Danielle Bradbery just might be the breakout superstar that 'The Voice' desperately needs.
Channeling such influences as The Dixie Chicks and Carrie Underwood, Danielle's debut single "The Heart of Dixie" is a sweet, uplifting tale of a woman caught between a dead-end job and a dismisive alcoholic husband. She finally comes to her senses and leaves it all behind her. Sure, thematically, the subject matter might be a bit heavy for someone that is only 16 years old, but she plays the narrator so convincingly that I didn't even notice the first 50 times I listened to the song. It officially hits all digital retailers on July 16.
The song itself borrows heavily from Carrie's "Jesus Take the Wheel" and "Wasted" records; it's country-pop at its finest with very little shifted from the traditional side of things (although there is a presence throughout the track). As a mid-tempo offering, the song displays a rather hopeful message and taps into what Danielle does best. Her covers of Sara Evans' "Born to Fly" and Pam Tillis' "Maybe It Was Memphis" had similar go-to optimism and really showcased Danielle's naturally sunny disposition (as pointed out by Mjsbigblog writer Windmills). Perhaps, that's why I have no complaints with the young singer taking on such a "heavy" song. From a listener's perspective, it's more about the message of the upbeat chorus that becomes the focus and the takeaway of the tune.
Co-written by Brett James (Carrie's "Jesus Take the Wheel"), Caitlyn Smith, (Cassadee Pope's "Wasting All These Tears" and Troy Verges (Hunter Hayes' "Wanted"), Danielle is backed by some of the finest tunesmiths in Nashville. So, it isn't any wonder that I've gravitated to the song. The songwriters have crafted quite a promising story (which I rather love, more so than the stereotypical man-bashing tune often delivered up on a silver platter). There are times that I wish they would have explored a bit more with the backstory instead of skimping over the general ideas. However, perhaps for the 16-year-old performer, it's best not to delve too deep. Obviously, that's not the point of the song.
With a plethora of females vying for radio space (including the 18-year-old Lauren Alaina), I'm not totally convinced that this song will give Danielle her big breakthrough, but there's plent to dig into in the over three-minute escape. What I admire with Big Machine is that they don't immediately go for an age-appropriate song about young love or having fun or dirt road anthems (and the like). Instead, they shoot for a tender story-song that could potentially speak to a wide demographic. It showcases Danielle's effortless vocals (which are quite authentic), and the song itself has a rather nostalgic quality. We have all been in situations where we have felt trapped (maybe not on the same level as an alcoholic relationship) but the central theme of overcoming adversity is something that every single country music fan can relate to. That's rather smart for the first single. Also, Big Machine didn't go straight to plucking the heartstrings with a trickly ballad, either, another smarth move. With Taylor Swift growing older and exploring pop these days, it's about time Big Machine finds a younger, more "country" singer for it's roster. Danielle also possesses a wholesome image that is relatable to every teen across America. Plus, she's not intimidating to all the parents; they'll want her to be BFFs with their daughters and date their sons. It's a win-win for everyone.
If this is what Danielle's album will sound like, she will certainly have a long career in music.
Overall Grade: A-
Take a listen to the full song here.
Photo Credit: Big Machine Label Group