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Music Review: Lady Antebellum – Own the Night

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After Lady Antebellum’s chart-topping success and platinum-selling sophomore set, Need You Now, fans and critics alike were wondering exactly what the trio could do to top themselves. Well, that moment as arrived as their third studio album, Own the Night, dropped September 13, 2011.

Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood have crafted an emotionally charged and wholly artistic album in Night.  While some of their risks didn’t quite pay off (“Wanted You More,” “Love I’ve Found in You”), most certainly do (“Cold as Stone,” “We Owned the Night,” “As You Turn Away”), leaving an imprint on the listener’s ear drums.

The opening track and current single, “We Owned the Night,” sets the tone for a Lady Antebellumrollercoaster ride.  It gives Kelley a chance to show off his leading vocals with Scott delivering a balanced and soothing harmony. The rhythmic string-driven opening allows the listener to be pulled into a cleverly manipulated melody line and sing-along lyrics. If you walk away without a sense of who Lady Antebellum is after this track, a few more listens may be in store. The platinum “Just a Kiss” comes next, and has enough pop sensibility to be well received at Hot AC, AC, and Top 40 radio stations. From the infectious hook (“So baby I’m alright, just a kiss goodnight”) and the musical chemistry of Kelley and Scott, “Kiss” is reminiscent of “Need You Now,” which catapulted Lady Antebellum into superstardom.

The next track, “Dance Away with My Heart,” shifts gears in lyrical content and rewinds time in a “Strawberry Wine” kind of way. “You went off to college at the end of that summer,” Kelley and Scott croon. Wishing upon a time when “you will always be 18” is at the core of the song and drives home the concept of owning the night, a theme that is peppered throughout the album.

“Friday Night,” penned by Rose Falcon, Eric Paslay, and Rob Crosby, is a catchy romp about comparing love to a Friday night.”I wanna be your Friday night,” the trio sings. While not mining extraordinarily new territory, the song does get you moving and bopping your head.

Keeping up the tempo on “When You Where Mine,” Lady Antebellum explores varying rhythms, going from fast and furious on the verses to a slower, more melodic chorus. The lyrics revisit a lost love as they chant “what if the world was ours for the taking” and “back when you were mine.” Don’t let the title fool you in believing that you will be dished up with a ballad, ala the Dixie Chicks’ “You Were Mine.” Unexpectedly, you get splashed in the face with a cool song.

Perhaps, the biggest surprise on Own the Night is “Cold as Stone,” which is the album’s highlight and greatest risk. “I wish I was cold as stone, then I wouldn’t have to feel the pain,” the chorus flutters. The emotions that are bubbling under the surface of the track could leave you, the listener, cold as stone. Instead, though, Scott and Kelley’s interpretation creates a truly magical moment, and when capped with a Titanic-like flute ending, this track leaves a stamp on the heart.

The next two singles, “Singing Me Home” and “Wanted You More,” could have easily been omitted from the final cut of the album, as neither add nor detract from an already explosive set.

At this point, it seems that the album begins to feel a tad redundant in theme, and then there is a surprise. With “As You Turn Away,” a primarily string and piano driven piece, Scott delivers an emotionally poignant interpretation that only benefits from multiple listens.”I keep reaching out for you, hoping you might stay,” Scott begs. As the tension and instrumentation builds, the song quickly takes a sharp turn and pulls back to create a sweet and tender moment for Scott. This song could easily be the third single.

“Love I’ve Found in You,” another uptempo ditty, does very little in the way of keeping up the momentum of the album. Instead, there is a dip in energy; this is a track that could have been left for another day. It certainly is a nice song on its own merits but comes at a point in the album that should be climbing higher and higher.

Closing out the album are “Somewhere Love Remains” and “Heart of the World,” both being two of the strongest album cuts. “Here we are again, sitting on the edge of leaving,” Kelley swoons. “Remains,” written by Lady Antebellum and Monty Powell, lifts the album out of a minor setback and would fit perfectly on radio.

“World,” which culminates the set, reaches deep and pulls out all the stops. It is as if the track is summarizing every song before it. One could listen solely to this track and understand the entire album. While a flowy ballad, it doesn’t lack on mustering up a punch to the stomach. “Love is the heart of the world,” the trio belts on the chorus.

If you are looking for both an artistic statement and a commercial piece, Lady Antebellum supplies enough satisfying musical treats in Own the Night. Even if the journey is a litte rocky at times, the payoff in the end is well worth the $10 purchase.

Rating: 4/5

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About Jason Scott