Track-by-Track Album Review: ballerini, Kelsea Ballerini

Ballerini reimagines the songs from her third studio release on her new album. // Photo Credit: Kelsea Ballerini via Instagram

Kelsea Ballerini released her third studio album, kelsea at the height of the COVID-19 shutdowns this past March. Because she was unable to tour and play this new music live, she found another way to keep the songs she’d made current: Ballerini reimagined the tracks from kelsea on a brand-new album called ballerini (released September 11). Whereas kelsea is built on bright, uptempo, and at times pop-leaning production, ballerini is more stripped down, featuring only a few instruments plus Ballerini’s vocals. Here’s my full track-by-track breakdown:

1. “overshare” (Kelsea Ballerini, Josh Osborne, Jesse Frasure, Tayla Parx)

Ballerini slows down opener, “overshare,” adding in some guitar to give it a stronger country sound. She also swaps lyrics on the second verse, changing the guy’s name from “A” to “J.”

Standout Lyrics: Like that time I was overserved on Broadway/Outside the bathroom, cryin’ in the hallway/Tellin’ every girl that walked by, never date a guy whose name starts with J/Or the night, that I met somebody famous/I acted a fool, so they’ll remain nameless/I showed Instagrams of my dog/Aired all of my laundry/Now I’m just the girl that overshared

2. “club” (Kelsea Ballerini, Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy Robbins)

Ballerini loses the synths and opts for a more stripped-down version of “club,” turning it into a stunning piano ballad. Ballerini also shot a new music video for this version of “club,” showcasing the re-worked song’s emotion through interpretive dance. (Fun fact: Ballerini was a dancer growing up).

Standout Lyrics: I don’t wanna wake up on the floor of a bathroom/Lookin’ at the stamps on my hand like a tattoo/Say I’m never doin’ that again if I don’t have to/And I don’t have to go to the club

3. “homecoming queen?” (Kelsea Ballerini, Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy Robbins)

Ballerini leaves “homecoming queen?” virtually unchanged on this version of her album. The ode to insecurity switches guitar for piano with emphasis placed on different notes throughout, but the overall heart of the song is the same.

Standout Lyrics: Yeah what if I told you the sky wouldn’t fall/If you lost your composure, said to hell with it all/Not everything pretty sparkles and shines/And even the homecoming queen cries/Oh yeah/Even the homecoming queen cries/Hey homecoming queen/With tears in your eyes/’Cause somebody told you/it all be alright

4. “the other girl” (Kelsea Ballerini, McAnally, Ross Copperman)

Ballerini takes her duet with Halsey and sings it solo on this version of “the other girl.”

Standout Lyrics: Is it me, is it you?/Tell me who/Who’s the other girl?/Who’s the first?/Who’s the fool?/Who’s the diamond?/Who’s the pearl?/Are you mad?/Me too/And I wonder in his world/Is it me, is it you?/Who’s the other girl?

5. “love me like a girl” (Kelsea Ballerini, Lauren Grieve, Ross Copperman, Hillary Lindsey, Jordan Minton)

Ballerini makes some minor lyric changes and slow things down a little more on this track in which she wishes her man would know her the way her friends do.

Standout Lyrics: But I wish you could love me like a girl/I wish you could love me like a girl/‘Cause my friends, they don’t hurt me baby not like you/So I wish you could know me baby like they do/I wish you could get inside my head/Baby maybe then you’d understand/It doesn’t mean that you’re not my whole world/But I wish you could love me like, love me like I wish you could love me like a girl

6. “love and hate” (Kelsea Ballerini, Ed Sheeran, Ross Copperman)

On kelsea, this track featured a gorgeous string quartet. On this version, Ballerini turns it into a folksy tune. This is easily the best re-imagined track on the entire album.

Standout Lyrics: We used to be so happy, didn’t we (We used to be happy)/We used to say that forever’d be easy (Forever’d be easy)/But the day that you lied, I felt it all change/I crossed that thin, thin line between love and hate

7. “bragger,” (Kelsea Ballerini, Shane McAnally, Jimmy Robbins, Nicolle Galyon, Ross Copperman)

Ballerini draws out the notes on “bragger,” making this version of the tune more sensual. Ballerini’s inspiration for the song? Her husband and fellow country singer-songwriter, Morgan Evans.

Standout Lyrics: I don’t wanna be a bragger/But my man’s a heart attacker/Like McConaughey and Jagger/Hotter than a Saturday night/I can’t help it that I flaunt him/I understand why you would want him/And you can keep up all the chatter/But all that really matters is he’s mine

8. “hole in the bottle” (Kelsea Ballerini, Steph Jones, Hillary Lindsey, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley)

Ballerini makes this country drinking song that much more country. In an interview about her new album with The Tennesseean, Ballerini says she wanted the new version of “hole in the bottle” to sound like a “jam band that you would find off [the famous Nashville street] Broadway.” Ballerini performed the reimagined version of the song live at the Academy of Country Music Awards this past Wednesday.

Standout Lyrics: I keep my cool/Play by all the rules/I swear ten minutes ago that bottle was full/I won’t cry/About love gone wrong/’Cause tears would water down this ruby red I’m sippin’ on

9. “half of my hometown” (Kelsea Ballerini, Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, Jimmy Robbins, Nicolle Galyon)

Ballerini also opts to sing her duet with Kenny Chesney solo on this version of “half of my hometown” and gives a sweet tribute to her dad on the second verse.

Standout Lyrics: Half of our prom queens cut their hair/Half of them think that it ain’t fair/The quarterback moved away and never came back/Oh, Half of my family is happy I left/But my daddy knows I won’t forget/Where I came from/Same place where they came from

10. “the way i used to” (Kelsea Ballerini, Steph Jones, Cass Lowe, Marcus Lomax, Samuel George Lewis, Julian Bunetta, Ian Kirkpatrick)

Ballerini shines vocally on “the way i used to.” This version isn’t much different from the original aside from the piano.

Standout Lyrics: I didn’t mean to write a song about you/But a couple shots and all the words pour out/I swear I’m doin’ better off without you/So I don’t know why but I wanna find out/I wanna find out/Does somebody love you/In the way I do/I mean the way I used to/Does somebody touch you/In the way I do/I mean the way I used to/I know it’s three in the mornin’/It’s tequila talkin’/Damn, your voice is all up in my head again/Does somebody love you/In the way I do/I mean the way I used to

11. “needy” (Kelsea Ballerini, Ross Copperman, Julia Michaels)

Ballerini takes this love song she wrote for husband, Evans and makes it even more beautiful and soulful.

Standout Lyrics: If touchin’ you’s gonna make me easy/That’s okay ‘cause I don’t want space/If not sayin’ enough’s gonna make you leave me/Oh I swear to God I’ll talk all day/You’ve never needed anybody but now you need me/I was the same/But things have changed I’m needy

12. “a country song” (Kelsea Ballerini, Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy Robbins)

Ballerini adds more piano to this version of “a country song.”

Standout Lyrics: But I wanna write a country song/When nothin’s gentle on my mind/And I’m needin’ somethin’ strong/And I’m almost out of wine/When I get so lonesome/My truth gets told some whether it’s right or wrong/I stay up all night/Done it my whole life/Sometimes you gotta write/A country song

13. “la” (Kelsea Ballerini)

Ballerini plays up the electric guitar on this version of album closer, “la.” Lyrically, this track is one of Ballerini’s best. It’s also her only solo write.

Standout Lyrics: I wonder if I’ll get invited to the party (I wonder if I’ll get invited to the party)/Yeah and if I do, will I go If I go, will I know somebody (will I even know somebody)/I’m on my third glass of wine tryin’ to find conversation in a room with bigger names/But other days I’m lookin’ up the real estate/Confetti’s fallin’, friends are callin’, but which part is reality/And if I let down my hair in the ocean air, will Tennessee be mad at me/Yeah I know it ain’t a one-way road/But sometimes it feels that way/I’ve got a love and hate relationship with LA

Ballerini’s reimagining of her kelsea album is clever; changing up the same songs she’s already shared with fans brings a new layer to her artistry. A two-disc version of both kelsea and ballerini is available for purchase at Target.

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Writer + Music Lover; I listen to everything from oldies to country.

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