Margo Price will release her latest record called That’s How Rumors Get Started on May 8th after moving on from Jack White’s Third Man Records to Loma Vista, an imprint of Concord Records. Margo released her first taste of new music in mid January with the song “Stone Me” that coincided with an appearance on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Now we’re getting the first proper single from the new Margo Price record called “Twinkle Twinkle.”
Upon hearing the new song, NPR proclaimed in their headline that Margo Price “Pivots from country to rock fuzz,” and later says it’s “a scuzzy rocker wrapped in leopard print; the song struts with distorted glam.” This is probably a fair assessment of “Twinkle Twinkle.” With the new Margo Price record being produced by Sturgill Simpson, the song feels much more Sound & Fury than Country Squire. The new Margo album was recorded in 2017 in Los Angeles, and Sturgill chose to forgo her touring band for a set of studio musicians that include Matt Sweeney on guitar, drummer James Gadson, Pino Palladino on bass, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench.
Tom Petty is said to be who partly inspired the new album, and who it’s dedicated to. But something tells me Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Mike Campbell would not approve of the “fuzz” allowed to permeate the guitar signal on “Twinkle Twinkle” like a purple mold on the top of some enchilada leftovers in the back for the fridge, ultimately becoming the centerpiece of the song as opposed to Margo’s voice, or any message she’s looking to convey.
In a moment when country music is looking for women who can help return some semblance of gender balance to the genre, Margo Price has been a ripe candidate to name right beside the male-dominated hierarchy of Tyler Childers, Jason Isbell, Cody Jinks and previously Sturgill Simpson as an insurgent stars that can challenge the dominance of the mainstream. But with “Twinkle Twinkle,” Margo makes the achingly predictable move towards indie rock like we’ve seen over and over again from the East Nashville crowd.
“Twinkle Twinkle” is not as much a disappointing song as it is a disappointing song from Margo Price. For a 70’s fuzz rock vibe, it’s fine. Artists can do whatever they want, just like Sturgill Simpson has, and that’s what defenders of the song will profess. But many of those defenders are the same people demanding parity from country when it comes to gender, and won’t see the dilemma this song presents, or the disappointment that will be felt by some country fans.
“Twinkle Twinkle” is a song about the allure of stardom that is instilled in us from an early age via Hollywood, and how the pursuit is often beset with challenges and trappings, or as Margo succinctly puts it, “It’s a bitch.” The message of “Twinkle Twinkle” may be a little too much shop talk for musicians to resonate with a large crowd, but it’s not necessarily an asset or a burden to the tune, while the musical approach and production does coincide well with the angsty and frustrated notions embedded in the lyrics.
It’s also important to note this is just one song and we don’t know what the rest of That’s How Rumors Get Started will contain. Let’s wait for the full album before jumping to any final conclusions. But when you combine it with “Stone Me” and all the publicist copy ahead of the new record, it doesn’t appear like we’ll hear much if any steel guitar showcased on Margo’s first few records by Luke Schneider, or fiddle from folks like Kristin Weber and Joshua Hedley that gave Margo that hard country sound.
Comparing it to the recent song from The Dixie Chicks, “Gaslighter,” which was also a non-country song by an important woman project in country—and was accompanied by a dizzying collage-style video as well— at least “Gaslighter” had an acoustic heart, and an infectious chorus. “Twinkle Twinkle,” despite it’s name, just feels a little dull and droning, or “sludgy” perhaps if you’re trying to look on the bright side.
There’s no shame in country fans hoping for something more for the first proper single from a new record from Margo Price, or at least something more country. “Twinkle Twinkle” is not a bad song. But if you’re looking for sludgy 70’s rock, there are plenty of options. There’s only one Margo Price.
5.5 / 10