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Sugarland

The Incredible Machine – 2010 (Mercury Nashville)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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"The Incredible Machine" is a rather unfortunate title for Sugarland's latest full-length. Listening to Find The Beat Again, for example, makes it sound as though vocalist Jennifer Nettles wants to be Deborah Harry-fronting-Katrina & the Waves rather than, say, a latter-day Loretta Lynn. With its handclap rhythm and shouted "Hey, Hey" on the chorus, this track - along with many others - finds Sugarland firmly entrenched in a predictable pop music device. In fact, it's difficult to find anything that sounds truly country at all on this new project.

There's nothing wrong with making pop music; but just call it what it is, and do it well. However, Sugarland makes only average pop music, at best. Every Girl like Me brings to mind the sort of watered down white reggae that so saturated '80s New Wave pop music. Stand Up advises young people to stand up and - presumably - fight injustice. But just what they're to fight, well, that's anybody's guess. The song All We Are is a big rock anthem. But once again, it's tough to figure out what the duo is getting all hot and bothered about. All we are, as far as can be deciphered, is something vague and undefined, but confident.

One is left with the impression of Sugarland being a rather generic machine that, instead of creating something new and exciting, spits out formulaic, assembly line product, which has long been overly familiar. Nettles may be a great singer, but there are already better pop singers out there. Much like Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, Nettles records under the guise of being in a country act, which gives her a leg up on the pop competition. And what's the only thing that's incredible here? It's that fact that country audiences continue to buy into Nettles lie.