Since Maren Morris established her undeniable presence in 2016 with her glowing debut album Hero, she’s since become a crossover star with a voice that’s elevated country music. She reflects her evolution on her sophomore album, GIRL, stepping outside the confines of country music to blossom artistically in bold and beautiful ways.
Morris continues to experiment sonically on GIRL, blending soul and country to create a distinct sound alongside themes of love and empowerment. The first indication of this evolution is the lead single and opening title track, an inspiring message of owning the feeling of low self-esteem, with the singer filling the role of the friend who gives you the strength to move forward. She builds on this momentum of delivering important lessons with “Common.” She and Brandi Carlile bring a spiritual moment to the album with their honest and humble duet that captures the rawness of the modern world. The two weave pure soul into the core of the song, from the throbbing melody to the meaningful lyrics that exude vulnerability, encouraging people to get out from under the weight of the world and look at their neighbors with empathy, as we all have more in common than we realize.
Morris intertwines these significant themes alongside vivid love songs, writing about the subject in a way that finds her owning her sexuality, whether on the sultry “Make Out With Me” and “RSVP,” or beautifully capturing the love between her and husband Ryan Hurd on “Hell and Back,” a soaring number that features her glistening vocals on such admiring lyrics “you didn’t change me, you didn’t think I needed changing, my wings are frayed and the reflect of my halo’s black, lucky for me, your kind of heaven it’s been to hell and back.”
But the true north of the album are the moments of inspiration that reflect who Morris truly is and solidify her place as a young trailblazer, like the way she channels self-confidence into “All My Favorite People,” calling on friends John and TJ Osborne of Brothers Osborne to revel in the unflinchingly honest aspects of life she appreciates most. We can only hope that the Tuesday nights mixing liquor with Crystal Light and finding clarity listening to John Prine albums on the back porch with a glass of wine are based on true stories, with Brothers Osborne contributing a bold presence to this rock-leaning, self-professed anthem.
But where Morris’ true sense of self comes to light is on “Flavor,” which feels like her personal declaration where she brazenly conveys how she’s still establishing her identity and puts forth the notion that originality takes time, all while celebrating those who challenge the norm. Deep in the song is one of the most striking messages on the album, as if she’s raising a middle finger to critics trying to suppress her and other women. “Yeah I’m a lady, I make my dough, won’t play the victim, don’t fit that mold, I speak my peace, don’t do what I’m told, shut up sing, well, hell no I won’t,” she sings persuasively, words we hope to hear fans chanting back to her during live shows.
Across 14 soul-searching songs, Morris proves that she’s a woman of integrity finding herself in different ways: through love, experimentation and, perhaps most notably, defying artistic boundaries. GIRL demonstrates her unique songwriting prowess, as she eloquently moves from the inspiring “GIRL” to a songs like “Make Out With Me” that are dripping in romance, before rounding out the album with “The Bones,” where she uses a withered, but unwavering home as a potent metaphor for a strong relationship.
GIRL is an important step in Morris’ growing legacy. She’s powerfully contributed her voice to the revolution surrounding equality for women in country music, and this album affirms with passionate songs like “GIRL,” “Flavor” and “Common,” in addition to eliciting female songwriters to co-write 10 of the album’s tracks. With GIRL, Morris advances to the next level, creating a dynamic project where she sincerely and intelligently lets the world into her insecurities and moments of weakness, only to rise through it all with perseverance. With her fearless nature, Morris proves the power of a female voice, making others feel equally as empowered as she is.