Lady Antebellum severed ties with their longtime producer Paul Worley for 2014's 747, choosing instead to work with Nathan Chapman. His best-known work was for the Band Perry and, especially, Taylor Swift's Fearless and Speak Now, a good indication that the trio was looking to capitalize on the soft pop crossover of "Compass," the extra tune that helped 2013's Golden turn into another big smash. Certainly, 747 plays like a pristine pop album, reliant on clean corners and slick surfaces, and peppered with references to such modern sensations as Macklemore and 2014's it-boy Matthew McConaughey.
Give Lady Antebellum credit: There’s a consistency to its songs that makes the group as much a manufacturing concern as it is a country act. But that also means that five albums in, the once-reliable formula has become threadbare through overuse. Whatever chemistry singers Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott had fizzles on “747“; they may share “One Great Mystery,” “Lie With Me,” and joint reminiscence “Damn You Seventeen,” but they’re only taking turns talking, not creating a dialogue.
Once a reliable source of lustrous country-soul ballads such as "Need You Now" and "Just a Kiss," Lady Antebellum roughed up its sound a bit for last year's up-tempo "Golden," which paid off neither artistically nor commercially. So you can understand the trio's recruitment here of producer Nathan Chapman, best known for his hit-making work with Taylor Swift. But if Chapman restores some of Lady Antebellum's polish, he still keeps the group moving too fast with zippy pop-country arrangements that rarely allow Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott to harmonize as sumptuously as they're able.