Cam is adorable, rocks Shirley Temple-style curls, and could pass for an actual ray of sunshine when wearing yellow (her favorite color). The California-raised country newcomer is bubbly and bright and practically Taylor Swift-level on the niceness scale… but she is not, under any circumstances, here to mess around. Since her massive hit “Burning House” snuck its way onto country radio airwaves and, most recently, into the 2016 Grammy Noms, it seems she’s on a mission to earn her stripes.
Her debut LP, Untamed, was released Friday – an emphatic statement that Cam, 31, is here to stay. She balances catchy radio-ready singles (“Untamed,” “My Mistake”) with heartfelt ballads (“Cold in California,” “Mayday,” “Village”), and even boasts an angry outlaw anthem (“Runaway Train”) and a dive bar singalong (“Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty”). Her songwriting – she cowrote every track – is rarely amateur and her stunning vocals make her words incredibly believable.
An obvious standout is the lead cut, “Burning House,” which initially met skepticism when proposed as a radio single. It’s simple, haunting, and melancholy, but warrants epic crowd sing-alongs at live shows. It’s just artistic enough to show off Cam’s vocal chops, but still quite attainable for the average shower singer – in other words, a hit totally deserving of recent praise.
On the Luke Laird-assisted “Half Broke Heart” and the feisty “My Mistake,” she recounts bad decisions and painful breakups in fresh ways that seem far from overdone – a notable feat considering the ubiquitous nature of the subjects. The title track, “Untamed,” is surprisingly unoriginal and one of the few conceptually boring songs in the bunch (“Cold in California” and “Want it All” aren’t groundbreaking, either). The cliches Cam avoids so carefully throughout the rest of the record make frequent appearances in “Untamed” (she sings, “once we break that moonshine out … dancin’ on the Chevy hood”). But for every so-so moment, there are countless others bursting with sass, strength and wisdom.
The album’s most powerful punch comes in the closing track, “Village.” It’s simultaneously heart-wrenching and comforting, a bona-fide tearjerker with all the lyrical craft of country’s greatest masterpieces. (Skeptical? Watch Cam explain the background and perform the track live.) Kelsea Ballerini tweeted it best:
Cam’s debut is one of impressive oxymorons: traditional yet modern, emotional yet fun, young yet wise, and appealing yet unconventional. She covers her bases and then pushes the envelope, confident she’ll be taken seriously but unafraid to let loose. Untamed has something for everyone, and yet it remains inherently “Cam.” Bottom line? Listen up and pay attention. She knows you better than you think she does.
For a car jam session: “Untamed,” “Runaway Train,” “Want It All”
For your bedroom floor: “Village,” “Burning House,” “Mayday,” “Cold in California”
For beer-bottle karaoke: “My Mistake,” “Half Broke Heart,” “Hungover on Heartache,” “Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty”
Grab Untamed on iTunes and check it out below: