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Track Review

Hunter Hayes doesn't enjoy the same name recognition as fellow country superstars  Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. Not yet, anyway. But with the release of this 21-year-old singer-songwriter's hit single "I Want Crazy," his relative anonymity may soon be a thing of the past.

Like Swift (earlier in her career, at least), Hayes sports an affable, down-to-earth demeanor that makes him a publicist's dream … as well as many a teen girl's, no doubt. Like Urban, he pairs that boy-next-door appeal with infectious, guitar-driven hooks, melodies that are just country enough to connect with that audience and just mainstream enough to facilitate his massive crossover potential.

Not that Hayes is an overnight success. Entertainment Weekly recently cataloged his remarkable career thus far—one that started with an impromptu performance with country stalwart Hank Williams Jr. when he was just five years old. The next year, he appeared with Robert Duvall in The Apostle. At 7, he sang for Bill Clinton at the White House. By age 13, he had landed a spot on America's Most Talented Kid.

An early graduation (at 16) from high school ensued, followed in quick succession by a record deal with Atlantic and opening-act gigs on tour with, you guessed it, Taylor Swift as well as Carrie Underwood. The first wave of Hayes' building country-sensation momentum crested earlier this year when he was named Best New Artist at the Country Music Awards.

"I Want Crazy" will soon be the crown jewel in Hayes' setlist. On it, Hayes sings the praises of not just being a little in love, but plunging crazily into it with reckless abandon.

The first two verses describe a young man's romantic zeal as he closes the physical distance separating him from his beloved and dreamily recalls their first date together. "You can't undo a fall like this," he sings. Now, face-to-face with the object of his affection, he earnestly insists he's not willing to settle for an anemic love affair. Only one full of passion will do:

"But I don't want good, and I don't want good enough/I want can't-sleep-can't-breathe-without-you love/ … I've searched the world and I know now/It ain't right if you ain't lost your mind/Yeah, I don't want easy, I want crazy/Are you with me, baby?/Let's be crazy."

Hayes' desire for a "crazy" relationship is at first defined in emotional terms. But he also hints that those strong feelings give the love-struck couple freedom to engage in romance on their own, at times rebellious, terms: "Wanna feel good, don't have to be right/The world makes all kinds of rules for love/I say you gotta let it do what it does/ … I love that we're rebels, and we still believe/We're the kind of crazy people wish that they could be, yeah."

Enter the physical dimension: "I don't want just another hug and a kiss goodnight/ … Yeah, look at us, baby, tonight the midnight rules are breaking/There's no such thing as wild enough, and maybe we just think too much/Who needs to play it safe in love?/Let's be crazy."

It's not explicit stuff by today's standards. Still, it's pretty clear this singer's looking for more than a quick kiss goodnight at his girl's doorstep.

As for the song's video, it involves Hayes' determination to reunite with his girl after three months of separation. The nonlinear timeline chronicles his attempt to reach her (flying a small plane) even as other scenes find him sitting on a bed in his apartment thumbing through pictures of them together. Each one evokes memories of their relationship thus far—a swift season punctuated by quite a bit of that aforementioned rebellious behavior.

At one point, the pair breaks into a local rec center and goes for a (fully clothed) dip in its pool. Elsewhere, they climb onto the roof of a high-rise building and lob something (perhaps bottles) off the top, then evade pursuit (and canoodle a bit in the process) as cops drive by. So if anything, the video pushes the idea of what a crazy, rebellious relationship looks like a notch or two further than the song itself does.

Now, I suppose there are two different ways we could look at a song like this. On one hand, Hayes is hardly the first to glorify an emotionally intense romance. And that's a lot of what's going on here. Like anyone who's ever been young and in love, Hayes won't settle for normal. He wants all the fireworks and feelings, a romance that's anything but ordinary. In that, he's voicing the wondrous yearning of anyone who's ever been madly in love before, a feeling that seems capable of sweeping the twitterpated out of the mundane and straight into happily ever after.

Unfortunately, the "crazy" that Hayes claims he wants also includes some problematic baggage. He suggests that those strong emotions give him and his lady license to live by their own rules. If they want to spend the night together, as the song implies more than once, it's all just a part of what their "crazy" love encompasses, no matter what anyone else thinks.

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Reached No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the country singles chart.

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April 22, 2013

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Adam R. Holz

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