Kelsea Ballerini completely owns her personality -- all of it -- on Kelsea, her third studio album. Out Friday (March 20), the new record boasts a slew of hit songwriters and some well-known special guests, but don't let those names distract you from the truths Ballerini drops in the 13 tracks.
Singer-songwriter moments ("LA") mix with country jams ("Hole in the Bottle") and pop bangers ("Bragger") on Kelsea, but that commingling doesn't feel awkward or forced. Even on the poppiest of tracks, Ballerini employs an honesty that's in line with country's tradition of three chords and the truth.
On "Overshare" -- Kelsea's lead track, appropriately -- Ballerini admits to her social awkwardness in a way that's both humorous and completely relatable. Really, whom among us hasn't acted like a complete fool all because we were trying to act cool?
"I overshare because I overcare / About the person over there / Who's completely unaware," Ballerini sings, and ... girl, same. It's a thread that reappears, fittingly, in the album's final track, "LA."
"Love and Hate"
Relationships are both an awful lot of work and can reveal new sides of the involved parties' personalities, and multiple songs on Kelsea find Ballerini musing on those facts: In addition to "Love and Hate," there's the song that precedes it, the earnest-if-done-before "Love Me Like a Girl," and a later album track, "Needy."
"Love and Hate," though, stands taller than the others, with its swelling strings and simple piano melody. Both lyrically and sonically, the track perfectly captures how it feels when a misstep brings a relationship to a screeching halt.
"He know how to do my body and my heart right" -- Kelsea, we're blushing! The star puts her husband -- Australia native and fellow country artist Morgan Evans -- on a pedestal in this one. "I don't wanna be a bragger," Ballerini sings at the start of the chorus, before ... well, doing just that. It's okay, though, 'cause it's dang fun, and likely to be the source of many a smitten Instagram caption now that it's out.
"Half of My Hometown"
Ballerini enlisted her hometown of Knoxville, Tenn.'s most famous son, country superstar Kenny Chensey, for this ode to the places that raise us. Some of stay and some of us leave, she notes, but bits of our hearts will always be there. Sweetly, the two Knoxville natives change the final verse of their duet to shout out their shared hometown.
"The Way I Used To"
In "The Way I Used To," Ballerini -- a couple shots deep and full of liquid courage -- is thinking about an ex. It's a tried-and-true song subject, but the chorus makes this one fresh: "Does somebody love you / In the way I do / I mean, the way I used to?" sings a clearly-not-over-him Ballerini. "Does somebody touch you / In the way I do / I mean, the way I used to?"