Songwriters: Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace, Carrie Underwood
A great hook goes a long way.
What makes “Eighteen Inches” a solid song does not lie in the story it tells of two young lovers who run away together against parental wishes. It’s hardly novel ground for contemporary country music, and it would fit in snugly with the catalog of the song’s co-writer, Alaina’s Idol mentor Carrie Underwood. The song’s strength lies in the way it gets to the root of the driving force behind its characters’ actions, particularly through the effective summary found in the song’s central phrase.
“There ain’t no greater distance than the eighteen inches from your head to your heart” is a great hook. It sticks in your head, and it concisely encapsulates the song’s theme of the constant conflict between human emotion and better judgment. The song’s overall point is simple but true – Sometimes, particularly in youth, we make choices that are driven by emotion in the spur of a moment. Those choices can have lasting effects on the journey life takes, but sometimes those effects can be for good. We see this in the final verse, in which the characters welcome a baby as Alaina concludes “Thank God for those eighteen inches from you head to your heart.” The fact that the song even has a defined narrative as well as a composite theme is in itself enough to set the song above half of the material on country radio.
“Like My Mother Does” was stale and disposable, while “Georgia Peaches” was borderline obnoxious, but third single “Eighteen Inches” is a clear step up. This is partly because it gives Alaina a chance to show her chops as an interpretive singer, which are strong for one of such young age. Then again, the young love tale is hardly far removed from Alaina’s 17-year-old perspective, and she thus sounds fully invested in the characters’ story.
It’s easy for a critic to give a young artist the “age-appropriate” pass for recording weak material, but “Eighteen Inches” manages to successfully balance Alaina’s youthful perspective with a level of clear-eyed insight that artists twice her age can at times stand to benefit from. A little less “Georgia Peaches,” and a lot more of this please.