Songwriters: Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Shelley Skidmore
In a market which often pressures artists to offer superficially uplifting lyrical fare – be it a Martina McBride-esque power ballad or an ode to beer and tailgates – it’s refreshing to hear a new artist who’s not afraid to do a little achin’. For those unacquainted, Joanna Smith has released two singles to country radio in the past two years, with 2010’s “Gettin’ Married” and 2011’s “Georgia Mud” topping out at #55 and #57 respectively.
Her upcoming single “We Can’t Be Friends” makes for her third stab at the charts, and definitely her best effort so far. “We Can’t Be Friends” is a beautiful, detailed lyric that addresses the post-breakup healing process from an angle that has not been used in recent memory. Smith’s narrator firmly, but sadly insists that the only way to move on is to end contact, with maintaining a casual friendship not being a possibility, because she knows that even the slightest encounter will be enough to cause old feelings to rise to the surface once again. “It’s not that I don’t love you,” she assures – “It’s that I love you way too much.” Such naked, sincere honesty, not to mention smart, clear-eyed insight, is something that country radio could definitely use a good strong shot of.
That said, the song’s impact could have been bolstered had Smith managed to bring a greater sense of presence to the song, and perhaps imposed herself upon the lyric through some unique, personal vocal touches. Of course, Smith is still a new artist, and this is a skill that she may very well be able to hone over time. The important thing, however, is that she doesn’t get in the way of the song, but lets the lyric pull the weight in connecting with the listener, which makes “Friends” a quietly compelling record nonetheless.
Her previous singles hinted at a well of untapped potential, but “We Can’t Be Friends” strongly suggests that Joanna Smith just might have the talent and the taste to be a formidable artistic force in the country music industry – one who could shape up to be a most welcome presence in the country music mainstream, should country radio give her the time of day. Either way, “We Can’t Be Friends” definitely makes one want to hear more from this bright young talent.