Black Music Matters Festival

Cassadee Pope

Stages – 2019 (Awake)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Cassadee Pope

Although Cassadee Pope's "Stage" album includes a few too many pop-country songs for comfort, it closes with a true winner. The ballad "I've Been Good," which turns a customary greeting response on its head, is a true show-stopper. She's been 'good,' yes; good at drinkin' whiskey and nearly everything except getting over a breakup. With its drinking song lyrical reference and sincere vocal sadness, Pope earns her wings as a fine country singer. If everything was as good as "I've Been Good," we'd be talking about Pope in the same breath as Margo Price. Sadly, it's not all that good.

Another fine one is "If My Heart Had A Heart," which is also a single. Its lyric postulates the existence of a heartless heart and features a strong, Carrie Underwood-esque Pope vocal. "I've Been Good" and "If My Heart Had A Heart" are mixed in with generic pop songs, like "How I Feel Right Now." The latter, even with its token touch of steel guitar, is basically a throwaway song.

Like too many other country recordings these days, Pope's producers include obvious country elements into to otherwise pop songs, in hopes of passing these songs off as country. No, the banjo intro to "One More Red Light" doesn't change this song's essential pop nature.

Pope is at her best whenever singing hurt. "Still Got It," for instance, finds Pope endearingly vulnerable. One is left wishing there could have been more memorable moments like this one on "Stage." However, if you only download this album's few key tracks, you'll have one satisfying EP.