Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: Capitol
Genre(s): Country, Contemporary Country, Country-Pop
No band makes sketchy hookups sound as magnificently wholesome as this country pop juggernaut: See 2008's frisky "Lookin' for a Good Time" and, here, "We Owned the Night," an idealized one nighter that might've just been a wet dream. Pumping up country's boy-girl duet tradition in a trio format, but largely minus grit or wit, Lady Antebellum's follow-up to their Grammy-gobbling Need You Now is a set of heart-squishing power ballads and airbrushed twang rockers ready to woo Walmart shoppers. The Celtic flavored "Cold as Stone" wrings soul from its titular metaphor, and the two-stepping "The Love I've Found in You" charms without bombast.
Given their runaway success over the past 18 months, Lady Antebellum summoned some superhuman restraint in titling their third studio disc Own the Night. After all, these coed country hitmakers can lay claim to a lot more than that: Last year’s Need You Now was the second-best-selling album of 2010, while the wistful title track grabbed Grammys for both Song and Record of the Year. They could’ve called this thing Own You and Your Momma, Too, and nobody would’ve blinked — least of all your momma, who drunk-dialed Dad from across the house after swooning to ”Need You Now.” But chest-beating just isn’t the Lady A way.
In appearance, the Grammy-winning, millions-selling country-pop trio Lady Antebellum can seem perennially fun-loving, even goofy. Think of the video for last year’s hit “Our Kind of Love”, with them joking around on playground equipment, or past songs like “Lookin’ for a Good Time”. They’ve built their success—and they have been hugely successful, more so with each album—on a good-natured, “universal” appeal.
Lady Antebellum swept up the 2011 Grammys, winning five of their six nominated categories, cementing their status as cross-platform mainstream superstars. Certainly, Own the Night -- the 2011 sequel to their 2010 breakthrough Need You Now -- bears the sound of a band quite content with its position in the middle of the road. Any lingering elements of country, whether twang or 2-steps, have been banished and supplanted with a smooth soft rock designed to seep into the background wherever it's played.
The most interesting thing about this Nashville trio is that the loneliness and lust described in their lyrics are neutered by floppy country-pop designed to win over MOR radio programmers. This is their third album – the last, amazingly, was the US's second best-selling album of 2010. Quite how they accomplished this remains a mystery; most of this record offers soft rock so high-gloss that a brief blast of fuzz guitar on Friday Night makes you jump out of your skin.
Few artists ever score a hit as big as Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” a terrific testament to drunk-dials that catapulted the pop-country trio to superstar status and made their sophomore album, Need You Now, a multiplatinum seller and, far more inexplicably, a critics and awards darling. Lady A’s heightened profile has bolstered expectations for their third album, and Own the Night might register as a disappointment had its predecessor actually offered more than one brilliant single surrounded by an hour’s worth of nothing. A deeply boring album in both form and content, Own the Night is an Emperor’s New Clothes situation: Without anything close to the quality of “Need You Now,” Own the Night confirms that the trio has absolutely nothing to offer but a vaguely racist name and music by and for dull people.
No act in contemporary pop is more careful than the bionic country trio Lady Antebellum, which never leaves a note out of place, which never lets a feeling spill outside the lines. It takes basic components — male-female harmony, sturdy pop arrangements with light brushes of country, an unerring sense of when to shift a song from desperate to redemptive — and arranges them in several different ways, with mostly similar results. These are plain and obvious tricks, shopworn from years of deployment.
They should’ve called it Own the Airwaves. When Lady Antebellum released their last album in January 2010, “Need You Now” had already been a radio hit for months. This time around, the band unleashes Own the Night nearly half a year after debuting its lead single, “Just a Kiss,” on an episode of American Idol. If there ever was a band that knew the ins and outs of radio – how to get on it, stay on it, and bridge the great divide between pop and country stations – it’s these Nashville cats, who bring a familiar mix of down-home earthiness and hi-fi production gloss to Own the Night.
Album number three from the Grammy-winning country-rock trio. Mike Diver 2011 Multi-Grammy-winning country-pop/rock trio Lady Antebellum, hailing from Nashville, are sold to the UK predominantly on their sales figures: if it’s huge in the States, why shouldn’t it be huge here? It worked for McDonald’s, and to an extent this band’s previous (second) album, Need You Now, translated well commercially, peaking at eight. But over the Atlantic Need You Now remains an unstoppable juggernaut, and has shifted over 3.5 million copies to date – a figure which represents about 1% of the US population.