Six years after 2014’s successful “Montevallo,” Sam Hunt has released his new album “Southside.” While the new project still has similar content, the treatment of this content is more mature and still just as meaningful.
In the intervening few years, the singer has taken some time to clean up his personal life and get this album right. Most notably since the release of “Montevallo,” Hunt married Hannah Lee Fowler, the ex he mentions by name on “Drinkin’ Too Much” (and after whose hometown he named this previous album). Though the two have been reunited for some time now, their separation and its accompanying pain for Hunt are heard in some of the songs on “Southside,” painting a picture of Hunt’s past few years and how he’s grown.
The song “2016” especially emphasizes the regret he feels over chasing fame instead of love. Hunt sings about wishing he could undo the things he did and give the year back to his lover. It’s an effective song about realizing past mistakes and wanting to take responsibility for them, especially when they impacted another person so harshly.
Other songs also describe breakups but in more light-hearted terms. “Hard To Forget,” which appears immediately after “2016” on the album is one such song. The catchy tune captures the singer’s fight to try to distance himself from an ex who just won’t seem to leave him alone by playing “hard to forget.” The song features a sample of Webb Pierce’s 1953 “There Stands the Glass” as a quirky, comical complement to Hunt’s lyrics.
A third of the album is made up of singles that Hunt has released over the past few years, and these are some of the best songs on the album. Track No. 5 is 2017’s ultra-catchy “Body Like A Back Road,” No. 8 is 2018’s “Downtown’s Dead” and No. 12 is 2017’s “Drinkin’ Too Much.” Additionally, “Kinfolks,” a sweet song about wanting to introduce a special someone to family and friends, was released in late 2019 and is track No. 2.
With the exception of “Drinkin’ Too Much,” the rest of the singles are catchy country-pop hybrids. They capture heartbreak, lust and hope, but their presence on the album lends some familiarity and feelings of comfort to this new work.
The middle of the album (minus “Downtown’s Dead”) is particularly disappointing, especially the song “That Ain’t Beautiful.” Hunt takes a spoken word approach to the verses of this song before singing at the chorus, but the lyrics are the real issue. I cringed as I listened to the singer describe a girl who should probably start hanging out with better company: The girl can “send a misspelled text to an ex / Who put his fist through your bedroom wall” or dive for the bouquet “With the drunk bridesmaids” at the wedding of “some girl you met six months ago,” but “That ain’t beautiful.” No, really? The singer is trying to tell the girl that she can do better, but the song sounds as if he’s just calling out all the flaws in this girl’s life.
Unfortunately, “That Ain’t Beautiful” is followed by a similarly dissatisfying “Let It Down,” whose chorus features more traditional country influences yet is lacking in terms of lyrical complexity.
The album ends on the one-two punch of “Breaking Up Was Easy In The ‘90s” and “Drinkin’ Too Much.” “Breaking Up” is more lighthearted and pokes fun at how the modern dater is forced to see their ex continuously on social media whereas someone in the ‘90s wouldn’t have had this extra pressure after a breakup. The mood immediately becomes more serious with the meaningful “Drinkin’ Too Much,” which captures the singer’s pain during his separation from the person who is now his wife. However, the song does close on a hopeful note with the lyrics “there ain’t no way we’re through” and his wife’s playing a few notes of “How Great Thou Art.”
Besides a few not-so-great songs in the middle of the album, “Southside” turned out an effective, complete project. The album demonstrates how Hunt has developed musically and personally over the past six years and was worth the wait.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.