He may have started recording long before her -- as a Louisiana wunderkind, he had a pair of records released when he was just nine and ten -- but Hunter Hayes emerged in the 2010s as the first genuine post-Taylor Swift artist in country music. Hayes followed her footsteps in the sense that he hid neither his youth nor his careerism, allowing his songs to have an open-hearted adolescence tempered by hooks designed to fill stadiums or at least occupy constant space on the airwaves. All this was evident on his eponymous 2011 album -- the major-label debut with Atlantic that effectively acts as his overall debut -- but it's in even stronger play on its 2014 sequel, Storyline.
Hunter Hayes' single "Invisible" is an anomaly on today's country radio – the rare song that treats high school as something more than a golden age of bonfires and first kisses. On his second album, it sits in the middle of 14 tracks with clean arrangements and twangless vocals that could carry the singer-songwriter beyond country radio altogether. The Barenaked Ladies-style speak-singing of "Tattoo" might play with contemporary adults, and the optimism and harmonies found on tracks such as "Wild Card" sound like they could someday turn the 22-year-old artist into a genuine pop star – but only if he outgrows his belief that in order to be serious, you have to be humorless, too.
When Hunter Hayes took to the Grammy Awards in January to premiere his song “Invisible” – a windswept power ballad in which the 22-year-old country singer describes the hardships faced by “outcasts and rebels” – your first response was: What on earth does this kid know about not fitting in? His self-titled major-label debut spawned two No. 1 singles, sold more than 1 million copies and earned Hayes four Grammy nominations, including one for best new artist. This is a modal window.