About three and a half years ago I was asked to give a new artist a chance, listen to her song that was playing on Sirius XM, and consider writing a review of it. That artist was Kelsea Ballerini, the song was “Love Me Like You Mean It,” and my answer was “yes.” As soon as I heard Ballerini’s song, I knew this artist had something special because her song caught my ear like few had around that time.
Fast forward to today and Ballerini has had three No. 1 hit songs (off debut album The First Time) and is celebrating the second chapter of her career, “KB2,” with the release of her sophomore album, Unapologetically.
As fans have come to expect from the songwriting phenom, all twelve tracks on the project were written or co-written by Ballerini, making her one of the few active artists in country music to have songwriting credits on every song she has put out for public consumption. Unapologetically gives fans the opportunity to learn more about Ballerini, picking up where her debut album left off. Now, through the gift of music, we get to meet a more mature Ballerini; one with a fulfilling career, a magical life, and a forever romance. But, with all the glitz, glamour, and success comes reality, and we are getting a glimpse into that, as well.
What you will quickly realize from the dozen tracks on the album is that Ballerini has learned a lot about herself over the course of two and a half years. She is not only more confident in her skin, but confident in her lyrical messages, unabashedly (and, obviously, unapologetically) shedding her layers and giving us a heavy dose of honesty. That truth comes to the tune of saying goodbye to a love, figuring out how to put one foot in front of the other, and finding her heart in the hands of her soulmate.
If you listen to Ballerini’s album closely, you can file the tracks into the aforementioned phases of life that are equivalent to her truth over the last couple of years.
Songs like “Graveyard,” “Miss Me More,” “Get Over Yourself,” and “Roses” are dedicated to a former love; a person Ballerini seemingly believed was her one and only until her heart was torn in two. Though she felt battered and bruised by the painful loss, it gave her the opportunity to get to know herself, rise above the hurt, and recognize that things in the past are there for a reason. Through these tracks we see Ballerini’s healing progression, somewhat mirroring the stages of grief and ultimately ending up with her on the other side with a clear and open mind.
“Machine Heart,” “In Between,” and “High School” serve as Ballerini’s proclamations about herself and realizations she made throughout the healing process. Though Ballerini seems as though she has reached superhuman status during her quick rise to the top of the country music genre, these vulnerable tracks bring her back down to that level where her fans all want to be and feel like they can be her friends. Through the lessons, admissions, and acceptance of who and what she is, Ballerini gains confidence to close one chapter of her story and begin another.
As we get to the end of the album, we encounter the tracks “End of the World,” “I Hate Love Songs,” “Unapologetically,” and “Music” — all of which were likely written as Ballerini began to see light at the end of a dark, forlorn tunnel. Living her life in the public eye, Ballerini has made it no secret that she has fallen madly in love with fiancé Morgan Evans, and this portion of the album allows her to share how she let go and let love back in when the right man came into her world.
Perhaps this is less a “review” of an album and more a collection of thoughts on the craftsmanship of Unapologetically, but let’s be real — who am I or you to judge the way in which an undeniably talented artist expresses herself when she tears down her walls and lays everything out on the table? The fact of the matter is, when it comes to Ballerini, you are going to love every track she chooses to cut on an album because each one is selected so carefully that she can’t possibly make a misstep.
If you want to learn more about the human being underneath the gorgeous rompers, flawless makeup, and awards and honors, Unapologetically is the place to start and finish. If you are looking for a taste of truth and humility and to be reminded that celebrities are people too, serve yourself a heaping spoonful of Unapologetically. If you are trying to put your own feelings into words, whether it is through heartbreak, self-discovery, or soul-recovery, let Unapologetically be your guide.
To put it simply, Kelsea Ballerini’s Unapologetically is everything she promised it would be and more. It is an introspective piece of art that was introduced to the public, putting her more on display than ever before. It is brave, courageous, soulful, and honest — all things that each of us should be in our own lives. Perhaps Ballerini said it best, “we are legends,” and with this sophomore release, the No. 1 singer-songwriter has proven to be a legend, a lover, a leader, and a light in this industry.
Kelsea Ballerini’s Unapologetically is now available everywhere. Click here to download it on iTunes now, and watch the music video for her lead single, “Legends,” below.