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Lady Antebellum - Own the Night Album Review

Lady Antebellum keep up their winning formula in Own the Night.

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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own the night album cover
Image courtesy of Capitol Nashville Records

After ruling 2010 with their soft-rock monolith Need You Now, Lady Antebellum return with Own the Night.

Once more, it's country music by way of Fleetwood Mac. If you were betting on more aching vocals between singers Hillary Scott and Charles Kelly, you were right.

Overall, Own the Night is a polished effort that will please longtime fans but is unlikely to win the group new followers -- especially among those who think country music should be more Hank Williams than Heart.

Love on the Brain

Flecked by rootsy instrumentation (courtesy of the band's third wheel, guitarist Dave Hayward), Lady Antebellum frequently cross the line into power balladry but steer wide of overproduction. Own the Night is a superbly relaxed effort, a worthy continuation of the carefree pop that flooded the FM airwaves for much of the '70s and '80s -- and has replenished record-store discount bins ever since.

Their subject, as always, is love.

The album starts off strong on the gutsy anthem "We Owned the Night," with Kelly's strident vocals dominating. The mood downshifts considerably with the ballad "Just a Kiss," featuring a duet between Kelly and Hillary Scott. Anchored by a repetitive piano line, and the pair's vocal sparring, it's among the more naturalistic and infectious pop ballads of the post-Shania Twain era.

The song was the lead-off single for the album, and an excellent choice. It goes a long way toward explaining the band's appeal, not to mention the multi-platinum sales of Need You Now.

Lady Antebellum Pop Quiz

Question: Which of the following lyrics appear in Own the Night? (The others I made up.)

    A. "Love is the heart of the world."
    B. "I don't want to hurt anymore."
    C. "Baby one more time."
    D. "Coffee is the gift of the gods."

Answer: All of them. (I didn't make any of them up.)

On the page, they may read poorly, but Lady Antebellum are able to do a lot with some pretty saccharine source material. After giving the album a couple of spins, even the most cynical listener is likely to take some refuge in the world they construct: where heartbreak is a terminal condition and love is an ecstasy that will last, if not your whole life through, at least for the four minutes these songs average.

An Eclectic, Familiar Mix

Thankfully, Need You Now offers a range of styles that keep the album from sinking under the weight of its own sentimentality.

"Cold as Stone" has a low-key groove similar to Cold Roses-era Ryan Adams. It's about wanting to be heartless in the aftermath of a breakup, but not being able to stop caring. It might be one of the best cuts on the album. Unfortunately, it's ruined by the wistful closing strains that sound a bit too much like a certain Celine Dion song on the Titanic soundtrack.

Speaking of uncanny resemblances, "Love I've Found in You" gives you an idea of what Bruce Springsteen would sound like if he grew up in Tennessee. And is it just me, or does "Friday Night" sound a lot like the opening theme song to Beverly Hills, 90210?

The Bottom Line

If you loved Need You Now, you'll like Own the Night. If you loved Need You Now, you'll like Own the Night.

Even if you don't plan to purchase it, not to worry. You'll soon hear it in grocery stores, shopping malls, and dental offices the country over.

Key tracks on Own the Night:

  • "Cold as Stone"
  • "Just a Kiss"
  • "Love I've Found In You"
  • "We Owned the Night"

Track List for Own the Night:

  1. "We Owned the Night"
  2. "Just a Kiss"  
  3. "Dancin' Away with My Heart"  
  4. "Friday Night"  
  5. "When You Were Mine"         
  6. "Cold as Stone"  
  7. "Singing Me Home"  
  8. "Wanted You More"
  9. "As You Turn Away"              
  10. "Love I've Found in You"
  11. "Somewhere Love Remains"  
  12. "Heart of the World" 

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