'Ballerini' Review: Kelsea Ballerini's stripped-down record has moments of pure joy and familiar country charm
In 'Ballerini', the singer-songwriter blooms to her fullest and comes apart in ways previously unseen
In 'Ballerini', Kelsea Ballerini's second full-length studio album of 2020, the singer-songwriter blooms to her fullest and comes apart in ways previously unseen. The counterpart to her last release 'Kelsea', 'Ballerini' is the stripped-down version of the same album. The tracklist, too, is exactly the same. But whereas 'Kelsea' was a bold, glittery and enthusiastic offering with smooth, polished production and upbeat pop beats, 'Ballerini' is the opposite. Not only does 'Ballerini' feel vulnerable, approachable and helplessly open-ended, it also has moments of pure joy, the gold-old charisma of twinkling acoustic guitars, and the familiar country charm.
Clocking in at over 40 minutes, a single session of listening to 'Ballerini' from the first to last track is an effortless endeavor. The album goes from one track to another, the mood often switching with each, without the listener feeling perplexed. Ballerini's voice and words guide us to the next track, each of which we've heard before on 'Kelsea', but feels like a fresh experience altogether. The track, 'Club', for instance, was fun-loving and jovial, but on 'Ballerini' it's capable of inducing an existential crisis. The 'Ballerini' version of 'Club' carries an underlying haunted beat which turns its hook into a rethinking of life's decisions.
Similarly, the opening track 'Overshare', which on 'Kelsea' was playful and perfectly suited for a girls' night-out, turns into sincere reflections of one's actions. Ballerini's voice shines through on tracks like 'Homecoming Queen', which opens with notes of the sombre atmospheric piano. The following track, 'The Other Girl', which featured Halsey on the 'Kelsea' version, underplays its beauty with the help of subdued guitars and delightfully layered bass notes. While 'The Other Girl' exudes pain, regret and multitudes of doubt, 'Love Me Like a Girl', the track that follows, digs to the deepest trenches of a person's thoughts. Listening to the 'Kelsea' version of the same song clearly marks the colossal distinction between the two even though they're essentially the same track. 'Love and Hate', on the other hand, feels the way it does when you're walking out in the sun on a breezy summer day. Ballerini slides thorough each song without ever making you feel you've heard these before.
'Bragger', the seventh track on 'Ballerini', is a slow-burn where the singer's voice truly shines through. The minimal beats and tender acoustic notes only enhance it. 'Hole in the Bottle' is definitely one of the stand-out tracks on the record with Kelsea's singing intertwining perfectly with the frolicsome notes of the acoustic guitar. But, the highlight of the album is the ninth track, 'Half of My Hometown'. A song about leaving your hometown, 'Half of My Hometown' best captures the mood of 'Ballerini'; of dissociation, dissolution and detachment. The next track, 'The Way I Used To', is a standard break-up track and the weakest moment on the album. Almost breaking away from the mood to the rest of the album, 'The Way I Used To', individually a decent track, makes 'Ballerini' lose its way for a while before regrouping in the song 'Needy'. The final two tracks, 'A Country Song' and 'LA', brings the record to an almost perfect end. While 'A Country Song' is about staying true to your roots, 'LA' is about Los Angeles and how torn she about residing in the City of Angels.
'Ballerini' is a perfect listen for slow, lazy and empty days. The record will not only appeal to fans of country music, influence of which is very much visible, but also the fans of pop and soft acoustic music.
Fans, too, reacted to the record on Twitter with one user stating, "Not giving anything away for people who haven’t heard it...but 'Ballerini' has me in fucking tears all over again. It hits different spots in different ways than before, cuts deep, bleeds, then somehow ties the wounds all back up again with a perfect ribbon."
Not giving anything away for people who haven’t heard it...but— Carly Heading (@carlyylalaa) September 11, 2020
Ballerini has me in fucking tears all over again. It hits different spots in different ways than before, cuts deep, bleeds, then somehow ties the wounds all back up again with a perfect ribbon.🦋🍷 @KelseaBallerini
Another fan, praising the record, said, "listening to #ballerini for the first time @KelseaBallerini and it is like I'm listening to completely different songs. ballerini so far feels more chilled, insecure, slower. falling in love with the song all over again."
listening to #ballerini for the first time @KelseaBallerini and it is like I'm listening to completely different songs. ballerini so far feels more chilled, insecure, slower. falling in love with the song all over again— Debbie /// 𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘬𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘦💭🥺🥰 (@Harveysgirl04) September 11, 2020
'Ballerini' is available for streaming on all major platforms.