Relative newcomer Sarah Darling brings us the latest in a long string of summer-themed singles.
With her "Little Umbrellas," her sharp vocals are on full display, complete with a pop-produced plucky intro that then segues into a catchy hook. As the followup to her breakout hit "Home to Me," this is the first release after parting ways from Black River Entertainment earlier this year, for undisclosed reasons. Since the mutual shift, Sarah is still parterned with manager John Alexander, formerly Vice President of Artist Management at Black River Entertainment, and heads into a new era with a clear head.
The breezy summer track, available on iTunes on June 4, isn't trying to be anything that it's not, other than a feel-good anthem about little fruity drinks with little colorfully electric umbrellas. If you don't want to hop on the next flight to the coast, you must not be listening to the lyrics hard enough.
Sure, the production is pure pop, something that would easily fit on any Taylor Swift record, but it follows in line with what is working well on Country radio right now. With contemporary Carrie Underwood getting away with such pop-leaning hooks and backing percussion, Sarah's effort is just as serviceable with a rather different simplistic charm. The track doesn't have booming production or multi-layered components as found on recent Carrie offerings (see: "Blown Away," "Two Black Cadillacs") but keeps things as bareboned as needed. With sparse country-centric elements, "Little Umbrellas" could prove to a be crossover smash on every Top 40 radio station.
"Uh oh, he broke your heart. Girl, what you gonna do? Have a pity party in the dark?" she asks on the first verse (perhaps a jab at Swift?) "Well, I've gotta better idea for you." She then launches into her sweet reverie that involves laying out on the beach and "watching his memory fade" and soaking in the sun. I mean, that's our dream right? In only three minutes, Sarah transports us to a faraway land with white sandy beaches, cabana boys (who she inevitably tries to woo) and a new state of mind. Figurately, it perhaps resembles her newfound freedom after leaving BRE (or not, I'm only surmising at this point).
Thematically, the song is the polar opposite of a Taylor-crafted ex-lover-kiss-off. Instead of brooding over the breakup and swimming in a sea of tissues, Sarah decides "a little change in the weather" is a viable alternative and takes a tropical trip to the beach "killing little umbrellas." At the song's core, the message is a stark departure from the typical summer-inspired hit. It doesn't feed into tired redneck cliches or the leading man laundry list. No, it takes a very different approach, by combining the leading female "I hate men" kinda of jam with the recent upsweep of dogdays tracks. It crafts a refreshing perspective for the female vocalists of Country music, and for that, I'm grateful. I'm not sure I could have handeld another stilted anthem about small-town life.
Vocally, Sarah is as on-point as a twist top cascading down a smoldering sidewalk, scorching the dirt along the way. She is certainly not a powerhouse vocalist like Carrie or Martina McBride, but her convincing delivery serves her much better. Even the rap-like breakdown on the bridge (which consists of a list of delicious sounding drinks) is a nice change of pace for a female, as that is rarely something attempted. And unlike Blake Shelton or Jason Aldean's valiantly awkward efforts, it comes across as a natural progression to the reggae-infused song.
Overall Grade: A-
Photo Credit: Black River Publishing
Check out a recent live performance of the song below: