An Album a Day: HERO

May 10, HERO by Maren Morris

Genre: Country according to Maren’s marketing people, pop with a country influence according to me.
Year: 2016
Runtime: 37:49
Total Number of Tracks: 11
Songs you might know:
– “Rich”
– “My Church”
– “I Could Use A Love Song”
– “80s Mercedes”

My prior relationship with the album: 
I was first introduced to Maren Morris through Niall Horan. He mentioned being a fan of Morris and this album during interviews. Lo and behold, when he finally dropped his album, it featured a duet with Morris plus she ended up opening for him on tour. That ended up being one of the few tours where I actually did my due diligence and listened to the opening act ahead of time, meaning my first exposure to HERO was a little less than a year ago.

While I remember thinking both the album and Morris’s live performance were respectable, neither really converted me to full-blown Fan with a capital F. I neither regretted listening to her album nor did I feel a big hurry to listen again. Maybe this is just because country isn’t really “my thing,” or maybe there just wasn’t enough to set HERO apart from similar albums by similar artists.

 My impression this time around: I feel this album gets less and less country the more I listen to it. Songs like “Just Another Thing” and “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry” feel like straight-up pop to me, though they are among my favorites on the album. I’ve been listening to a higher-than-usual amount of country lately, and compared to some other albums I’ve listened to, the lack of instruments like banjo or fiddle, or mandolin here is noticeable.

Morris also has a fairly genre-neutral voice. Among pop fans, she’s perhaps best known for being the featured vocalist on Zedd’s track “The Middle” and there’s certainly nothing about that vocal that makes you think ‘oh, this is a country singer.’ While I think Morris’s vocals are wonderful and part of what makes the album worthwhile, they let her get away with a lot of non-country material including some on this so-called country album. For those of you that ARE familiar with Niall Horan’s solo work, it’s easy to see why he was a fan of HERO. The two albums are quite similar, and the fact that one is country and one is pop has more to do with marketing that what the music sounds like.

But if we take a break from the “is it really country?” question and just look at the music for what it is, it’s hard for me to find anything to complain about. There’s no bad song on here. Most of Morris’s lyrics are incredibly relatable to audiences of all genres. I’ll reiterate, Morris’s vocals are just as good, if not better than most mainstream pop singers. There’s a realness here that can be hard to find in pop music, but yet it lacks the qualities that might’ve otherwise make it an only-good-for-country-fans recommendation.

Who would enjoy it? I can see this being a real winner for pop fans that still prefer live-sounding music to computerized/Max Martin-esque beats.

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