Ignore the Bon Jovi comparisons – these US chart-toppers are the new Fleetwood Mac.
Chris Roberts 2010
In the US, Nashville country-rock trio Lady Antebellum have become monstrously big with indecent haste. This second album shifted well over a million in its first month and is still flying. It’s up there with Grammy-magnets like Beyoncé and Gaga. To introduce them to the British public, Need You Now has the award-winning I Run to You, from 2008’s eponymous debut, tagged onto the end. Although their press release suicidally compares them to Bon Jovi and Kelly Clarkson, they are – and this is evident from chord one – the new Fleetwood Mac.
Which means they are, at least stateside, all things to all white people. They retain just enough country-twang elements to satisfy purists, but ladle on slick pop hooks and reasonably gutsy guitar chugs and solos to woo the rock fraternity. If the girl-boy vocals give them their Mac attack, stabs of winking humour ensures this is the next album bought by people who miss Shania Twain.
Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott form a curious three-headed beast – in their videos you’re never quite sure who’s in the band and who’s a model. They’re a bit scary. They are the ultimate corporate behemoth, here to shift cars and steal our children.
But here’s the thing: they’re not awful. Need You Now, in particular, is a huge hoary pop seduction, with a chorus it’d take a heart of stone to resist. Immediately, it announces itself as power-anthem paradise, evoking such guilty-pleasure godhead as Alone by Heart or I Drove All Night by Roy Orbison/Cyndi Lauper. You’ll briefly, secretly love it with a passion for about three weeks before TV talent-show kids start devaluing it. That is one belting chorus. “It’s a quarter after one, I’m a little drunk but I need you now...” Springsteen should cover it. American Honey is more acoustic and nostalgic, craftily doubling its sales by putting “American” in the title. Lookin’ for a Good Time begins with a Tom Petty riff which is so cheesy it’s radioactive, while I Run to You has “punch the air triumphantly” stamped on its chest.
Genius. Evil genius, obviously, but fiendishly effective.