Hero is the debut LP from Maren Morris, released last week on the heels of her 2015 self-titled EP. For her first full-length project, it hardly feels novice. (If this were a multi-course meal, she bypassed the mediocre salad and sketchy seafood appetizers and went straight to the savory meat and potatoes.) She sounds like a veteran, yet the production (producer credits list busbee, Ian Fitchuk, Brad Hill, Maren Morris, and Brett Tyler) feels fresh and unprecedented.
Morris shines on highway jams like the sass-coated “Rich” and the vibe-y “Just Another Thing,” but underneath the layers of modern pop-country sounds are bold, smart lyrics – for example, “Rich” boasts countless entertaining metaphors and “Just Another Thing” is sneakily wise and self-aware.
Morris co-wrote every single track, and her writing is genius at its best and just slightly superficial at its worst. Throughout the album, she throws a few punches, sheds a few tears, and successfully challenges her recently-harsh surroundings as a young solo female in Nashville. Morris proves her versatility by juxtaposing her rebellious hit anthem “My Church” with the tame and tender “I Could Use a Love Song,” and later adding the powerful R&B-tinted “Once” to the mix.
Even on the candy-coated “80s Mercedes” and “Sugar,” her carefree attitude is infectious and the production begs for a spirited sing-along. “I Wish I Was” and “Second Wind” balance the fun with insightful and introspective themes of one-sided love and resilience. Ultimately, Hero is a smart, solid, radio-ready debut that challenges just the right amount of status quo. She’s a countrified Avril Lavigne, a pop-infused Miranda Lambert, and a sassy soul sister of Kacey Musgraves… but Hero finds Morris being unapologetically herself.
- Going for a sunny drive: Sugar, My Church, 80s Mercedes, Just Another Thing
- Crying over cookie dough: I Wish I Was, Once, I Could Use a Love Song
- Deleting his number: Rich, Drunk Girls Don’t Cry
- Getting back in the saddle: How It’s Done, Second Wind
Earlier this year, Morris opened for Chris Stapleton at the Ryman Auditorium, where the two performed “Free Fallin’.” She recently hit the road with Keith Urban and Brett Eldredge as part of Urban’s Ripcord World Tour.