Road Less Traveled – Lauren Alaina
Lauren Alaina is back with her sophomore record, Road Less Traveled. However, I’d rather take a look at this as her second debut record. I mean, it’s been an entire half-decade since Alaina released her last album and a lot has changed in her life…and her music.
To get you caught up…Alaina released her album Wildflower back in 2011, following her second place finish on American Idol. Since then, Alaina has been faced with personal and career struggles.
Since her 2011 single, “Georgia Peaches” cracked the top 30, Alaina has struggled to find chart success. In 2013, she released, “Barefoot and Buckwild,” with the intentions of the track being the lead off her sophomore record.
With little success and a vocal cord surgery in 2014, Alaina took some time off. Over the years, Alaina also battled with an eating disorder and struggled through her parent’s divorce and father’s alcohol addiction.
So why bring up all of her obstacles when preparing to talk about her new album? Because her new album is driven by these obstacles.
In a 2014 interview with the Nashville Tennessean, when speaking about her upcoming record, Alaina said, “It’s a more mature feel for sure. I’m excited about it.” In 2015, Alaina released the track, “Next Boyfriend,” as the single off her self-titled EP. It peaked at No. 43 on Billboard’s Airplay chart.
Last year, Alaina saw breakthrough success with her top 10 hit, “Road Less Traveled.” This success fueled the release of her second album.
About the Road Less Traveled project, Alaina says, “These songs are a true representation of who I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going. This album has pushed me to accept who I am and be 100% honest about it. Road Less Traveled is truly me.
The album is a solid piece of work. I think it gives an adequate perception of who Lauren Alaina is and what she’s been through. I wouldn’t say all the tracks are equally as strong as some. Yet, there are enough really strong tracks to get Alaina by, making this, what could be, the most opportune moment of her career. When looking at this as someone’s ‘second debut,’ it’s okay to give a pass to those tracks that just don’t do it for me.
TRACK BY TRACK BREAKDOWN:
“DOIN’ FINE” | LAUREN ALAINA, EMILY SHACKLETON, BRADY RILEY, BUSBEE
“Daddy got sober, Mama got his best friend / I’ve cut down crying to every other weekend / Thanks for asking how I’ve been”
The track’s opening line says it all. Lauren Alaina isn’t going to be afraid of being honest on this record and she wan’t you to know right out of the gate. The song is Alaina recounting the struggle of her parents divorce and what she went through emotionally before finding peace within herself. She admits she continues to healing from the pain the divorce caused but realizes, “everyone is a little broken.”
“MY KINDA PEOPLE” | ALAINA, RILEY, BUSBEE, EMILY WEISBAND
I feel like this song retells the story of “Road Less Traveled.” Although, the angle the story is told through is more specific to the person (who we are as individuals) versus the journey we take through life to accomplish our dreams and goals.
The fairly upbeat tune is a bit more on the pop song with a slight country flair in the background. (That could easily be reedited with little notice if the song picked on Top 40 radio.)
Basically no matter what you look like, where you’re from, or what you’ve got, if you can get down, have a good time, and let your true colors show, you’re “my kinda people.”
“THREE” | ALAINA, SETH ENNIS, JORDAN REYNOLDS
This is actually my favorite track on the record. It recounts the journey of an artist who’s out on the road just trying to be a success and accomplish the goals she’s set. But the angle the song is what’s missed in life to accomplish those dreams.
“I’m out on the road praying alone / Every night for a sign that I’m doing this right / And I’m right where I’m supposed to be…A lot of miles, a lot of tears / You’ve given me some of my best years / There’s so much I had to miss out on / Six years of missing home for three minutes on the radio”
It’s an inspiring song that certainly recounts the draw-backs of the lifestyle she’s chosen. But, with this album and the path she’s currently paving, she’s likely bound to see the rewards for the sacrifices.
“ROAD LESS TRAVELED” | ALAINA, MEGHAN TRAINOR, JESSE FRASURE
The lead single off this project. Some consider it to be her breakout success. It’s certainly a song of self empowerment that fits naturally within radio playlists. I think this single shows maturity in her music, yet stays true to the ‘Alaina’ sound she’s known for.
“QUEEN OF HEARTS” | ALAINA, LINDSAY LEE, VICTORIA BANKS
Not my favorite song on the project. Still fairly decent nonetheless. The story, basically, is Alaina encouraging her love interest to play his cards right while she’s in the palm of his hand. She says with luck, he may find himself with a ‘Queen of hearts.’
“Cause I’m right here / In the palm of your hand / Right now, baby go all in / Slow down before you lose your chance to win / Don’t throw it all away / You underestimate what you got / Love is worth the wait / Take a shot / Don’t be so quick to fold your cards / You just might have / A Queen of Hearts”
The track could be a potential single from the album. It’s familiar to something you’d see in Carrie Underwood’s collection of songs like “Before He Cheats,” and “Undo It.”
“THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOY” | ALAINA, SHACKLETON
You know the cliche, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover?” Well, I did it. I saw the title for this song and truly expected some kind of shallow girl anthem that takes a hard dig at the guys. Instead, Alaina brings an incredible message encouraging a young woman to not base her life around some guy warning devoting yourself has the potential for disappointment in the end. She advises the girl to focus on her and who she’s going to be in this world.
“PAINTING PILLOWS” | ALAINA, LINDSAY JACK RIMES, ALEX MASTERS
This song caught my attention. It’s the devastating story of being alone. It’s a country ballad that’s Kacey Musgraves meets Kelsea Ballerini. Heck, I might even have to throw Kelly Clarkson in the mix.The song is stripped down and showcases Alaina’s powerful vocals that led her through her Idol years. It’s worth a listen.
“NEXT BOYFRIEND” | ALAINA, WEISBAND, MATT MC VANEY
This song was released as a single on the Lauren Alaina-EP released in 2015. The track cracked the Top 50 on the Airplay chart. It’s the second single of Alain’s to miss the Top 40 rotation. It’s not too bad if you’re into the pop-country side of things. It reminds me of the single she released prior to this, “Barefoot and Buckwild,” there isn’t much of a difference in style and sound between these two. Leading me to believe they were both written around the same time.
Upon it’s release, “Next Boyfriend” was a glimpse into where Alaina was taking her music, since releasing her debut album 4 years earlier. I look at this song as the stepping stone from who Alaina was and who she is today.
“CRASHIN’ THE BOYS CLUB” | ALAINA, WEISBAND, JOHAN FRANSSON
Honestly, this is my least favorite track on this album. It is just too poppy for my taste. Well, that and I’m certainly not in the demographic this song is meant to target. Nonetheless, this is a song of tearing down the standards of what guys do in their free time versus what girls spend their time doing.
The girls…”Talking drama / Drinking red wine / If I hear I look fat one more time / Doin’ spray tans / getting highlights / can’t put up with this stuff all night.”
The guys…”My boyfriend, and all of his friends, and all of their friends are drinking beer right now / Downtown, just keeping it cool / talking about football cards, favorite bars, and glory days in high school”
In the end, Alaina wants to join the boys’ club, so she crashes the party.
“SAME DAY DIFFERENT BOTTLE” | ALAINA, CAITLYN SMITH, DAN COUCH
This is probably the most critically acclaimed track on the record. One of my personal favorites. Alaina’s haunting vocals recount the pain of watching someone you love (her father) struggle with alcoholism.
Alaina brings the emotion of standing on the sidelines watching in disbelief to life. You feel her pain of wanting nothing more than to do anything to help. Knowing that there’s nothing you can do when the person struggling can’t face reality themselves. This song presents and extremely emotional story, one that Alaina tells with passion.
“HOLDING THE OTHER” | ALAINA, WEISBAND, EIRC OLSON
This song is single material. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this come up as a release down the line. It’s about the empowerment of love. Knowing that you can accomplish everything, conquer the whole world, with that one person holding your other hand.
“‘Cause you kiss me back together when I’m falling apart / When the music’s gone, I’m dancing to the beat of your heart / You’re the breath in my lungs when the gravity’s pulling me under / I could win any war / I could face any storm / Yeah, I could conquer the world / With just one hand / As long as you’re holding the other.”
“PRETTY” | ALAINA, WEISBAND, FELICIA BARTON
Alaina ends the record with a song called, “Pretty.” It’s a song directly addressing her own personal struggle with bulimia. You might even compare this song with Christina Aguileria’s 2002 hit, “Beautiful.”
“All the other girls are thinner / So you skip another dinner / You tell yourself it’s for your health / What’s the matter with this picture / Girl deep down you know better.”
The song continues to encourage you to live your truth. Citing, “There’s no difference between a mirror and a liar because / Pretty is as pretty does.”
Overall, I think Alaina’s got a fairly solid record here that could earn her considerable airtime if she travel’s the right road. (No pun intended…okay, maybe a little) But really, if she released the right choices off this album, she could carry herself over to another record, and then progress from there. Not every song on this album is a smash. But you may just find something you like.
Why not take a listen to Alaina’s powerful vocals. I don’t think you’ll find it to be a waste of time. You know, the more I listened to this record the more I enjoyed the songs on it. If anything, you have to hear, “Doin’ Fine,” “Three,” “Painting Pillows,” “Same Day Different Bottle,” and “Pretty.” If you’re going to go that far into it, you might as well stick around for the other tracks too.