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Kelsea Ballerini's Sophomore Effort is "Unapologetically" Honest and Beautiful

"A lot has shifted, grown, and changed since The First Time was released and I introduced myself to you... It's been the most thrilling and difficult chapter of my life... I felt that if I let myself be vulnerable and sometimes bitterly honest, maybe you would hear yourself in this record. So, Unapologetically, here it is..." - Kelsea Ballerini

These are some of the highlights of the note penned by Kelsea in the Unapologetically CD sleeve, and it really does an excellent job of summing up what she was hoping to achieve (and did achieve) in her latest record. Unapologetically is definitely a more mature and polished sound than we got from her debut record (not that The First Time isn't AMAZING), and I think it cements Kelsea's growing reputation as one of the most open and honest writers in country music today. Kelsea had a hand in writing every song that appears on the album, a feat that is surprisingly rare for a lot of country artists nowadays. The result is a collection of heartfelt pop country tracks that are more personal and poised than most everything that you hear on the radio.

The album presents itself as a cohesive storyline and progression through Kelsea's life in these past couple of years since she's come onto the scene. Beginning with the heartbreak in "Graveyard" and ending with the triumphant "Legends", Kelsea creates an empowering album about dealing with the changes that life throws at you and coming out stronger as the best you that you can be.

After opening the record with the more upsetting "Graveyard" about being just another broken heart in a crowd of many from a guy, she fires back in the next track with the upbeat and certainly unapologetic "Miss Me More". Triple M, as I am colloquially calling it from now on, is a fierce banger about having to change who you are just to make sure the guy is satisfied, and upon completion of the relationship, realizing you missed your single self more than you will ever miss a relationship with this jerkface. "I thought I'd miss you when it ended, I thought it'd hurt me, but it didn't... I forgot I had dreams, I forgot I had wings, forgot who I was before I ever kissed you, yeah I thought I'd miss you, but I miss me more". Maybe the most uplifting breakup song ever, this song is about reclaiming your independence and gaining the freedom to UNAPOLOGETICALLY be yourself again.

Another tune that highlights Kelsea's growth and maturity is the laid-back groove, "In Between". It's a beautiful track that really sums up what it's like to be in the age of your early 20's and trying to figure everything out. It's a great anthem for everyone who's in that kind of period of uncertainty in their lives and is trying to get it all together for themselves. With lyrics like "Sometimes I play grown up and sometimes I play pretend" and "Dumb enough to think I now it all, smart enough to know I don't", Kelsea demonstrates the contrasts that are constantly raging within all adolescents as they move up from childishness into the real world. The song then ends with a super sweet and endearing voicemail from her mother telling her "I love you, missing you when you're on the road, can't wait to see you when you get home." Annddd cue the water works, folks.

"High School", the only track penned solely by Kelsea, is a brilliant statement about those who live their lives in the past, and in contrast, those who instead focus on making the best of the future for themselves. The song is a story of a presumed high school jock who hasn't changed or grown a day since graduation. Kelsea asks intuitively, "Why would he wanna change when every memory still bows to him?" The second verse introduces a girl, the first love of the nostalgic high school king "living' like you're seventeen", who has gone on to do a lot of good things for herself since her "glory days". He calls her up because, shocker, he's still hung up on the past, but she just let's it ring. "She traded in prom queen for a big city dream and a slate that's clean". It's great inspiration to be like a shark... continually moving forward and looking out for what's ahead of you.

Closing out with "Legends", it's hard to imagine that this album could have possibly left us on a higher note. There's a reason why she chose this song to be the first single from the album and also the closing track to it. It really sums up everything that Kelsea learned throughout the course of this album and the time span of her life that it represents. It's an extremely powerful, mid-tempo anthem that will have you chanting, cheering and crying all in one. It makes you look back on both your own life and the album as a whole and think, "that was legendary" and "boy we sure had a good time".

When Kelsea came onto the scene with her debut record and chart topping singles, everyone knew that she was a force to be reckoned with. With Unapologetically, she has cemented her position as one of the most important and pioneering artists of this generation, and has established that she will be in the public eye for some time to come. Killer job Kels, now all of y'all go buy and download this sucker so you can really see what I'm talking about!

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