Pop music oughta pop, and it does on “You Had Me At Goodbye.”
On her fifth full-length studio album, Shawnee-born Samantha Crain stretches — but never strains — outside of the Americana songwriter mold to pursue sizzling synths and interesting pop stylings. She shifts gears from bubbly bummers to eclectic, electric ballads and drives doughnuts on what could’ve easily been a more predictable outing.
She works inside and outside of her comfort zone, which pays off especially well on a keenly humorous opening track like “Antiseptic Greeting.” She also builds an achingly beautiful narrative on “Betty’s Eulogy.” It’s centered around the grief of Betty Rogers, the historically overlooked wife of famed social commentator and tragically unlucky aviator Will Rogers.
And it’s not every day you produce a showstopping number like “Red Sky, Blue Mountain.” Crain sings the song in Choctaw, which not only extends her tradition of crafting emotional works of art but also reminds us how Native creatives can have an effective, modern voice while nodding to the past. The lyrics translate to a few simple phrases but they carry so much weight through Crain’s sincere delivery.
Throughout “YHMAG,” Crain supplies sad, smart, funny and uniquely arranged tunes all while setting the bar for songwriting inside her home state and far beyond Oklahoma. This year, no one worked harder to wave goodbye to expectations and blend something so original.
Check out some other really great Okie records here.