Kimberly Perry Comes Back to Life with “If I Die Young Pt. 2”

Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry is back, and it’s almost like she never left. The opening salvo of her solo career after splitting with her brothers isn’t yet another reinvention like the band became known for over their long and plodding death, going from pop, to EDM, and ultimately, into oblivion. Instead Kimberly re-emerges with a retrospective, and a reworking of the family band’s first #1 song “If I Die Young.” It was originally released in 2010 and went 7-times Platinum, launching The Band Perry into stardom.

Like some of your favorite movies and sequels, what was old is new again in mainstream country since just like Hollywood, parts of Nashville are completely out of ideas. This is how a song like Cole Swindell’s “She Had Me At Heads Carolina” strangely walked away with both Single of the Year and Song of the Year at the 2023 ACM Awards—a song that’s a straight reworking of Jo Dee Messina’s “Head Carolina, Tails California.” That’s not exactly the originality and influential impact you expect to see from an award-winning song.

The original “If I Die Young” was a stroke of lyrical genius by Kimberly Perry, who penned the song herself. A poetic dissertation somewhat ironically extolling the virtues of someone dying early in life, the song went on to not only find widespread commercial appeal despite its weighty subject matter, it’s credited with quite literally saving the lives of some listeners who found themselves succumbing to the song as opposed to suicidal thoughts.

Though “If I Die Young” was definitely considered pop country in its day, the instrumentation of mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar, a little accordion, and even a fiddle solo was comparatively rootsy to what we consider country pop now. The song established The Band Perry as a force in mainstream country, and was instrumental to the trio winning the coveted CMA for New Artist of the Year in 2011. The song also won the CMA for Single of the Year and Song of the Year. Eat your heart out, Cole Swindell.

Now a solo artist, with child, and 13 more years of life behind her, Kimberly Perry performs “If I Die Young Pt. 2,” which picks up where Pt. 1 left off, but this time giving thanks for the opportunity to live a fulfilled and blossoming life, and not passing before her time. Pt. 2 takes pretty much the entire structure of Pt. 1, and simply impresses a different lyrical perspective upon it. So it begs the question, just how original or creative is it, or is it just leaning on the retro nostalgia of the original version?

Either way, radio has found favor with it already, and thanks to first week feature plays, the song is already up to #31 on the charts, and fans seem to like what they hear as well. So it all begs the question once again, why did The Band Perry ever decide songs like “If I Die Young” and the success it brought them weren’t good enough? Why did they venture into the waters of pop, and then into … whatever, where they were a small fish in a big sea?

It’s hard to see “If I Die Young Pt. 2” making a major impact in country. Then again, a remake worked well for Cole Swindell. And seeing how both parts of “If I Die Young” have a roosty sound when that’s coming back in style in mainstream country, maybe it will catch some momentum. It’s already shown more promise than anything The Band Perry did since they covered Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind” in 2014.

As the original “If I Die Young” said, “Funny when you’re dead how people start listening.” Perhaps it took The Band Perry dying for people to start paying attention to Kimberly Perry once again. Or perhaps it’s because Kimberly Perry finally realized what she does best, and fell back on her strengths as opposed to chasing waterfalls in pop. But the best way to recapture the magic of “If I Die Young” wouldn’t be to rework the song, it would be to try and capture that same magic in something new. We’ll see if she can do that when she releases her EP Bloom on June 9th.

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