My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: Jennifer Nettles – ‘Sugar’

SugarThe first time I heard Sugarland on the radio, I thought that they were the best band I’d heard in quite some time. Unfortunately, I grew to like them a little less with each subsequent album, with 2010’s The Incredible Machine being the last straw. It’s been five years since they released any new music and I can’t honestly say that I’ve missed them. My expectations for Jennifer Nettles’ new solo release, therefore, were low. But I was pleasantly surprised after hearing ‘Sugar’, her first single for EMI Nashville, which is to say, it’s actually pretty good.

‘Sugar’ was written by Nettles with Brandy Clark and Jessie Jo Dillon. While it’s still more pop than country, a healthy dose of dobro can be clearly heard above the fuzzy electric guitars, and this gives this piece of ear candy a rootsy feel. Although the production is a bit more heavy-handed than I would like, and the background vocals are particularly intrusive, the tune itself is infectious and Nettles is in good vocal form. This sounds a lot like something Sugarland would have released a decade ago, during the Twice The Speed of Life and Enjoy The Ride years, before they ventured off into steampunk and totally went off the rails. Nettles sounds positively gleeful as she flirts with her admirers and plays hard to get. Traditional it is not, but it’s a nostalgic look back at how mainstream country was not too many years ago before hick-hop and bro-country took hold. I never thought that I’d consider the music of Sugarland as part of the “good old days”, but if it came down to a choice between ‘Sugar’ and anything else that radio is playing these days, it’s a no-brainer. I’m cautiously optimistic about Nettles’ next full album. I sincerely hope that ‘Sugar’ is the beginning of a return to form and not just a one-off.

Listen to it here:

Grade: B+

3 responses to “Single Review: Jennifer Nettles – ‘Sugar’

  1. Paul W Dennis July 30, 2015 at 7:00 am

    This song is much better than I was expecting from Nettles, which I guess how low my expectations are for her, It’s more than simple ear candy but Dallas Frazier or Guy Clark it is not.

    I am beginning to wonder if Kristian Bush isn’t the real talent in the act. I liked his solo album more that I’ve liked anything I’ve heard recently from Jennifer Nettles or Sugarland and I increasingly find that I don’t like Nettles’ gimmicky vocals

    I’d place this somewhere in the B- to B range

  2. Ken July 30, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Best part of this song is Nettle’s sassy voice. Unlike the majority of today’s female singers she is blessed with a versatile, distinctive voice as effective on ballads as it is for beat & tempo-driven songs like this. Though the song is pretty light-weight she sells it. I could do without the horrible filtered voice effect (used endlessly on today’s radio station promos) or the other layered sound effects that just clutter up the track. Most of the song seems constructed to support the double entendre lines in the chorus. It likely took less than three minutes to write but it should be quite satisfying to today’s redneck, low information quasi-country fans. At least it avoids becoming too tedious by clocking in at under three minutes.

  3. Leeann Ward July 30, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I like this song too. There definitely seems to be a double meaning here that makes this more than lightweight as far as the lyrics go, but it still sounds fun, as the review mentions. I think I like Nettles and Bush separately than I’ve ever really liked Sugarland, since I wasn’t ever a big fan of the group with the exception of a few songs. Like Paul, I’ll also put in a good word for Kristian Bush’s album. I was honestly pleasantly surprised by it and I don’t think it was because my expectations were low. I think he made a genuinely good album.

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