“That Girl” by Jennifer Nettles

In Sugarland’s sublime smash “Stay,” Jennifer Nettles sang from the perspective of a mistress who pleads with her lover not to return to his wife. The narrator in “That Girl,” Jennifer’s spellbinding solo debut single, is the antithesis of that. She’s a woman who, after hooking up with a spoken-for man, does what every philandering guy dreads: She calls his lady to spill the beans and clear the air.

I don’t want all the dirty looks / The headlines / So I call you to explain why / I wound up with your guy.

Why exactly? Because she doesn’t want to be “that girl.” It’s Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” cleverly turned on its head, thanks to the combined writing talents of Jennifer and Butch Walker, the magical live performer and pop producer who shares Georgia statehood with J. Net.

“That Girl,” however, like the upcoming album the track is from, is produced by Rick Rubin, the visionary behind Johnny Cash’s haunting, spare American recordings.

Jennifer’s single is similarly stripped down, propelled by thumping bass, hand claps and plinking guitar, giving the whole thing a Flamenco feel. Refreshingly, there’s no slick production here. The payoff, though, is the chanteuse’s smokey vocals, which prove yet again why Jennifer is one of country (or pop’s) most nuanced singers.

Sugarland may be on hiatus, but if this is what we can expect from a Jennifer solo, it sure sounds sweet. 

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