Emotions run deep for Maren Morris on her major label debut, Hero. The Texas native co-wrote each of the 11 tracks on the versatile release, all of which showcase her honest songwriting and unique storytelling. Whether she’s letting down a man on the autobiographical “I Wish I Was” or transporting the listener to worship on her breakout single “My Church,” her vocal ability is undeniable.
“I’ve come such a long way from who I was in Texas, who I am as a writer, who I am as a woman today,” Morris said in a press release announcing her new album. “I think the message of this record is self acceptance and awareness, and that to me is heroic.”
Morris is heroic in her candor throughout the album. She says things we’ve all thought at one time or another but perhaps have not been brave enough to put out there ourselves. This can be seen on opening track “Sugar” where she asks a crush to be hers.
“I’m a cup of tea with a touch of cream but something’s missing / So I’m gonna put this nice and sweet / Baby would you be my sugar? Sugar you make my heart race,” she sings. “You’re what I crave, babe what can I say?”
Meanwhile, the tongue-in-cheek “Rich” has Morris singing about a man she just can’t rely on. If she made money from all the lies he has told her over the years, she’d be rich with a “Benz in the driveway, yacht in the water.” It’s a unique take on a relationship that begs the listener to sing along.
Other highlights include her standout single, “My Church.” The song features soulful belts from Morris, who has said that the idea came from the realization that music is her version of church.
“Right after I said it aloud I thought, ‘I should write that down!’ Everyone has that feeling when they are in their car by themselves, listening to music with the windows down. I wanted to capture that in a three minute song.”
Morris says the song embodies everything she represents as an artist and a writer and its success at radio is a testament to her ability as a songwriter and vocalist.
“I Could Use a Love Song” is another brutally honest track that has Morris trying her best not to be jaded about love. While she finds it difficult to remember a time when she’d see a couple and not roll her eyes at them making their relationship work, she remains optimistic about love despite being burned in the past. “I haven’t lost all hope yet,” she sings.
While “80s Mercedes” is a catchy, danceable track that has Morris singing of being a ’90s baby in her ’80s Mercedes, next song “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry” has her calling out a friend who refuses to move on from her terrible boyfriend. “There’s a fine line between an accident and an L-O-S-E-R,” she sings on the comical wakeup call.
It is on “I Wish I Was,” though, that best demonstrates Morris’ staying power. One of the standout tracks on Hero, “I Wish I Was” was co-written with Natalie Hemby and Ryan Hurd and is the most vulnerable song featured on the album. A song that has Morris telling a guy they’re not meant to be, it’s a breakup that is strongly felt.
“I’m not the hero in the story / I’m not the girl that gets the glory / ‘Cause you’re lookin’ for true love and I’m not the one / But I wish, but I wish I was,” she sings.
Songwriting at its best, “I Wish I Was” shows Morris’ ability to relate. It’s the sharing of a universal truth and an all too real human condition that is the heart of country music and Morris’ songwriting throughout Hero exemplifies just this. While Morris may admit that she was not heroic in songs like “I Wish I Was,” the singer’s honesty is what makes Hero such a strong release. Morris’ songwriting skills coupled with her powerful vocals and eclectic music style result in Hero being one of the most unique and enjoyable releases of 2016.