in the upbeat, pop-oriented ‘Drunk in Heels’ that celebrates the role of working women. The album’s closer, the joyous ‘My House’ sees a surprise duet with Jennifer Lopez, who doesn’t seem out of place. It is an upbeat, feel-good number that perfectly rounds off an album of optimistic country-pop that encourages shaking off your heartache and negativity in favour of self-acceptance and self-assurance.
All in all, ‘Playing with Fire’ is a well rounded country-pop album that Jennifer Nettles should be proud of. It may not become an iconic country album, but then again very few albums will. Regardless, the album features a number of well-written and honest songs, which are catchy and enjoyable to listen to. Stories drive many of the songs and we see Nettles’ lived experience shaping most of the tracks. She is clearly in creative control and is confident in the messages she wants to portray. As she suggests in the opening lines of the track ‘Playing with Fire’ is far from perfect but it is certainly a good, solid record.
‘Playing with Fire’ is available now via Big Machine Records.
This Jennifer Nettles article was written by Adam Jones, a GIGsoup contributor.