‘Better Than You Left Me’ – Single Review
Mickey Guyton made a little bit of country music history earlier this year. She scored the highest number of first week adds at radio for any act’s debut single, totalling 79, over half of the Mediabase-reporting stations.
The Capitol recording artist has had some time to wait to really make her mark, as they have been developing her for the past few years and sending her out on a gruelling radio tour, but it’s clearly paid off. Not only is she working her way up the charts at a time when it’s incredibly difficult to achieve airplay as a woman (particularly if you’re not Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood), she’s also already one of the most prominent black women to ever grace the format, and – most importantly – the song is damn good.
‘Better Than You Left Me’ is a slice of soulful country (reflecting her R&B origins) guided by quivering vibrato and an underlying vocal power that shows she’s not to be underestimated. That sense of inner strength is also showcased within the actual lyric, as she finds herself moved on from a relationship and doing well, finally able to tell a crawling-back ex-boyfriend that he no longer has that power over her. “I’m better than you left me, I’m better than I should be, better than I was when you walked out that door,” she sings with triumphant passion. “I’m stronger than that woman, the one that you knew back then, so don’t you think I’ll take you back like every time before. No baby I don’t think you know me anymore, I’m better than you left me.” Talk about writing a female empowerment anthem – or really, any gender or relationship situation. This is wonderfully universal in its ability to tap into the confidence felt after getting past getting hurt, in the same way that Sara Evans’ monster hit ‘A Little Bit Stronger’ took us through the healing process. This fast forwards straight from the point of falling apart to the point of becoming even stronger than ever before, and the smug moment of rejecting that person who ruined you when they walked away. There probably isn’t a single person who can’t get some satisfaction from listening to this track.
And it’s well musically supported, too. Beginning with the sweet sounds of mandolin and quickly joined by reverberating electric guitar, a slow, thick drum beat and prominent pedal steel, the relatively slow tempo of this ballad is balanced out by the bluesy off-beat rhythm. The lyrics, too, leave little room in between lines to settle in, and as we follow Mickey’s convincing narrative the arrangement builds and speeds up a little, meaning that this will work on radio because the slower tempo is not as obvious, and at times sounds closer to a mid-tempo offering. That’s not to say that ballads are no-goers, but they do tend to find less success on radio at the moment.
Mickey is clearly a talented singer and songwriter, and fans are really responding to her. It’s always an uphill struggle for any new woman on the radio, but this might just be the year to let someone else into the club.