Rising Country star Kelsea Ballerini is emerging as one of the hottest new female artists in the genre. With three number one hits – Love Me Like You Mean It, Dibs and Peter Pan – and Gold-selling debut album The First Time under her belt as well as an ACM Award for New Female Vocalist of the Year in 2016 Kelsea’s star is rapidly rising. With the rise in popularity of Country music here in the UK, Kelsea has finally officially released The First Time on this side of the pond and it comes with four additional acoustic tracks not featured on the original US release.
Ahead of her debut UK show at Under the Bridge in May, Kelsea released The First Time last month to tie in with the fifth year of C2C: Country to Country. Many Country fans had hoped that she would appear at the annual event but due to touring commitments in the US, she wasn’t able to appear this year. The First Time is a collection of songs co-written by Kelsea and the vibe is very much one of Country meets pop.
Kelsea doesn’t have the vocal power of say Carrie Underwood but she more than gives Taylor Swift a run for her money. After Taylor ditched Country and embraced her pop desires, the genre has been missing a female artist that writes and sings melody-laden pop-infused Country tracks. Well Kelsea has ably filled gap in the genre and it’s not hard to see what all of the fuss is about.
The First Time kicks off with the storming XO, a song that finds Kelsea calling out a lover who is still very much in love with his ex-girlfriend. It’s a feisty start to the album and one that quickly establishes what to expect. For the most part The First Time explores love and will be relatable for Kelsea’s core audience of girls in their teens and early 20s. The album’s lead single Love You Like You Mean It is one of the catchiest moments here and it’s a playful pop ditty where Kelsea tells her man to fully embrace his feelings for her rather than playing coy.
Elsewhere on the record Kelsea showcases her sensitive side as she opens up about a boyfriend leaving her to chase something he believes to be better on Peter Pan. It’s one of the finest moments on the record and it’s not surprising that it’s the singer’s second platinum-selling hit. Square Pegs is an inspirational callout to Kelsea’s fans who feel different from everyone else, uptempo moment Sirens tells the familiar girl falling for a bad boy story, and Stilettos finds the singer showing resilience in the wake of a break up.
The standout moment on the record comes on the self-penned title track The First Time. It’s one of the most emotive moments on the record and it’s a story many of the singer’s fans will be able to relate to. Kelsea sings of heartbreak as she lets a lover back into her life realising she should have kept that door shut after it closed the first time round.
The bonus tracks are acoustic versions of Love Me Like You Mean It, Dibs, Peter Pan and The First Time. They give Kelsea’s voice a chance to shine free from the production of the studio versions, and give me hope that she’ll have some acoustic moments when she performs at Under the Bridge in May.
The First Time is a strong first record from Kelsea. She’s due to release her second album later this year and I expect it’ll be a more mature set than this one. That’s not meant as a slight – The First Time perfectly captures a time in your life when love is very much on your mind and Kelsea paints a very vivid picture. With a knack for memorable choruses, plenty of attitude and a beautiful voice, Kelsea is only at the beginning of what will be a long and successful career I’m sure.
Track Listing: 1. XO 2. Peter Pan 3. Love Me Like You Mean It 4. Square Pegs 5. The First Time 6. Looking At Stars 7. Sirens 8. Secondhand Smoke 9. Dibs 10. Stilettos 11. Yeah Boy 12. Underage 13. Love Me Like You Mean It (acoustic) 14. Dibs (acoustic) 15. Peter Pan (acoustic) 16. The First Time (acoustic) Record Label: Sony Music Release Date: 10th March 2017