Music

Hailey Whitters Sings About Having 'The Dream'

Photo: Harper Smith / Courtesy of Missing Piece Group

Hailey Whitters is a self-proclaimed dreamer whose goal is to be a country music star. After a dozen years in the business, this record may make the dream a reality.

The Dream
Hailey Whitters

Pigasus

28 February 2020

What does it mean to be a dreamer? On the positive side, being a dreamer suggests someone who is a romantic idealist whose goal may exceed one's reach but whose striving itself is a noble endeavor. The downside is that reality can get in the way of one's vision and create unnecessary pain for that person and those close to him or her. Hailey Whitters is a self-proclaimed dreamer whose goal is to be a country music star. After a dozen years in the business, she has become bitter, but that doesn't mean she has given up.

The 12 songs on The Dream show that while she may have become more pragmatic about her career, Whitters still believes in herself. More importantly, the music reveals she's not delusional. She has an abundance of talent as a performer and a songwriter who deserves a large audience and success. The opening track on Whitters' latest release encapsulates her situation well. The first words of the song explain, "I'm 12 years into a ten-year town," as she sings about her move from Shueyville, Iowa to Nashville. She expected to have to work hard and then be rewarded for her efforts. The conventional wisdom is that one should take ten years to make it in the country music capital, and if one doesn't make it by then, one should just give up.

Whitters has failed by her standards, but she hasn't stopped trying. Commercial success has eluded her. She's still waiting tables while waiting for her big break. And the music world itself has changed. As she wryly notes, being famous for 15 minutes and hearing her name on TV or seeing it on the label of a record seems specious at best during a time when television and recordings are outmoded media. The song is a heartbreaker. She sings it with conviction and an ache in her voice. But there is also a sweetness between the lines (co-written by Brandy Clark). She hasn't given up and is still chasing her dreams.

This upbeat tone, even though life can be a disappointment, permeates the album. Whitters makes it clear that "Instead of countin' up the days / I just want to make them count." She offers wistful looks backward but is much more concerned with living in the present. So, sure one can get drunk in the afternoon and listen to Patsy Cline on the Victrola, but that doesn't mean one should give up. Moving on doesn't mean forgetting where one came from.

Whitters soulfully sings about her small-town roots on "Heartland", where it was expected that a woman her age would be settled in a paid-for house with a couple of kids by now. I live within spitting distance of her hometown of some 570 people—and it was probably even less populated when she was a kid. One would presume that no one from a hamlet that tiny would ever make it in the big world. Whitters doesn't see her upbringing as a hindrance but just a fact. It's the place where she learned her values. She delineates these on "Happy People" (co-written by Lori McKenna) in a matter of fact voice where she shares the secret of a good life is being honest with oneself and others, doing things rather than coveting what others have and learning from one's mistakes. It's good advice, simply presented to the complex question of what are we here for?

She offers the opposite scenario on "The Faker" (co-written by Hillary Lindsey and Waylon Payne) about falling in love with a liar and cheat. Being good doesn't mean being played for a sucker. Whitters offers advice from "Janice at the Hotel Bar" (another co-write with Lori McKenna), a grandmother who wears red lipstick and drinks, curses like a sailor, and has had many experiences with men. Janice knows the importance of not lying (although one doesn't have to tell the whole truth), birth control, good wine, and good company. She provides an example of living a worthy life without being limited by social conventions. Janice has lived her dreams.

Whitters is a dreamer. She ends the album with "Living the Dream" (yes, a co-write with Lori McKenna) in which she states that love is all that matters. It's the only false note on a record brimming with honesty. That doesn't mean love isn't important or even vital to having a rich existence. But as Whitters other compositions suggest, it's not enough or she would be back in Iowa with the two kids, a husband, and a house.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.