Maren Morris made a big splash in country music with her 2016 album “Hero,” which was her major label debut. Then she followed that with an unlikely hit single, “The Middle,” which crossed her over into electronic dance music with help from Zedd and Grey. So where does her second album, “Girl,” fall on that spectrum between country and crossover pop? And does it live up to the potential of her debut?
“Hero” was named one of the top 10 albums of 2016 by Billboard and Variety, and it was the best country album of the year according to Rolling Stone. “Girl” might not get quite as many year-end citations, but it’s still generally liked by critics. As of this writing it has a MetaCritic score of 68 based on seven reviews — six positive, one mixed. It’s being called “endearing and earnest.” Morris is “stretching out musically” and making her “pop move” with songs that sound “more contemporary hit radio than country.” But are these feel-good songs “unconvincing” after her gutsy debut, as one reviewer writes?
Morris earned four Grammy nominations for “Hero,” including Best New Artist; she ended up winning Best Country Solo Performance for her breakthrough single “My Church.” Then in 2019 she picked up five nominations, including Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “The Middle.” Does it sound like “Girl” will get her back into the winner’s circle? Says one critic, “Don’t act surprised when you see her at the 2020 Grammys.”
Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow music fans in our forums.
Chris Willman (Variety): “Morris’ album does sound a lot more CHR than C&W — that is, more contemporary hit radio than country, with or without the western. That doesn’t mean that she’s going out of her way to play to fans of ‘The Middle’ … Mostly it means she’s continuing to pick up on the historical R&B/country connection, much as [Thomas Rhett] and Keith Urban do, which in contemporary terms just happens to come out sounding like pop.”
Ellen Johnson (Paste Magazine): “‘Girl’ probably won’t drum up quite the same level of critical spectacle as ‘Golden Hour,’ but Morris’ endearing and earnest second album is country-pop polished for radio that still feels down-to-earth. And the best part — it’s an antithesis to the frat-guy, country-rap tomfoolery dominating the charts … Don’t act surprised when you see her at the 2020 Grammys.”
Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone): “This album is where Morris makes her pop move. She’s stretching out musically, going for more of a Selena Gomez–Camila Cabello vibe. She got a taste of the Top 10 last year with ‘The Middle,’ her surprise EDM hit with Zedd and Grey, which clearly whetted her pop appetite … She might be on her best behavior on this LP, but the liveliest moments come when she gets out of line.”
Laura Snapes (The Guardian): “‘Girl,’ Morris’s second album, ultimately traffics in neither gutsy grandstanding nor Vegas-adjacent pop. Morris’s co-writers remain blue-chip Nashville, among them Ryan Hurd, whom she married last year. Their relationship underpins ‘Girl’ … But for all the biographical sincerity, Morris’s songs about unfettered good times feel unconvincing.”
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