This album is so good that I took a break from my listening to ‘folklore’ on loop. I was first introduced to the badass that is Lindsay Ell back in 2017 during Brad Paisley’s Weekend Warrior tour. She was one of his openers. A couple of days before the show, I started listening to some of her songs. They were really fun and I liked them. However, I’ve really fallen in love with her as a human, a guitar player, and singer/songwriter in the past couple of years. But now I’m about to take you on a heart theory by Lindsay Ell Track-by-Track post.
She just released heart theory as her sophomore album and there is no sophomore slump here. There are fun and endearing bops, heartbreak anthems, self-love tracks, and songs that handle more heavy topics. Without a doubt, this is my favorite album from Linday so far and I’m so excited to see what this album does for her.
There is a lot I love about this album. One of them being that this album feels good and it makes you want to dance – but it’s lyrically heavy. The subject in most of the songs talk about heavier topics but still feel good. Lindsay described them as “sangers” – sad bangers and I love that. What I also love about this album is that it goes through the seven stages of grief (shock or disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance/hope). Some songs got one song and sometimes she lingered in a stage for a few songs. Lindsay also co-wrote 11 of the 12 tracks.
heart theory: Track-by-Track
Random letters are capitalized throughout the track titles spell out the album title – heart theory. And it reminds me of Taylor Swift’s secret messages in her lyric booklets of the physical copy of the CD that we all had to transcribe to see what it said.
Another great quarantine record has been bestowed upon us. Lindsay wrote the album in order of what she was going through at the time. Before Nashville shut down due to COVID-19, they just finished the band tracking. And she finished her vocals and guitar solos in her home.
Favorite Line: “I ain’t looking for a rebound / I’m just tryin’ to do me now / Oh and honestly I’m trying to learn to live this life without ya”
I think that this was the obvious choice to start the album out with. Like she said she wrote the album as life happened but everything about this was the right choice to start this off with. It’s a sad post-breakup bop. It makes you want to dance but then you listen to the lyrics and it hurts your heart a little bit (or a lot – depending on where you’re at).
She co-wrote this song with Tyler Hubbard from Flordia Georgia Line and Corey Crowder. The banjo and steel guitar, to me, brings it that fun funk-ish sound that makes you want to dance. And of course, her guitar solo moment around the two-minute mark is fantastic. This is definitely the shock/disbelief song because she’s trying to stay distracted from the heartbreak.
Favorite Line: “I’m a fall too far, too fast / I’m a hug that lets go last / I’m a heart with good intent / That’s still a complicated mess / I’m a say what’s on my mind / At the right at the wrong time / So here I go / You don’t know how good I could love ya / Boy, if you just would let me love ya”
The opening instrumental with a clavinet which is her nod to Stevie Wonder. This is another song written in the denial stage. From my perspective on the first listen, I thought the song was for a new guy the narrator was seeing. However, upon more listens, I feel like she’s begging the guy to stay saying that she could love him so well and make him forget all the past heartbreaks. Which that ultimately makes the song sadder despite, again, the fantastic beat going on. Take it from me and don’t beg someone to stay. You don’t want that. What you want and deserve is someone who wouldn’t even consider leaving you.
Personally, a very relatable song but then again I feel like I’m going to be saying that for every single song because this album is so personal to her yet basically sums up the last year of my life perfectly.
i don’t lovE you
Favorite Line: “I don’t miss your kiss / The “love you, baby” from your lips / When the lonely closes in / I fight to convince myself / I don’t love you, baby / I don’t love you / I don’t love you anymore”
This was the first single released from this album back in November. And I was really going through it so this one really speaks to me and that time all little too well. It’s such a heartbreakingly beautiful song and I love it a lot. This song is also still in the denial stage. And it’s the only one that she did not write on the album. It was written by Neil Medley, Melissa Fuller, and Adam Hambrick.
The song is really the narrator trying to convince themselves that they don’t love someone anymore. It’s one of the few songs on the album that doesn’t have an upbeat sound to it. It’s more of a dramatic ballad but with banjos, mandolins, steel and electric guitars that give it that more “edgier” vibe that is Lindsay Ell.
wAnt me back
Favorite Line: “You ain’t gonna find nobody like me / I’m the best you ever had and I’m always gonna be, so / If I were you. if I were you / I’d want me back too”
Kane Brown is a co-writer on this track along with Matthew McGinn, Lindsay Rimes, and herself. This song is one of my all-time favorites from her. It was at the top of my “On Repeat” Spotify playlist for the longest time. It’s a fun and empowering song. It perfectly encapsulates how you feel when you gain your confidence and happiness back after not seeing it for such a long time. Happiness and confidence is so hard to build up. It takes so long and yet it’s so easy for it to fall apart.
Everything from the lyrics to the music of this track just feels so good.
get oveR you
Favorite Line: “I walked away with tears running down my face / You say you don’t know why, but it had to be this way AND I know what I want / And it used to be you / You said to move on and I did / Now it’s your turn to / Get over you”
This is another favorite of mine. Lindsay put this one in the angry stage of grief and I didn’t hear it on the first listen. Upon a second listen (and several more) I can hear it now. It’s subtle but once you hear it the song goes a little harder than it already does. I also love that throughout the album she brings up therapy. I personally haven’t heard the subject of therapy brought up in songs – especially in country music – and I love that it’s becoming more normal and encouraged.
The guitar riffs at the end of the song are phenomenal and again it has a super fun and upbeat sound to it.
Favorite Line: “I’m not gonna bend / Let you make the rules / And only do things that benefit you / I ain’t gonna change / Cause I’m already good / Think again / If you think I would / You’ve got the wrong girl / If you think I don’t know what I’m worth you’re living in the wrong world / I’m better than that I know what I deserve”
So this song was actually written about a friend of Lindsay’s who was mistreating her and she said she wasn’t going to let that happen anymore. She said that this song can sound like it’s coming out of the anger/spiteful stage of getting over someone. But for her it’s not. Friendships breakups or being mistreated by friends are also just as heartbreaking as getting dumped or mistreated by a significant other.
When you’re going through a breakup and healing from it, it forces you to examine all of your other relationships in your life. You have to see how you show up for others and how (and if) they show up for you. It’s another track with a fun beat with self-empowering lyrics.
body language of a breakup
Favorite Line: “So we hang on just enough / He thinks she’ll forgive him / She thinks that they’re gonna kiss and makeup / But that’s the body language of a breakup / The body language of a breakup / My friends could see it / My momma warned me / But I stayed on that fence / And I act like genius now / Got it all figured out / But flip that mirror around / I lose all common sense”
I love a storytelling song and this does that for me. It’s also a hard truth song. We all give solid advice to our friends about relationships and can tell if a stranger couple is mad at each other just based on how they’re acting with each other even if they aren’t saying anything. But then flip the script and your common sense leaves. You almost think you’re the exception and that won’t happen to you and your relationship – but it can and it does.
The music feels light like ’90s country but with her signature guitar in the background, it makes it distinguishingly hers.
good on you
Favorite Line: “That white t-shirt / Looks good on ya / Yeah, your big smile / Looks good on ya / You got your wheels back, on the track / Yeah, your needle’s found that groove / You got a new girl / Looks good on ya / She rockin’ your world / Well, good on ya / I told you to be happy / But I hate how happy looks so / Good on you”
To avoid ever feeling this feeling, I recommend blocking your ex on all platforms. Before they even have a chance to post anything happy. When you truly love someone, you’re happy that they’re happy. But there’s part of you that still is unhappy that they’re happy. It’s all very complicated. But it’s also just the next step in letting go. No one said it was going to be easy and pain-free.
The song by the opening instrumental and the title, I was expecting it to be a fun and flirty song. And it’s not but still a fantastic song. She explained, “…I just wanted to write a song to explain that feeling of being like, ‘I’m so happy for you, but it sucks.’”. So she did just that. The guitar riff at the end gives me major Brad Paisley vibes.
The oTHEr side
Favorite Line: “Just looking for clarity / And reasons for me to get out of my bed / You made a mess of me / I lost my identity / When you went and broke up with me / I thought I would never feel normal again / Yeah, losing you was hell / Honey, I ain’t gonna lie / But then I found myself” AND “Finally feel like that girl again / That I was before we met / But a little bit better than that / I’m stronger, I’m braver, I know what I’m worth”
I. LOVE. This. Song. I am obsessed with how warm and happy this song makes me feel. It’s exactly the feeling of waking up in the morning and finally feeling free. Free from loneliness and depression and finally being literally on the other side. The other side of where you just worked so hard to emerge out from. It’s an emotional and liberating feeling.
Musically the chords and transitions really bring the vibe of the song to life. It’s literal sunshine and a happy deep breath in a song. She gave it a Stevie Wonder/Fleetwood Mac sound and it’s just so wonderful.
Favorite Line: “All I wanna be is everything you need, every day and night / For the rest of your life, I wanna / Go to your head / Go to your heart / Go to where ain’t nobody / Gone to before / Dance in the dark / Don’t stop after the party / Get in your truck, boy, hang up the phone / Get on the road ‘cause I gotta hold you / Hell, I would tell you but you already know / I’m the heaven that you wanna go to”
This is the “sweet” song I always hope for on an album. Your girl is a hopeless romantic and loves this stuff what can I say. She said this isn’t meant to be a song about what she doesn’t have. But rather what she wants in a future relationship. This is what she wants to mean to someone one day and I love that.
The beginning of the song and bridge of the song have the banjo at the forefront for a lighter feeling and that remains throughout the song. But of course with her guitar and drums kicking in throughout the rest of the song. And her guitar solo in the outro is what we love to hear.
Favorite Line: “It’s gonna make you hate yourself / When you didn’t hate yourself at all / It’s gonna make you build a fortress / Where you never had a wall / It’s gonna make you question God / And wonder if he even cares / ‘Cause it’s so messed up, it’s so wrong / It’s just so unfair / And when you’re broken past the point / Of what a broken heart can take / The cracks’ll heal but you’ll always feel the break / And that’s what’s gonna make you”
This is the other song on the album that is a heavier subject but without a fun a music sound. It’s about her sexual assaults at 13 and 21. I don’t want to speak for her on this song so I figured I’d just include her quote on this song instead from Apple Music,
“[Lindsay] decided I wanted to come forward with my story when I had gone to a place called Youth for Tomorrow. I went there three years ago to help them launch their music program, and it’s a campus that helps youth aged 12 to 18 who’ve been victims of sex trafficking and rape. I sat down at a conference table with 12 other little girls and I told them my story and then they went around and told theirs. The more I talked, the more they wanted to share, and it was just this incredible moment of showing up for each other and proving that we don’t need to fight all of our battles alone. We’re actually surrounded by a lot of people on this earth who are fighting similar things, and we just need to have the confidence to speak up about them, to find those people.”
“I left that place that day knowing that it was the right time for me to share this and to talk about my story. I’ve tried to write songs about this and it always just ended up being too dark or too heavy. I eventually called up Brandy Clark and was like, ‘Brandy, I want to write a song about my story as a little girl and I would love for you to help me do that.’ And she’s like, ‘Thank you for having the courage to want to talk about this, and I would be honored to help you tell your story.’ In a matter of hours, we had ‘make you’ written.”
“It was so freeing to be able to put my story into a song and then be able to release it in the world when my main intention is to prove that music has so much power and there’s so much healing. By releasing this story, it also helped me validate the 21-year-old girl and the 13-year-old girl within me to let them know that it’s okay and I’m taking each of their hands and we’re walking through this journey together and we’re going out and doing good because of it.”
Her voice, the music, and lyrics are beautiful and so heartbreaking. These types of songs are more of what we need to see in country music.
ReadY to love
Favorite Line: “I’d be lying / If I said I wasn’t terrified / That one day you might say goodbye, no / But you make me want to try it / ‘Cause what if we’re the right fit / There’s something in your eyes / That makes me feel like I’m / Ready to love again”
This track is also so full of color and happiness. Lindsay ends the album on a note of full acceptance and walking towards something new with hope and the knowledge of everything you just learned is beautiful.
The guitar and overall beat are fantastic and completely full of life. Really the only way I can describe this song is full of color.
heart theory: Track-by-Track Conclusion
Albums like this are so important to me and I love them. The ones that take you on a journey from track one to the end. Every gritty feeling to the literal sunshine you feel from getting past something is amazing. This is why my music posts probably go on forever. Everyone either skims them or clicks out halfway through because I just have too much to say. But that’s okay. If anything I write these for myself. Just to get my thoughts out of my head from being so excited about an album. Which is pretty often.
In conclusion, Lindsay Ell did THAT. Please go stream/buy heart theory. Support this badass woman. And support all the women of country who are literally out here killing it right now. They do not get an ounce of recognition that they rightfully deserve.