Sugarland – “Little Miss”

Blake Boldt | November 17th, 2010

SugarlandCrossover is such a dirty term for country music purists, but a series of genre-busting A-listers–Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and Carrie Underwood, for starters–have grabbed hold of the format and refuse to lose their grip. Sugarland, who caught the public’s imagination with their winning blend of pop-country, is also intent on helping shepherd in a new era in Nashville, and they aren’t shy about telling us so. The Incredible Machine campaign is so far best known for the duo’s vocal vow to challenge their audience with a new sonic style: Coldplay-meets-country.

Sugarland reigns in their wilder tendencies with “Little Miss,” the album’s second single and a rare bit of self-help that doesn’t ring hollow. Jennifer Nettles, who spends a large part of the album loudly proclaiming victory against pessimism, smartly dials down the vocal acrobatics. Singing from the perspective of a chastened young woman, the goofy fireball gives a moving vocal performance, ditching her pronounced twang for a more tender effort.

“I’ll take less when I always give so much more,” the woman says wearily, a caustic remark aimed at a needy companion. One minute she’s Little Miss Down on Love, and the next she’s Little Miss One Big Mess. As the pressures and problems mount, she seems crushed under the weight of what everyone expects her to be.

Nettles echoes this emotional turmoil while providing a sisterly pat on the back. She encourages this troubled character to embrace her individuality: “Little Miss Who You Are, is so much more than you like to talk about.”

“Little Miss”–with its portrayal of a soured young woman backed by an acoustic arrangement–starts to bear a rough similarity to Pearl Jam’s “Daughter,” a harrowing tale of mental abuse. This story, though, takes a promising turn in its final act. The once-tragic figure morphs into a tough fighter, to the point where her “heart beats wide open and she’s ready now for love.”

A triumphant instrumental part in the bridge–led by an inspired piano section that recalls Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is”–trumpets this shift in mood. “It’s alright,” Nettles repeats three times, letting the hard-won lessons slowly sink in. Spirits lift when she sings, and her voice is a salve for those who have felt the sting of being neglected. Hers is a message that, given the recent spate of teen suicides represented in the media, gains added meaning: “You are loved.”

There’s hope and heart and a whole lot to like about this, one of the year’s best singles and an odd bright spot on Sugarland’s ambitious fourth album. The Incredible Machine may be an unruly mess, but “Little Miss” is a hit.

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Listen: Sugarland – “Little Miss”

  1. Fizz
    November 17, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Mental abuse and teen suicide? You’re reading all that into what, to me, is just another whiny-chick’s-big-sister song? If nothing else though, a new Sugarland single could possibly mean less airplay for the extremely annoying “Stuck Like Glue.” Blechhhh!

  2. Ben Foster
    November 17, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Even though the Incredible Machine album was largely disastrous, it’s nice to see that they’ve at least made some good single choices thus far. Though I’m sure a few of the major fails will find their way to radio sooner or later.

  3. J.R. Journey
    November 17, 2010 at 10:16 am

    ‘Little Miss’ is easily my favorite track from Sugarland’s latest album, and to me, the only logical choice for the second single. It also stands alone on the album as the best reminder of the sound of their first 3 albums, and the sound I am betting they return to for their next album release.

  4. Rick
    November 17, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Wow, a three minute musical counseling session from Dr. Phil via Jennifer Nettlesome! Its just a shame she didn’t include any references to a can of whoop-ass…

  5. Thomas
    November 17, 2010 at 11:18 am

    …i have yet to hear the whole album but two hits out of two releases ain’t the worst score i’ve ever heard of. if the poor reviews it got are justified, then it must be falling down a cliff from here on. this song is a typical sugarland tune and quite a good one for that matter.

  6. Fizz
    November 17, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Smart single choices from a disastrous album = lots of disappointed folks who bought another turd with two songs they like and a bunch of filler or worse.

  7. Razor X
    November 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    That’s why people download individual tracks these days, Fizz.

  8. Fizz
    November 17, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Then again, maybe not so much, judging by the most recent “Your Take.”

  9. Tim
    November 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Great choice and probably the only choice for a good second single. I love sugarland, but this album is a miss for country radio. I would probably stop after releasing the two singles. But anyways, excellent choice!

  10. Karen
    November 18, 2010 at 7:36 am

    I love Sugarland and this is their best album to date. I love that they always come up with something new and fresh. And their music is always positive and uplifting, something a lot of people need these days! Great job, Jennifer and Kristian, thanks for being you!

  11. BAMBI
    November 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

    The “Daughter” comparison is a stretch.

  12. Dale
    December 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    If they’re going to crossover, I’d rather hear them sing Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong. If you’re going to sell out, don’t go half way. Go all the way.


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