Lauren Alaina may have come in second to fellow country singer Scotty McCreery on American Idol’s season 10 but her debut release Wildflower might just put her at the top of the heap.
I was never a huge fan of Lauren during her Idol run; she was too immature and not ready for the grueling schedule winning the American Idol title would entail. I also grew tired of her cutesy personality, along with her inconsistent performances. I never disputed her singing ability; she has a huge voice but needed to learn what to do with it and how to control it.
Wildflower starts with the Georgia native singing about the positive attributes of Southern belles on “Georgia Peaches” with lines like: “Love to dance and we love to flirt, ain’t afraid of a little dirt” and “there’s a reason why the boys pick the Georgia peaches.” This is a song as a teen living in Northwest Georgia I’d have blared while getting ready for a night out causing a little bit of trouble. It showcases her voice, spunky, fun attitude and is a great song for a 16 year-old.
“Growing Her Wings” reminds me immediately of Faith Hill’s “Wild One,” which was her breakout hit on her own debut album. Alaina sings of a small town girl with big dreams, and a sneaky, rebellious streak, despite over-bearing parents. It’s cute too similar in sound and content to the previous song.
The next song, “Tupelo,” sucks me in despite myself with an infinitely catchy chorus and lazy, sultry sound to it. Lyrics depict two people falling in love on a road trip and tells us “we sang all the way down to Tupelo/love struck right on the money” she sings about all my favorite parts of a great road trip; singing along with the radio, taking side roads to see where they go and your favorite person right by your side.
The first more somber song on Wildflower is “The Middle,” about not dwelling too much on beginnings or endings because where we’re at now is the middle and what’s happening right now is the most important. This song was a little big for Lauren and would be better suited to a Carrie Underwood or Martina McBride-type vocalist. She’s just not quite there to be able to handle a big powerful ballad like “The Middle.” I have no doubt she’ll get there, but she’s got a little way to go.
“Like My Mother Does” has been dissected and reviewed to death feel the same about it as I did then; it’s a good song that somehow doesn’t squeeze any emotion out of me, yet I cried like a baby at the video on CMT.
Now we get to the inspiration for the album’s title “She’s A Wildflower” which reminds me again of Faith Hills’ “Wild One” as well as “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks. It’s a sweet anthem about youth and every opportunity available to you, just waiting to be found.
“I’m Not One Of Them” is the first song that made me smile as well as laugh out loud from the very first line. She sings “You pull up in that jacked up ride/Open the door on the passenger side/There a lot of girls who might want to climb inside/But I’m not one of them” and you can hear the amusement and sass in her voice. She loses me a little when she sings about not being another notch on said boy’s Facebook wall, and the ending for no reason whatsoever turns into a Britney Spears song for about 10 seconds.
Right when I thought we were having a fun and I was safe, Lauren kicks me in the gut with “The Locket,” which is essentially the book The Notebook in a five minute song. “The Locket” depicts young love enduring time, war, a lifetime together and ultimately the death of the man whose picture is in “the” locket. It’s my favorite type of country song that spans time, and the story loops around from the one starting the story to another person and you’re not sure who’s narrating the song until the very end. It stomped on my heart a bit but it’s a beautiful, sappy country song that should be Alaina’s next single.
Lauren’s personal idol, Carrie Underwood, is the co-writer of “Eighteen Inches” which represents the distance from your head to your heart. It is essentially MTV’s 16 And Pregnant in a country song and one of the weaker efforts so far. “One Of The Boys” is an ode to country boys that is about as uninspired and generic as it can be. “Funny Thing About Love” is the one song on the album co-written by Alaina herself and it feels like it was co-written by a 16-year old, being all about the ups-and-downs of teen love and how a boy seems to like you until you like him back.
Wildflower winds down with “Dirt Road Prayer” and I get goose bumps immediately when I hear her voice, so pure and lilting. It’s Lauren Alaina at her very best, displaying perfectly that sometimes restraint can have the most powerful effect. She sings about her love for her family and the power of prayer at any time and any place.
I covered every single moment of American Idol’s last season for BlindedBySound and as someone who was barely even on the Lauren Alaina fence on her best day, Wildflower might not have won me over entirely but I have hopes this little girl will continue to learn and grow and be a pretty damned good country artist. Wildflower is a strong debut with hints of what might be possible but what matters for Lauren will be how she follows this up.