Please note that all the songs in Hunter Hayes's first album ("Hunter Hayes") are included in this new album, resulting in this particular post serving a sort of double purpose. Stacy has kindly agreed to share her thoughts concerning most of the songs from the first album. I have also reviewed his song from Act of Valor titled "Where We Left Off."
Title: Hunter Hayes (Encore); Single "Where We Left Off"
Author: Hunter Hayes
Genre: Country, Pop
My Rating: ****
Age Group: various
Official Rating: Teen, Young Adult
I'm going to do this by song because it seems like the most efficient way to review an entire album.
(Note: I apologize for the length this method caused, but because of the content of the album and how it is distributed, I thought it would be the best way to review this particular work. Due to the length, I have inserted a break in the post. Please click the link to read my analysis of each song.)
It seems like I am constantly asking the same question: Why is it that someone with such a great voice and cool music sings songs which border on being inappropriate?
Please don't take that the wrong way. There are truly good songs on this album, and Hunter Hayes does sing some other good ones (take "Where We Left Off" from Act of Valor, which I reviewed along with this album). Still, many of his songs tip-toe on that line between "This is appropriate" and "Turn off the radio!"
At times it seems like one has to choose between quality music and a good voice. It's one or the other, not both. Not in this case. Even the message in many of these songs is a good one, all things considered. Sure, at times it feels like he was so close to seeing the bigger picture, and then he falls short, just barely, of something great. This is almost disappointing at times, sort of like C. S. Lewis is to some Catholics (he was so close! we say). Still, someone knows how to write extremely catchy songs. In fact, these are great road trip songs.
As long as no young children or easily influenced teens are listening. But aren't we all easily influenced? The question, then, is a very personal one: how much can you take before it's too much? Never cross that line.
Then decide if you take Hunter Hayes on your road trip. I know I will, even if I hit the "skip" button a few times.
At the very least, he will keep you awake.
Style: swinging, strong beat, catchy
The Story: A girl rolls into town and Hayes compares her to a hurricane, wild, beautiful, and dangerous. She's distracting, "keeps you up at night, hanging on to the edge of a kiss." He then goes on to say she's "the kind you love to love" but takes it too far, skipping the night and speaking about when the sun comes up. When it does, he regrets what he's done, wishes he'd had more control, and is "gonna wish I had a storm warnin'." The lyrics that really push it are "you get so lost that you can't turn it off, you give in and you just turn it on," calling her "the kinda flub you'll never forget." He then returns to wishing for his storm warning.
My Thoughts: Originally, I had found this song to be one I skipped for fear of what it said. Now, though I still skip it, I am noticing that he does regret what he did and wishes he'd done something completely different. In a way, it's a song of redemption--that never quite makes it that far. He falls to far, and never quite makes it back up again.
Stacy's Thoughts: I guess this is the one song that I've never been able to redeem in any way - like Maria said, Hayes recognizes his mistake, but never reaches full contrition for it. It's probably the one song that merits skipping over, in my opinion.
Style: slow, gentle, almost caressing
The Story: Hayes has found a great girl, and he wants to do for her what she does for him. Simply put, he wants to give back. This requires making the girl feel wanted, "I wanna wrap you up, Wanna kiss your lips, I wanna make you feel wanted." Holding hands, praising her beauty (existent without makeup), and a desire to show her how wonderful she is consume the song. Then "I wanna show you what I see tonight" and back to the chorus (quoted above).
My Thoughts: This is a very sweet song, gently praising and desiring to do something for the girl. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where he misses the point. Feeling wanted is only part of the whole. Sadly, he never makes it any further.
Stacy's Thoughts: It's pretty and fluffy. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but it never gets past feelings. I like it, but it isn't deep.
"If You Told Me To"
Style: easy, slow, flowing, moving forward, adoring
The Story: Hayes has finally found what he's looking for: a girl. He wants to move forward and see where things will go "but only if you told me to." He lists different things (dangerous journeys, writing songs, painting pictures, etc) he would do for her, slipping "get you into trouble and take all the blame." The chorus: "I don't wanna steal you away, or make you change the things that you believe. I just wanna drink from the words you say, and be everything you need. I could be so good at loving you, but only if you told me to." It continues with the same idea, talking about other semi-related things before returning to the chorus. He finishes "Maybe this is something I'll never be, but I'll be right here 'til you tell me."
My Thoughts: This is a beautiful song. The idea portrayed in the chorus is one lacking in much of country music. Who doesn't like the sound of making sure not to destroy beliefs and offering self "only if you told me to"?
Stacy's Thoughts: Hayes gets a bit closer to an ideal love with this song... he's willing to give his girl all of himself, but he's not forcing anything on her. It's quite lovely and refreshing.
"Love Makes Me"
Style: loud, crazy, fun
The Story: Let's go crazy! is the general idea. Turn up the music, drive the car fast (frightening mom), sneak out late, tell "white" lies, and steal a kiss "because it makes me feel good." Hayes claims that he tries hard to be good but his feelings win the battle (a loss he claims is not his fault at all but that of love, so "don't blame"). He chalks it all up: "Love makes me do it." Everything is about feeling good, like touching a girl's hand or kissing her, staying up late, and so on. It all comes down to that one line "Love makes me."
My Thoughts: Ok, so he's completely possessed (or so he claims) by love. But throwing in the line "it's not my fault, so don't blame me" is going too far. It's understandable that he feels like this, but acting on it and not taking the blame is where he fails. Unfortunately, he doesn't get it this time.
Stacy's Thoughts: Great music, bad lyrics; he totally misses the point of true love. (But it's still a really fun song.)
"Faith To Fall Back On"
Style: slow, swinging
The Story: Hayes knows what's going on: everyone is looking for love, and people are getting carried away. "They get caught up and then it's gone, they can't get back the kiss they lost." This results in a life full of questions, but Hayes has the answer to all of it: "gotta have a little faith to fall back on." Admitting to not treating his girl right, he learns his lesson "by myself" when she leaves and changes how he acts. It comes down to this: "When all you've got left is being strong, gotta have a little faith to fall back on." He prays, knowing God is there even though he can't see him, pointing to times when he "thought I wouldn't make it home" and learning "to put my trust where it belongs." Faith, Hayes concludes, is what holds up you up when all else falls apart.
My Thoughts: It's hard to tell if this song circles around faith, or God. Shouldn't it be the same? In this song, it's hard to make the connection. Still, aside from this being possibly the second most boring song on the album music-wise, it has a good message.
Stacy's Thoughts: This is a really strange mix of love song/ambiguously Christian pop song... Hayes doesn't define what he's putting faith in, and while you get the sneaking suspicion that it's God, the confusing lyrics kind of detract from the overall good message.
Style: catchy, strong beat,
The Story: Hayes has fallen for a girl and he's going to have her whether that means he'll get to keep her around or not. Basically, "If you're gonna be somebody's heartbreak, if you're gonna be somebody's mistake. If you're gonna be somebody's first time, somebody's last time, baby be mine." He doesn't care what it takes (simply friendship or a once-and-move-on thing), he's got to have her. Someone he's "playing it safe" and "breaking the rules" at the same time. Then, back to the chorus.
My Thoughts: For some, it might depend on how you define "somebody's first time, somebody's last time." For me, it's as simple as this: isn't this a little short sighted? Need I say more?
Stacy's Thoughts: I guess the main problem I saw in this song was Hayes' determination to continue on with a relationship that he has already seen will ultimately fail. What's the point of a romance if there's no commitment?
Style: very slow, boring, hardly sounds country
The Story: Hayes's girl is leaving. The two have hit a rough spot, "the rainy season," and she's about to take off. Hayes wants her to stay and dance, live a lie, and keep pretending that this will pass. Even as this get worse and they start hurting each other, he wants the solution to involve both of them staying, not leaving.
My Thoughts: Honestly, I don't like this song just because it takes forever to play. Looking at the lyrics, I realize how great of an idea it is. Granted, there are times to give up the relationship (in a dating relationship--never in a married one), but the idea here is to hang on and try to make it through all this. It will pass.
"Cry With You"
Style: slow, moving forward, slightly catchy
The Story: The girl is upset and Hayes can see it since "nobody knows you better than I do. I keep my promises, I'm fighting for you." He asks her to talk to him about what's wrong, admitting he can't fix it but that "You're not alone, I'll listen 'til your tears give out. You're safe and sound, I swear that I won't let you down. What's hurting you I, I feel it too. I mean it when I say, when you cry I cry with you." Hayes isn't going to leave but he knows "keeping it inside won't fix it." He goes back to admitting he can't fix it, then continues with the chorus (above) again. He offers himself as someone for her to lean on when all falls apart.
My Thoughts: This has always been one of my favorite songs by him. The image of the guy who fights for the girl, doesn't leave, and won't let her down is a rather appealing one. It's sweet and inspiring. Who doesn't want something like this?
"Everybody's Got Somebody But Me" (ft. Jason Mraz)
Style: fun, catchy, swinging beat
The Story: Simply put: everyone has a partner except Hayes, and he's starting to feel left out. Lyrics like "I wish the couple on the corner would just get a room," a mention of honeymoons, and "watchin' lovers being lovers in the corner booth" throw it off a little. He's got a girl all picked out (who has apparently moved on) and he wants her back. Love songs on the radio, slow dancers, everything is making him feel left out. He misses his girl feels like he doesn't fit in without her.
My Thoughts: It's catchy, it's slightly mournful (he wants his girl back), and it's fun. Why oh why did he have to include those few lines that are questionable?
Stacy's Thoughts: *Sigh* I realize this song has issues, but it's one of my favorites. I'm not going to dissect it. :)
"What You Gonna Do" (duet with Ashley Monroe)
Style: slow, very boring, mournful
The Story: Hayes is leaving his girl but before that he wants to make sure she knows how much she's going to lose when he does (apparently hoping she'll change her mind). "Who wakes you in the morning time," "who calls you every late night," and "who's gonna love you when you're all alone" push it in the wrong direction. Other than that, Hayes is portrayed as doing all he can for the girl even though she hasn't done the same for him. In fact, she seems to have been cruel to him, breaking promises, lying, and more. He doesn't hold this against her (aside from leaving--which is probably a good idea). He takes a different rout, reminding her how good he was to her and suggesting that there is no one else out there who can take his place.
My Thoughts: Many of my favorite songs are slow and sweet, but this one is just painfully slow and sad, resulting in it feeling like it has been way overdone. Otherwise, aside from the few questionable lines, it's an acceptable song.
"More Than I Should"
Style: extremely fun, fast, crazy, very catchy
The Story: Hayes gets shot by a girl with a gun and is buried in the ground. Metaphorically--I think. Alright, I'll back up and explain. Hayes has treated a girl "like a queen" and it's all been a waste. In fact "I might as well have just thrown matches at a tank of gasoline." It blows up, he gets burned, and learns "I loved you more than I should." He compares this kind of love to being stuck on the wrong end of the gun, concluding that this isn't love at all. The girl pulls the trigger and he is shot and buried with "I loved you more than I should" written on his grave. He curses the maker of the perfume (blaming his falling in love on it), curses the night they kissed, the man who didn't warn him, and himself "most of all" for "loving you more than I should."
My Thoughts: What exactly does he mean when he says he "loved you more than I should"? That's probably what could make or break this song. The idea is a good one. Fall in love, but don't go too far. We wonder, what is he defining as "too far", and what are you?
"All You Ever"
Style: slow, sweet, apologetic
The Story: Hayes has failed his girl and he knows it. She needed him, and he wasn't open to her. "All that you wanted, and all that you needed, was the sight of me I never let you see." He realizes that now and wants to go back and fix it. It might be too late, yes, but he's hoping his apology will do the trick. He sees he was "selfish, and lost in my pride." The girl has left, opening his eyes to just how much he wants her back. He continues to confess that he knows the problem, wants to fix it, and wants her back. "Is it too late, and are you too far, to turn around, and let me be. All that you wanted, all that you needed, I'll show the sight of me I never let you see."
My Thoughts: A beautiful little song, in my humble opinion. Assuming this is about being emotionally shut off from the girl (as opposed to something physical--which is in no way hinted at during the song), the idea behind this one is sweet and relatively innocent.
"In A Song"
Style: sparkling, fun, young-Taylor-Swift-ish, spinning
The Story: Things fell apart and now Hayes is lost. He's given to someone who doesn't care, fought, lost sleep, cried, and finally gave up. He accepts the reality of goodbye and its pain (which will eventually go away), concluding "I can find where I belong, and I'll find it in a song." It's about losing love, finding it again, making mistakes, and moving forward (or so he says in the lyrics). Acceptance, that's what this song is. Accepting that one has failed and moving forward from there. Knowledge that one can't go back and change things (or could, and would mess up again), is freeing. Sure, it won't be easy, but this is the way it is. It will get better.
My Thoughts: Acceptance is a pretty important virtue, especially if one has read Guardini. In essence, this song is about acceptance. Accepting making the mistakes, accepting the failures, accepting goodbye, and deciding to live in the present instead of the past. Unfortunately, acceptance as a virtue really does have to include God (like "Faith to Fall Back On" did). So where is God in this song?
"I Want Crazy"
Style: fun, catchy, strong beat
The Story: Hayes and his girl have been separated by distance and he's decided to go visit her because he just can't take this anymore. "I know it's crazy. But I don't want good and I don't want good enough, I want can't sleep can't breathe without you love. Front porch and one more kiss, it doesn't make sense to anybody else, who cares, I've searched the world and I know now, it ain't right if you aint lost your mind." He finishes "I don't want easy, I want crazy." He wants to feel good and let love "do what it does" instead of following the world's rules. He doesn't want just a kiss goodnight and a few dates. He wants more.
My Thoughts: He wants more, does he? What exactly is "more" according to Hayes? In the music video for this song, a physical "more" is not even implied. Still, was that to make it appropriate for younger viewers? I think the idea behind this song is enough to make one think twice. Problem is, it's incredibly catchy.
"A Thing About You"
Style: fast, intense, fun, close to rock or pop
The Story: The unsmiling Mona Lisa, the Leaning Tower (which seems to have had too much to drink), everything has its faults. Except this one particular girl. In fact, though the world would change her, Hayes knows the world is wrong because she's perfect. She inspires him to sing and he doesn't want her to change. He admits that he himself has faults, then names a few the girl thinks she has, and says "I don't know what you mean," launching into the chorus and singing about the fact that she's perfect. "Every little imperfection only makes you you." But that's perfect.
My Thoughts: Cute? Sweet? Isn't this what every girl wants to hear? Now, bashing the Mona Lisa and the Leaning Tower probably isn't in every girl's desires, but this song has the same message as One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful." It's a message girls in this age don't hear enough--which is why they gobble it right up.
"Better Than This"
Style: medium tempo, catchy, grows
The Story: "I never looked back." Acceptance again? Basically, "It could be dead end road. I could be chasing down a broken dream. I don't even know where this thing is gonna lead, it's a mystery." But "It don't get better than this." He has no idea where he's going, but he knows the Lord is in charge. So he's just going to keep moving forward even though things are tough at times. Because "It don't get better than this."
My Thoughts: Hayes seems to have decided to live in the moment, not in the future, and not in the past. He's just going to do what he can with what he has and move forward. This is what it means to live. If someone is willing to sing about it, I'm willing to listen.
"Light Me Up"
Style: fun, fast, catchy
The Story: Hayes is metaphorically lost and doing nothing. He's a ferris wheel with no power, no riders, and in the middle of nowhere. Then the girl comes along and flips the switch, turning on the lights. "You light me up!" he shouts, comparing it to fireworks and sunshine in the summer. "You were the missing piece to my broken dreams, you're bringing me back to life. You look like a movie star, just the way you are, makes me burn inside." She's like the match, he's like the dynamite, and when "you look at me like that, you light me up" every time.
My Thoughts: Is it clean? Yes? No? It's hard to tell what he means by being lit up, but taking into account his earlier metaphor of the ferris wheel and a carnival show with no lights, it's probably safe to take it as being an innocent continuation of a metaphor. In that case, this is a fun upbeat song to enjoy anytime.
Bonus track from the album Act of Valor (note this song is not included in this album, but I decided to review it anyway).
"Where We Left Off"
Style: slow but moving, sad but hopeful, spinning, gentle, mournful, hopeful, a work of art music-wise
The Story: "If we had the words in times like these, we wouldn't have to stare. We'd both know what to say, and how to pray the things to do to save the day." Written for Act of Valor, this is about the parting that soldiers have to make. From their families, friends, and fellow soldiers. Sacrifice, blood, hard times, understanding. Still, that doesn't make any easier. "The way we say goodbye is not the way that anyone would do." He admits that some will not understand the beauty of what soldiers have chosen to do. "Like a wave out on the ocean, I will always come right back to you. Like we blinked, not a moment is gone. We pick up where we left off." Then, "What matters most is what I leave behind for you to keep."
My Thoughts: God bless our soldiers. All of them. There is no way we can ever fully understand what they go through for us, but we can at least try to appreciate it and let them know. That's what this song does, and I'm so very glad it exists.