Album Review: Sugarland’s ‘Bigger’
Sugarland return on June 8 with the triumphant Bigger, their first collection of new music in seven years. While it has been a long five years for country fans anxiously waiting for the reemergence of the duo following their hiatus, Sugarland’s Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles prove that they are, in fact, still the same.
Well known for penning songs with a message, Sugarland’s Bigger is no different. On their 11-track album there are songs that touch upon the countless school shootings throughout the nation, female empowerment, the #MeToo movement, and an all-encompassing love. The duo penned 10 of the 11 songs with the exception of their current single, “Babe,” co-written by Taylor Swift and Train’s Pat Monahan.
The album begins with the anthemic title track, “Bigger.” An empowering song that will soar in the live setting, “Bigger” has an uplifting storyline of self-acceptance woven throughout. A track that highlights Nettles’ rapid fire singing style and includes a message that sticks with the listener, on “Bigger” Sugarland profess, “They think they’re big, but you’re bigger.”
For the first time in their career, Sugarland have recorded an outside song on their album. “Babe,” penned by Swift and Monahan, was pitched to the duo by Swift herself. They received a phone call from the pop star, who said she had a song she’d like them to listen to. Loving what they heard, Sugarland recorded “Babe,” which includes slick production and features Swift on background vocals. The song’s storyline details a woman who learns her boyfriend has been cheating on her and Nettles’ delivery is powerful. “Your secret has its consequence and that’s on you, babe,” Nettles asserts.
While Sugarland’s fun side is apparent throughout the album on tracks like the feel-good “On a Roll” and the laid-back “Lean It On Back,” it is their ballads that beg for repeated listen. The striking “Bird In a Cage” features Nettles haunting vocals while “Tuesday’s Broken” is one of the album’s standout moments.
Inspired after one of the many school shootings in the U.S., Nettles opens “Tuesday’s Broken” with whispered vocals as she questions how to explain these events to her son: “Yesterday hell rained down / Another kid, another school in another town / I think about how to tell my son and I think about how that one got a gun,” she sings. The song also touches upon social media becoming a major culprit in teenage suicide and how instead of ignoring these issues, parents should start to ask, “Where does it hurt?”
Another powerful track is “Mother.” The soaring and personal ballad has Nettles singing of the supportive role a mother often plays on a child’s life while citing the LGBTQ message of love is love. “She fixes all the broken things / When you’re in love she’s got a ring / To give to you she hopes you give away / She don’t care who you give it to / Where they’re from, if they pray like you / As long as they are good to you that’s enough / First thing she taught you was love is love,” she sings on the soaring ballad.
A versatile release, Sugarland make their triumphant return with Bigger. Their first album since 2010’s The Incredible Machine, the 11 tracks on Bigger further exemplify the duo’s knack at penning songs that strike a chord with the listener while continuing to further the conversation. All the while, Sugarland prove to be a force within the country world as they touch upon topics not often approached within the genre. A welcomed return to country radio, Sugarland’s powerful messages alongside forward thinking production make Bigger an essential listen.