Kelsea Ballerini Releases New 90s Country-Infused Album ‘Subject to Change’

by Lauren Boisvert
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Kelsea Ballerini has released a new album titled Subject to Change, and it’s a delightful throwback to 90s country sound with contemporary lyrics. The 15-track album explores love, friendship, and self-expression with a mix of nostalgia and modernity. There are times when you believe you’re listening to Shania Twain on the radio in 1994, only for the flavor to shift to Carrie Underwood in 2010, then shift again to something purely 2022 Kelsea Ballerini.

Subject to Change is just that: subject to change at any moment. Ballerini uses the phrase to describe herself in the opening title track, but it can also be used to describe the overall style of the record as well. It changes sonically from a reminiscence of the 90s–prominent guitar and fun, bopping sound–to contemporary electronic country, which features rich beats and is usually heavy on the drums. It often explores the softer side of country, as well, going acoustic and gentle. Take a listen below.

Kelsea Ballerini Goes Back to the 90s and 2000s with ‘Subject to Change,’ But Also Stays Rooted in the Present

The first four tracks on Subject to Change reflect Kelsea Ballerini’s 90s country influence. The title song “Subject to Change,” “The Little Things,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” and “If You Go Down (I’m Going Down Too)” make me feel like I’m driving my mom’s station wagon with the windows down going to school in 1994. Regardless of the fact that I could not, in fact, drive in 1994, the sentiment still stands: these songs are delightfully rife with nostalgia, bringing to mind Shania, Sheryl Crow, The Chicks, and Faith Hill.

On the other hand, songs like “Love is a Cowboy,” “Muscle Memory,” and “Heartfirst” remind me of that specific time of early- and mid-2000s country. I’m talking early Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and LeAnn Rimes. Additionally, “You’re Drunk, Go Home” reminds me of this time in a big way, and not just because it features early-2000s queen Kelly Clarkson.

Still, there are songs on this record that don’t remind me of anyone else besides Kelsea Ballerini. Near the end of the album, she gets raw and real, almost uncomfortably so, but in all the right ways.

‘Doin’ My Best’ and ‘What I Have’ Open Up a Door into Ballerini’s Life

At its core, this record is about growth and change. “Subject to Change” and “Walk in the Park” specifically showcase this theme. But, “Doin’ My Best” is the real stand-out track on this album. “2020 was a weird year,” Ballerini opens the song, and, yeah, you’re right about that Kelsea.

“I think that showing up is good enough for me,” she sings. I think that’s an important message for a lot of people. Sometimes, all you can do is show up for yourself in this life, and that’s okay. “I’m doin’ my best / I’m letting the rest fall off my shoulders,” she sings in the chorus.

According to Ballerini, this is her “post-divorce” album. She recently announced that she’s divorcing her husband of 5 years, acknowledging “that life is so messy.” She told Yahoo! Entertainment recently that she’s acknowledging how she’s grown in the past few years. “Obviously, we’ve all changed a lot the last couple of years, because life has forced us to,” she said. “And I feel like the last few years, in my twenties, I’ve grown up so much. I’ve learned so much about myself in this extra space that we’ve kind of been forced into.”

Overall, this album is much more than just a nod to the 90s. It encompasses so much more of the human experience than an homage to nostalgia. The final song on the album, “What I Have,” is a slow, acoustic tribute to the basic things in life that make us happy. Having a home, a dog, a dream job. The earth, and experiences, and joy. Life is so messy and complicated, but sometimes acknowledging that we’re “doing alright right where [we’re] at” is just what we need to get through another day.

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