I shouldn’t be as resistant to TikTok as a marketing device for country music as I have been thus far. On some level it’s refreshing to hear the genre be ahead of the curve for once with a growing medium in a way it wasn’t (and in circles of the Internet, still hasn’t) with YouTube or, as much as I hate to say it, Facebook. It’s just that the majority of the breakout artists and/or songs from it have been outright terrible, and there’s no reason why a painfully limited performer like Walker Hayes should have even nabbed a novelty hit the way he did.
Still, I’m holding out hope, and while I liked but didn’t love Priscilla Block’s debut single at country radio, “Just About Over You,” I did hear potential, and the song has grown on me. I think the deeper question is how long that kind of virality for any act will really last beyond a brief moment, or how it will translate to success outside of that. When it comes to Block’s debut album, Welcome to the Block Party, I hear a debut album that carries a decent amount of personality in the writing at points, but not much beyond that. And it doesn’t help that it opens with an overly self-gratutious ode to “making it” in the title track chant (?), which, next to the revenge-fueled, Taylor Swift-ian closer “Peaked in High School,” feels really premature for a debut album carried only by a top 15 radio single.
Or really, maybe “Thick Thighs” is more of the breakout single than “Just About Over You” is, because while the story of the latter in going to a bar and having an awkward encounter with an ex-partner feels well-realized in framing and execution, this album doesn’t differ much from that theme or idea. And at least that song carries some more complex emotions in its implications of a possible rekindling that will only lead back to the same bitter feelings she thought she squelched. Tracks like “My Bar,” “Wish You Were the Whiskey,” and “I’ve Gotten Good” feel like retreads of the same song, only more one-note and one-dimensional in their respective executions; this album ranges from bar hookups gone right and bar hookups gone bad, and not much beyond that. Granted, taken as standalone tracks, I would argue the writing is the strong point on this album. And though they don’t land personally with me, I can see the appeal for writing that feels a bit more vulnerably humorous and honest on tracks like “Thick Thighs” or “Peaked in High School.”
For this brand of pop-country, too, the production and instrumentation are both mostly solid across the board, save for the overmixed percussive elements that have become modern staples of the genre anyway. I think the main issue is that a lot of the tonal choices feel uniform both for this album and for the mainstream right now as a whole, meaning there are far more standout pieces than something identifiable for the album as a whole, or for Block herself as an artist. At the album’s best, you’ll get tracks like the warm guitar rollick carrying the self-confidence boost of “I Know a Girl” that, coupled with the Hillary Lindsey assist, feels lived-in and well-realized. Or you’ll get a more spacious mix that can compliment a really great hook like “Heels in Hand.” If I’m being honest, though, Block isn’t a terribly impressive vocalist on either a technical or emotional level, and so it kind of dilutes the greater drama present on songs like the clunky “Ever Since You Left” or “I Bet You Wanna Know” and “I’ve Gotten Good.” And I hate saying that when there’s a sincere effort present, because with “Heels in Hand” and “Just About Over You” she’s damn close. So … there’s potential, but I’m not sure there’s enough here to keep it from getting lost in the shuffle. Only time will tell.
- Favorite tracks: “Heels in Hand,” “I Know a Girl” (feat. Hillary Lindsey), “Just About Over You”
- Least favorite track: “Ever Since You Left”