As a high school student in AP Literature and Language courses, I have been trained to identify rhetorical devices- specifically imagery, and Jessie James Decker‘s visual imagery in her newest EP is spectacular. GOLD has five songs that provide listeners with unique settings and tunes to relish in Decker’s golden lyricism.
“Shoot Out the Lights,” written by Grammy winner Maren Morris, opens with soothing flickers of a banjo and drums to set the melody. The opening track itself describes the slow digression of a romantic relationship that time (supposedly) couldn’t interfere with. Naturally, the chorus amplifies her desire to “Chase the moon till the morning comes” and to “breathe the air that [they] used to breathe/ back when [they] were seventeen.” Her breathy notes evoke empathy for her situation and the increased tempo of the drums in the chorus draws out more in her message. As she sings this, I picture honeymooners. Honeymooners that are in love, relish what they do, and enjoy a sense of adventure. Getting out into the open world and throwing caution into the wind is something many of us dream of and it is a fantasy that her music and lyrics evoke within me.
Track number two sets a completely different vibe. “Girl on the Coast” is a Hawaiian-themed piece depicting relaxation on the beach. Decker sets the song along the gold sand and delivers a methodical message full of peaceful, visual appeals. Her description of being “by the coconut tree” with “lemon in [her] ice tea” sets the scene of a lovely beach day. She further adds to this by describing shirtless surfer boys and wiggling “sand in [her] toes.” Background vocals also help resonate tropical views of clear blue skies as the entrance of a ukulele further adds to the beachside location.
“Too Young to Know” is the first introduction to non-instrumental elements. A modest echo and a clapping rhythm open up Decker’s story where she has gone from a vacation to being somber in a Sonic parking lot. Instead of reflecting on romance, she is mourning it. Synthesized clapping and drumming accompany her in analyzing a relationship that demonstrated her ignorance in recognizing failing love.
As opposed to “Girl on the Coast,” Decker’s gold is melted like her heart and even the backup singers emphasize an emotional separation of being “too cool to care” and “too young to know” how the answer to her problems could have been found. Additionally, this third piece is probably the one that best demonstrates the power and range of her vocal abilities. From holding her own to belting with the chorus, Decker gives this song everything to paint the picture of taking “a slow drive down that old hometown street” where she and a lover promised to be together forever.
Decker co-wrote this fourth piece with Alyssa Bonagura. “Lights Down Low” is carried by an acoustic guitar and the undertone of a banjo. In this piece, Decker and Bonaguara describe a romantic date night home alone rather than going out on the town. From playing footsy and popping champagne in a bubbling bathtub, to turning the lights low and the stereo up, Decker sings about an evening full of excitement and extravagant pleasures. The chorus here complements Decker’s voice as the background singers harmonize with her while she takes the melody on her own. I also found it unique that the banjo’s presence became more and more apparent as the tempo of the second verse picked up and transitioned into the chorus. Overall, this original, separate single of hers, fits well into this album and complements the other works swimmingly.
The fifth and final song, “Gold”, was written by Jeffrey Steele, Brandon Hood, and Bonagura. Not only is it the only song with soft tones of a piano, but it is the most beautiful on the album. Decker delivers a gorgeous message about having a lover sitting with her friends and family. Everything is in perfect bliss and she feels that she has “found all the riches in the world.” The runs in the chorus are enriching and blend beautifully like those of Christina Aguilera. The second verse’s “Saw the star shine in your eyes/I felt the water on my skin/ You dared me and I jumped in” amplify the peace and golden tranquility that Decker has found and hopes to keep in her life.
With all of this imagery and fantastic music, Decker’s album lacks a few elements. For one, none of the five songs are overly energetic. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most energy packed), the top song would be a 5.5 or a 6. While enthusiasm may not have been a primary focal point of the album, it still detracts from its overall quality. Another vocally-based issue is the power of Decker’s voice. Even though a majority of the songs spotlight the range and emotional depth of her voice, the vocals themselves aren’t powerful. They are around the lower end of the soprano range and are more silky than powerhouse material.
Finally, while this last critique is more of a note about the album’s content, it should still be noted. Thematically, the songs basically contain the same concepts: lovers, break up or make up, and romantic relaxation. Because this is the album’s basis, I have no problems here, but I want readers to know what specific topics are performed about.
Country I Epic Records