NBC's reality singing competition The Voice has generated ratings and fans—who doesn't like watching Blake Shelton and Adam Levine's faux feud?—but few, if any, bona fide musical stars. The kind American Idol successfully minted season after season.
But RaeLynn might be on the verge of changing that.
It's been five years since Racheal Lynn Woodward, who goes by her abbreviated stage name, only made it to the show's quarterfinals in its second season. Despite that early departure, however, Shelton recently told Entertainment Tonight, "I guess you could say [RaeLynn's] definitely my personal favorite" of the singers he's coached. So much so, in fact, that she's gone on tour with him.
It's not hard to understand why Shelton's taken a shine to her. RaeLynn's feistiness and Texas twang immediately bring to mind the stylings of Shelton's ex, Miranda Lambert (albeit with a slightly poppier sound at some points). And the 22-year-old singer understands that being a country star isn't automatic just because she was briefly on TV. Rather, it's the product of hard, determined work. "No singing show, reality show, is going to make you a superstar," she told Entertainment Tonight. "What makes you a superstar is what you do after."
RaeLynn has spent the last five years writing, performing and doing the grass roots work of going where the fans are. And what she's giving them in her debut effort, WildHorses, is a vulnerable-but-strong glimpse at a young woman whose faith is quietly evident in the upbeat country songs she sings.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
"Love Triangle" doesn't really deal with romance at all—at least, not the way its title might imply. Instead, it tells the story of a little girl grappling with her parents' divorce as she's shuttled back and forth between them. "Some mamas and daddies/Are loving in a straight line," RaeLynn tells us. "Take forever to heart/Then take a long, sweet ride." Others, though, aren't so fortunate. "But some mamas and daddies/Let their heart strings tear and tangle, oh." Then, in what seems an autobiographical nod, she adds, "And some mamas and daddies/Ran out of love in '94." (RaeLynn's parents got divorced when she was 3 years old.)
"The Apple" deals, it suggests, with a young, innocent woman losing her virginity and only coming to terms with what she's given away after the fact. "I remember bliss was ignorance," RaeLynn begins. "Love was without risk or consequence/I should've listened when they told me not to." But a kiss apparently goes much further: "So innocent/Then I ate the apple/And kissed you, bit into the mystery/And everything just started to unravel/ … At 10 p.m., right up against the wall/I wasn't one to give in to temptation/I guess you never know until you taste it/I took the fall." Looking back, the singer suggests that while there are second chances, some bonds—including, it would seem, sexual ones—can't completely be undone. "I'll fall in love again someday/But in some way, I'll still be yours/I'll never see the world again/The way I did before/I ate the apple."
"Your Heart" suggests that romantic disappointment teaches us about who we really are. "Yeah, you don't know who you are," RaeLynn sings, "'Til somebody breaks your heart." Then, it's time for the hard work of responding positively instead of self-destructively: "Are you gonna curse?/ Are you gonna cry?/ … Gonna sit at home all sad and lonely?" And, "Are you gonna get mad?/Say something and overreact?/Are you gonna get even, yeah?/Do something you wanna take back?/Or are you gonna find/Something bigger than you to believe in?"
The latter line perhaps hints at God. "Praying for Rain" is more clear on that subject as it describes a young woman pouring out her heart to her Maker in prayer: "I learn about love, I learn about pain/ … There's some things in life you can't explain/So I'm talking to God, praying for rain." Why that prayer? "So I can stand tall in a storm like a live oak tree/No one in this world's ever gonna get the best of me."
The title track finds a spirited young woman telling a would-be suitor that she's more than just "pretty candy on your arm": "If you want a girl that don't speak her mind/All smiles, all yes, all of the time," then he'd better look elsewhere. And on "Lonely Call," a woman wisely guards her integrity by refusing to answer the desperate, late-night phone calls of a guy who dumped her, then had second thoughts: "I ain't your lonely call." "Insecure" spotlights a confident woman's sense of security despite a manipulative seductress's attempt to woo her faithful man away from her. "Trigger" tells a slippery cad that his deceptive ways were what pushed her over the edge to end the relationship.
"Diamonds" exalts the beautiful symbol of an engagement ring ("A diamond's just a diamond 'til you put it on the right left hand").
"Young" embraces a kind of carpe diem attitude. In some ways, that's a good thing: "I'll live while I'm young/I'll forgive while I'm young/Yeah, the best is yet to come." Elsewhere in the song, however …
… that breezy impetuosity in the name of youthful indulgence includes casual liplocking: "Flirt with some boy and ask him to dance/Lean in and kiss him, right on the lips/Because I can." Things smolder a bit more suggestively in "Say," where we hear guest contributors Dan + Shay sing of a woman, "Something 'bout tonight/Something 'bout the touch of your lips/Something 'bout the touch of your fingertips/Something 'bout the way you're pulling me closer. Then RaeLynn joins in with them: "You don't have to say that you want me/With anything but your eyes."
"Your Heart" paints a picture of a weeping young woman "lookin' like h---." A second use of that word shows up in a description of a beau whom RaeLynn describes as "tall, dark and handsome" but "still sweet as h---."
In a 2014 interview with Fox News, RaeLynn talked about how her relationship with God grounds her. "I very much believe in God and believe He's helped me get where I am today and He keeps me calm," she said. "Growing up with God on my side and helping me through this journey—it's crazy [but] thank You Jesus." That said, she's also quick to point out that her faith doesn't mean she's squeaky clean either: "I pray and I cuss."
Both elements of RaeLynn's personality are evident on WildHorse. At times, the "wilder" part of her personality has it's way, evident in a dash of profanity and in a couple of slightly suggestive lyrics.
Most of the time, though, RaeLynn croons about themes that don't merit a warning, but praise. We hear about how divorce traumatizes parents and children alike. We hear about the high cost of succumbing to sexual temptation. And we hear affirmations about self-worth, lasting love and honesty with God.