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Jennifer Nettles, ‘That Girl’ – ToC Critic’s Pick [Listen]

That Girl
Universal Music Group

It would have been foolish to expect anything less than an original from Jennifer Nettles‘ debut solo effort. ‘That Girl’ rides in that funky furrow Sugarland cut deep for so many years without sounding like the duo at all.

Credit producer Rick Rubin with making sure the new song is both one the singer’s longtime fans will appreciate, and one that stretches Nettles artistically. You’ll quickly find yourself grooving to her flamenco beat, turning it up louder and louder to hear the subtleties. They blast through that taboo fourth wall of a recording studio, purposefully drawing attention to the process with audible producer notes, and later, lively applause.

A friend gave me your number / To tell you watch your lover’s tracks / See I always kind of liked you / So, I wanna have your back,” Nettles sings to begin the song. The vocals lack warmth, but her new tonal quality is far from distracting. “There is a good chance by the time you hear this / The story’s gonna say / That I came on to him / But it was never quite that way.”

Lyrically, the story (co-written by Butch Walker) is about the “other woman” realizing she’s indeed the “other woman.” The first verse pulls one in with vivid details of back allies and deception.

The chorus is as catchy as anything Nettles released previously: “I don’t want to be that girl, with your guy / To fool you, make you cry / Wreck it all, for one night / To be with him when he should be with you / I don’t want all the dirty looks, the headlines / So, I called you, to explain why / I wound up, with your guy / When I don’t wanna be that girl.”

After that, her pencil dulls, but it doesn’t really matter. The danger is carried forward with a smokey acoustic guitar and thundering herd of percussion instruments. There is a show tune feel to ‘That Girl,’ making it even more fun — but never ordinary. The first take from Nettles’ upcoming solo album still rides the edges of country music, but it’s a different edge than the one she rode along with Kristian Bush.

4 Stars

Listen to Jennifer Nettles, ‘That Girl’ 

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Next: The Top 40 Country Songs for August 2013

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