Hunter Hayes is revolutionizing pop-rock-infused country music as we speak. This very ambitious sophomore record, “Storyline,” released May 6th, opens up doors for this twenty-two-year old Louisiana native as he brings this genre to a whole new level. Opening with your classic drumroll/electric guitar riff combo, “Wild Card” immediately showcases the powerful, rock n’ roll facet of this record. Title track, “Storyline” puts us a little more at ease with the less heavy instrumentals and it sheds more light into Hayes’ strongest suit: his vocals. The shredding banjo solos before the breakdown did not hurt, either. This track was a nice transition into “Still Fallin” which is a lot less accompanied and a bit more personal than the first two songs. Very reminiscent of his older material, this track displays his attachment to his original sound – something that fans may want to stick around. This takes the cake for the cutesy-est song on the record.
One setback, however, would be the slight excess in production, which is made evident on “Tattoo.” If there were anything any music lover would love to take away from a record containing any sort of pop element, it would be the heavy additions in synthesizers and other effects. “Invisible” redeems the previous song though with its Chris Daughtry alt rock vibe. The record is divided by a couple of interludes, the first of which felt slightly off and do not work as well as a transition into the second portion. “You Think You Somebody” starts off the second half of the record and takes you by surprise as it heavily incorporates multiple genres into one song. Although it contains the consistent strength of his vocals, this track goes from country to pop to classic rock in under sixty seconds. The mixture of textures was slightly unsettling.
“When Did You Stop Loving Me” is a standout track and definitely my favorite. Much simpler than some of the tracks preceding them, the next few songs that lead to Storyline’s conclusion offer very redeeming qualities. “Nothing Like Starting Over” and “If It’s Just Me” lessened the blurred lines a bit as they made the final statement for this record, leaving the audience very nice last, first impressions. Closing track, “Love Too Much” was a nice send-off as it exhibits the right amount of variety in musical elements and it is one of the stronger tracks on deck.
A lot went on in this record, and a lot went into making it. Overall, Hunter Hayes took big steps out of his country comfort zone and produced a record filled with all sorts of things. Storyline started out strong. The tracks in the middle were a bit off-putting at times but the last few tracks restored faith into this assemblage of new things. There is a lot to say about an artist’s flexibility in times of shaping the path to which their music is headed. Although not quite at the end of that path yet, Hunter Hayes continues to prove versatile and Storyline is very much a testament to his potential.
(By Dana Reandelar)