It’s been more than five years since we’ve heard from Sugarland. Now the country duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush returns to make noise with none other than the country-to-pop crossover queen herself, Taylor Swift, on the band’s new single, “Babe.”
That said, “Babe” isn’t really a new song. Swift co-wrote this tune with Train’s lead singer, Patrick Monahan, for her 2012 album, Red. But instead of including it there, Swift offered the track to Sugarland instead.
Nettles’ strong, twangy vocals belt out this ballad. It’s the first time the band has ever recorded a song written by another artist. So it’s no surprise, I guess, that Swift jumps in on backup vocals of this classic breakup song, one that’s reminiscent of an earlier moment in her own career—say, before she moved on from her country roots.
The “Babe” in question here is actually an unfaithful man. One whose departure has left a woman in a pretty bad place.
Nettles begins remorsefully: “What a shame/Didn’t wanna be the one that got away, yeah.” But this ex-lover of hers, he made a “big mistake, broke the sweetest promise/That you never should have made.” And she pines, “You said no one else, how could you do this, babe?” Now she’s “here on the kitchen floor,” apparently laid low by heartbreak.
In the aftermath, Nettles says she’s “taking down the pictures and the plans we made, yeah.” And as she removes the memories, one by one, she realizes, “Your face doesn’t look so innocent/Your secret has its consequences, and that’s on you, babe.”
He’s left her a mess: “I break down every time you call/We’re a wreck, you’re the wrecking ball.” And she can’t stop visualizing his confession in her mind, either: “Since you admitted it, I keep picturing/Her lips on your neck, I can’t unsee it.”
She loved him. But now it’s over. “You really blew this, babe,” Nettles sings in the chorus, joined by Swift. “We ain’t getting through this one, babe/This is the last time I’ll ever call you, babe.”
Most of Swift’s songs deal with love found and love lost. So, when I read the lyrics to this track, I immediately recognized her hand all over it. It’s not that the members of Sugarland haven’t had their fair share of heartbreak—they have. But their relationship debacles haven’t been quite as public as Swift’s. (Those in the know suggest this track was written after her messy breakup with actor Jake Gyllenhaal.)
But love sells. And breakups sell even more. Which explains why this song is sitting near the top of iTunes singles chart. (Well, that and Nettles’ signature vocals, of course.) Its catchy, though mournful, lyrics will likely resonate with anyone who’s suffered through the grim aftermath of infidelity.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, loving raising their little guy, Judah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).