Last spring during The Voice Season 4, teenage country singer Danielle Bradbery became an instant American sweetheart, captivating the public as much by her strong, silky voice as by her backstory. We simply couldn’t believe a voice that good was coming from someone completely untrained and inexperienced (the blind auditions were her first public performance). We didn’t know stories of discovery existed like this anymore. It was almost never a question: America eagerly voted her the winner, handing coach Blake Shelton his third consecutive victory. Hopes ran high that Bradbery would be the first actual recording star to come out of The Voice.
But after the glorious win comes the real test: does 17-year-old Danielle Bradbery actually have the chops to compete musically in an industry dominated by the likes of Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood? Can her uninitiated voice deliver in the “real world” of the recording industry? Can she hold people’s attention through a full-length album?
Or was The Voice simply a popularity contest, won because we were enamored with her story and her childhood-innocent smile?
Listen to the first track on Danielle Bradbery’s self-titled debut album, and the question is answered definitively: she does have what it takes. Listen to the second, and third, and fourth—and it becomes glaringly obvious that America got this one right. There was more to this story than just a child wonder: Danielle Bradbery is the real deal.
It’s obvious from this record that an extremely solid support team has gathered around Bradbery over the summer. Big Machine signed her the day after her win, and they’ve apparently wasted no time on artist development. Bradbery’s voice was gold on The Voice, but still unrefined; to the trained ear, her lack of vocal training still came out in the occasional warble or rough patch. On this record, those gaps have been closed, and Bradbery delivers her vocals like she’s been doing it for years, with an increased power and confidence, and nary a technical misstep—yet retaining all the vocal purity that first won us over. Add to that mix a veteran producer in the person of Dann Huff, and strong, hand-picked song choices, and you have a record that can easily stand toe to toe with platinum-sellers. The songs themselves offer a great blend of the contemporary and traditional, staying well within the country vein but still current enough to challenge the status quo on the charts. The lead single “The Heart of Dixie” gave us a foretaste, but the rest of the album is filled with potential hits, such as “Wild Boy,” “Dance Hall” and closing track “My Day.”
But the best part about this is that whoever’s calling the shots around this girl, they’re setting her up for stardom by creating a real niche for her. We have always heard traces of Carrie Underwood in her voice, but make no mistake–Danielle Bradbery is copying nobody. I listen to this album, and I look for comparisons, and I can’t find any. All I hear is Danielle Bradbery, singing great country music and setting herself up as a voice country fans destined to recognize for a long time to come.
And so, in the span of a few months, this girl has gone from Danielle Bradbery the young wonder to Danielle Bradbery the serious contender. The Voice may very well have found its first serious star, and country fans may have found their new sweetheart. She always had the talent, and now with her debut album, she’s obviously worked her tail off to make the most of the opportunity. The result is one of the strongest country debuts I have heard in years. If Danielle Bradbery isn’t winning CMAs by next year, her publicity team should be fired.