Lauren Alaina is all grown up.
She's no longer that precocious 15-year-old that auditioned for American Idol in front of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez and stole our hearts with her child-like charm and youthful glow.
No, that Lauren is gone. The 18-year-old performer that took the Idol stage on Thursday (May 9) is a grown woman with ambition, drive and passion for making music. As evidenced by her new-found performance skills, she's confidently poised with enough sass to set the local barn on fire.
With her new single "Barefoot and Buckwild," she's out to score her first radio hit, channeling her contemporaries Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Instead of clutching onto the past and trying to make her old image work (as found on her 2011 debut Wildflower), Lauren has evolved into a mature and worthy contender for the next generation of female vocalists.
Lauren has always possessed a strong voice, but most of the time, it was marred by syrupy lyrics and aww-shucks attitude. However, on this new single, she lets it all hang out, as she attacks the story with ferocious energy. With definite rock-influences (much like Carrie's "Good Girl"), the new track is as Country-pop as they come, which is never a bad thing. This is what is being played on Country radio right now. What sets this song apart from the millions of other females trying to make headway in the business is that it captures the very essence of who Lauren is as an artist. She's just like Taylor was at her age, but with a more down-home edge and authenticity. She's just like Carrie, but more youthful and dare I say, sassy? Yes.
As an anthem about falling for that guy who is nothing but "trouble," Lauren pulls it off quite convincingly. He's like a drug, and she can't help but fall for him. "You got a way of calling right at the wrong time," she sings on the song's opening lines. "I know your southern draw is what trouble sounds like. The way you got me grinning, you know I’ll climb up in your rusty truck. I give up, come on over pick me up."
While the verses aren't particularly catchy, once the chorus kicks, it'll have your head bobbing and blasting the radio as you scorch down a red dirt backroad. Sure, the lyrics are a little like a leading man's song (see: Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton), but coming from a female, it isn't as annoying or laboriously tiring. It might not be as meaningful as her previous single "Eighteen Inches," a Carrie co-write about young, reckless love and new life, but it works for what it is.
"You slide me over little love shootin’ shotgun, hands out the window got my toes up on the dash, nothing but fields on the wheels just slinging wet mud. I like the way you drive, just like a rebel child. You make me wanna get barefoot and buckwild," she belts on the ear-worm chorus.
Overall, the production is just enough to give the track a little flavor and character. It's never overbearing. In fact, Lauren keeps the reigns in check and drives the song forward with her crystal voice and cute "ooo"s. If this isn't a much-needed hit for this girl, nothing will be.
Overall Grade: A-
Take a listen: