Recommended Tracks: “Drunk Mind, Sober Heart”, “Where The Good Things Are”, “Surprise Party”
Artists You May Like: Carrie Underwood, Lauren Alaina, Danielle Bradbery
Glitter. Confetti. Streamers. Balloons. These are just a few items that come to mind when I picture a surprise party. Of course, there’s also the hiding, the popping up out of nowhere, and the screaming – things that aren’t as innocent or charming. In a way, surprise parties serve as metaphors for life, in that you never quite know what to expect. On Mallory Johnson’s debut album, Surprise Party, the Nashville-based artist has set out to capture the essence of such a party, offering secrets, regrets, drama, and one hell of a good time.
On Surprise Party, Mallory hits us in the feels, especially with the songs that touch on lost love. She insists that she is not upset over a breakup on the downhearted “Hungover,” where she sings, “No, I don’t need no closure, just an Advil or two / I’m hungover, not hung up on you.” Mallory is well aware of her denial on this track, possibly because she knows the power that alcohol can have. We hear more about its power on the semi-acoustic “Drunk Mind, Sober Heart,” telling us over swells of strings and light piano, “One more sip and it ignites a spark / A drunk mind speaks a sober heart.” She brushes off this other person’s feelings towards her, singing, “You’re in over your head.” On “Not Your Heart,” however, Mallory is desperate for someone she cares about to love her back, hurt that this other person will not see her as someone more than just a shoulder to cry on. The heavy downbeats accentuate this pain as she sings, “You keep playing with my feelings / Say you love me but you don’t mean it / The way I want you to.”
These somber moments, though, make the good ones that much sweeter. Mallory lets us know that she is here to party on songs like “Married,” where she tells us how much she wants all that comes with a wedding, but does not want to be committed to anyone else. She just wants to live her life, but doing so can come with a price. On “Goin’ Broke,” Mallory tells us about some of her spending habits, which consist of a “champagne taste on a Bud Light budget.” It is a humorous take on shopping, with lines like “I try to act my wage just like my banker said / I only shop for red tags but I’m still in the red.” The witty lines are also prominent on “When I’m Blue,” where Mallory reveals what gets her out of a funk. She sings, “‘Cause when I’m blue, green’s my favorite color” and “He loves me, he loves me not / Either way, it’s going to pot,” the double meanings hard to miss.
Still, Mallory gives us thoughtful messages on Surprise Party that put everything in perspective. There’s the uptempo ballad “Where The Good Things Are,” which has Mallory listing understated actions like “overdue conversations” and “a helping hand” that make her feel complete. We perceive how much Mallory values connection, which also comes through on the title track. We are not sure who this song is addressed to, but she wants the best for them. Over the uplifting sounds of the piano, she sings, “I hope you see the ball drop / In the middle of Times Square” and “I hope that when you say ‘I love you,’ somebody says it back / And when you’re searching for forgiveness, you’re brave enough to ask.” Most importantly, however, she hopes that there will be someone who will throw this person a “surprise party.”
Mallory conveys a lot of strong messages on “Surprise Party,” but the messages on closing track “Wise Woman (The Worktape)” are the most relevant. She starts off by singing, “Another man not really listening to what I say / My education and his opinion ain’t the same” and “If you know what’s wrong, don’t prove him wrong / Play nice, play house, and get along.” She knows that these old, traditional values are not right, so she trades them for better ones the further we get in the track. We hear lines like “Girl power shouldn’t come with a price,” leading her to her main point, “Work real hard and never give up / If you wanna be wise, woman.”
Overall, Surprise Party is full of life. Mallory is a gifted lyricist, capturing so much detail with her words. She can also be funny, smart, and relatable, which are always good qualities to possess when it comes to songwriting. We also feel as if we are watching these experiences unfold firsthand, the mood of the music and the sound of Mallory’s vocals working well to complete the scene. In the end, Surprise Party is an extraordinary first album for Mallory, and we are glad that she invited us to the celebration.
You can listen to Surprise Party on platforms like Apple Music, SoundCloud, and Spotify.
You can grab tickets to the final dates of Mallory’s Surprise Party Release Tour in her province of NL here. The last show will be November 1 at Dildo Brewing Co & Museum, where fans can celebrate the album and Mallory’s new craft beer, The Surprise Party Sour.