Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now was one of the biggest American pop albums of 2010; with Own The Night, the Nashville trio has made a record for an America stuck in a different, less contemporary time. While the average age of Lady Antebellum’s members is a relatively youthful 28, Own The Night is purposely old-fashioned, even geriatric. The painfully chaste single “Just A Kiss” is make-out music for born-again Christians, with lead singers Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott singing about a “fire burning so bright” between them that they won’t dare take it past first base. On “Dancin’ Away With My Heart,” they sing nostalgically about a past that isn’t far in their rearview mirror, where “you’ll always be 18” and beautiful. For Scott, 18 was only seven years ago, which is early even for a quarter-life crisis.
Dutiful entertainers rooted in corny-as-shit Music Row tradition, Lady Antebellum crafts MOR country with light, Dixie Chicks-style bluegrass touches that reflects the fantasies of its audience, not the perpetually vacant-looking members. But boy, the ballad-heavy dreamscape of Own The Night is a little much sometimes; the weird pan-flute coda of the nobody-loves-me lament “Cold As Stone” sounds lifted from the Titanic soundtrack—and it probably was, considering Lady Antebellum’s highly lucrative cat-lady constituency. On more energetic tracks like “We Owned The Night” and “Friday Night” (which sports some decently rocking guitar), Own The Night breaks out of the cheap romance-novel mold and aspires to the superstar pop-rock sound of Fleetwood Mac without the sex, cocaine, or anything else remotely dramatic or edgy. Lady Antebellum may get rich, but judging by the resolutely square Own The Night, all that money is going into mutual funds.