Just what country needed—a cute little pop girl pretending to be country, and pushing all the female singers who actually are country yet another step towards the back of a line that they’re already being crowded out of because of the sausage fest at the top of the country charts. Oh, and give an assist to country expat Taylor Swift who tweeted out her admiration for this song, this artist, and her EP—saying on March 9th, “Driving around with the @KelseaBallerini EP on repeat.. SO lovely:) #yeahboy #lovemelikeyoumeanit.”—stacking the deck even stronger.
I wonder how many of those Swifties immediately went to Spotify to check Ballerini out, making sweet irony of Swift’s streaming opposition. Either way, the endorsement sent Kelsea’s EP into hyperdrive, spiking 91% in sales while her single “Love Me Like You Mean It” jumped on the Digital Songs chart, and she saw a boost on radio as well. It looks like Kelsea Ballerini and “Love Me Like You Mean It” could be poised for a serious chart run, which is a shame because to this critic’s ears, I’d prefer if Ballerini would pirouette her way over to the pop side of the music world where she belongs.
Black River Entertainment is the principle party responsible for putting Kelsea Ballerini within your earshot. With artists like Craig Morgan and Kellie Pickler, Black River has made its name by being independent from the majors, but proving itself able to do battle with the big boys if beckoned. If Ballerini is poised to blow up, Black River will have the muscle to back it. But wouldn’t it be just like country music to finally solve its female problem with an artist that isn’t even a half bit country.
“Love Me Like You Mean It” is strictly pop fodder. It’s pink cotton candy spun with synthesized drum machine beats and doltish “hey boy” pepperings. It’s all “girl” this and “boy” that, signifying to culture-deprived teens and millennials that this is the type of mindless tripe the deprecation of music education in public schools makes them most susceptible to. Ballerini’s attempt at story is nothing more than a paper tiger warning to “boys” that she not the type of “girl” that likes to play around, so if you’re like that, then hey, you best not waste her time. Because you know, liars usually admit to their compulsiveness simply when prompted to do so in the words of a pop song.
This song once again reinforces that country music is entering an era when there’s absolutely no effort being levied to actually police what is being released as country. At least early in Taylor Swift’s career, the instrumentation was organic instead of automated, and even though there was an adolescence to Swift’s themes, it wasn’t such obvious pop positioning as we get with Kelsea’s “hey boy” act.
This song is spared the sharpest of criticism by falling under the “14-year-old girls need something to lip sync with their shampoo bottles to” clause, but it’s not good under any system of weights and measures, and deserves a big fat raspberry for trying to carve its way through life on the country dial.
1 3/4 of 2 Guns Down.