When you’re an artist that’s got a niche, it’s not all that surprising when you’re entire album is pretty much in that niche. Country heartthrob Hunter Hayes definitely knows how to appeal to his audience (mainly middle school to college aged girls) by writing an abundance of sappy love songs that I wish someone would serenade me with…I mean, sappy love songs that they wish someone would serenade them with. While Storyline definitely has its fair share of love songs, Hayes actually plays around with the concept of heartbreak a little bit more than in his previous self-titled album.
The album starts off with the infectious, ‘When-You-Say-Jump-I’ll-Say-How-High’ track “Wild Card” and quickly transitions from love song (“Storyline”) to love song (“Still Fallin’) to yet another love song (“Tattoo”). There was kind of abrupt change in subject matter when it went from three songs about chasing a girl to “Invisible”, a song about bullying and having inner strength. The second half of the album discussed finding faith through the darkest of times (“Flashlight”), questioning what the hell went wrong in the relationship (“When Did You Stop Loving Me?”), and finally realizing that moving on is the best thing to do (“Nothing Like Starting Over”,“If It’s Just Me”). The final song, “Love Too Much”, is an uplifting ballad about how we are all human and it’s something we just have to accept.
I’m definitely on Team “Invisible” in terms of highlight songs, but the way Hayes takes slight risk by straying away a little from his safe zone of overly-romantic tunes puts another track in the running for ‘Best Song on the Album’, “You Think You Know Somebody.”
Let’s face it, ‘I hate you’ country songs are just so much better than ‘I love you’ country songs (well, in any genre really) and “You Think You Know Somebody ” has an obvious spark that I hope Hayes keeps when writing his next album. This Rascal Flatts a la “What Hurts The Most” track with more prominent drums and guitars delves into the feeling of what it’s like to be with someone while watching them change into someone unrecognizable right before your eyes. His voice embodies the pain of being forced to leave someone who you have put so much time and effort into specifically through lines like: “it takes everything I’ve got to move/yeah it could’ve been a long, long talk to fix this/the seas were getting rough but I thought we were worth it/worth the try, worth the fight, shows you what I know, yeah”. With each “you think you know somebody” there is more and more hurt revealed and it finally showcases him as an artist who can go from his niche, to the complete opposite with ease.
In a way, Storyline kind of lives up to its title with the way that it’s organized. It has a chronological feel to it in which it starts with high-energy, upbeat, cutesy love songs and gradually reveals what happens after the courting and puppy love is over. There were a few rough transitions but it was nice for Hayes to step out of his lover boy comfort zone. It was a small step, but a step all the same.