It was in 2012 that long time actress of One Tree Hill fame Jana Kramer began her music career. Her self-titled debut album was unashamedly country, but suited her voice well; she additionally managed to reach the top 20 of the Billboard 200 and the top 5 of the Country charts, highlighting what a good choice it was for her. Three years later, her follow-up album thirty one has arrived, and things haven’t changed all much.
thirty one’s main differing point is the presence of more rock-influenced tracks, giving it an occasionally more aggressive nature than its predecessor. This is most notable on opening track Boomerang, the following track Don’t Touch My Radio and later track Pop That Bottle, which especially feels more like a rock song than country aside from the light use of banjo. The rest of the songs range from mid-tempos to ballads, with some extra upbeat songs thrown in throughout. Of the album’s less rock-influenced country songs, the stand-outs mostly show themselves thanks to their writing: The chorus of Circles is one of the album’s strongest moments, with a nice mid-tempo groove showing through the lyrics as Kramer sings along—You got me spinning like a wheel / Oh how you make me feel / It’s more than gold on my finger / Six feet down and forever—in one of the album’s most strikingly sincere moments.
Said No One Ever is the album’s unequivocal sassy moment, with a bouncy, summery attitude that’s carried through the music and enhanced by Kramer’s delivery of the heavily sarcastic lyrics—I’m happier when I’m lonely / Don’t want love to last forever / Said no one ever—working together to make this the album’s strongest track. In truth, the album’s only major misstep is Bullet, a general country song pop song ruined by its strangely choppy and unfitting vocal manipulation in its chorus, artificially extending Kramer’s vocals for the word bullet rather than working with them naturally. It leaves the song feeling awkward, rather than helping to define it and make it better.
With only Bullet as a questionable song, the rest of the album’s problem is its sticking to one or two similar styles of country pop throughout its entirety. It’s a choice that makes the perfection of Said No One Ever stand out strikingly clear, but also shows that the album could have used more tracks like this, playing with moods and tones rather than sticking to a similar arrangement throughout. Regardless, Kramer’s vocals are top notch throughout the album, and it definitely plays to some of her strengths. Had thirty one played to more of these strengths than just one or two of them, it could have been much stronger.