Artist - Kelsea Ballerini 10
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The Best Kelsea Ballerini Songs

January 7, 2022 7:00 am GMT
Last Edited February 2, 2024 4:24 pm GMT

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Early in her career, Kelsea Ballerini’s work was unfairly compared to Taylor Swift 一 to such a degree that many wrote her off as a copycat.

If you dig into her catalog, however, you’ll discover the Knoxville native has always been on top of her songwriting game.

She certainly takes genre-bending cues from Swift, but really, she was simply following trends that were already saturating the radio.

Revisiting her songbook so far, we handpick her best songs, from hit singles to essential deep cuts:

20
2022 | Black River

The Little Things

“Back to the basics because they’re bigger than they seem,” sings Ballerini. With ‘The Little Things’, the singer-songwriter cherishes the small, otherwise mundane aspects of love. The way her partner puts his hand on her back in a crowded room or brings her a cup of coffee. For Kelsea Ballerini, those are what matter more than anything.

19
2022 | Black River

Marilyn

Stark and beautiful, ‘Marilyn’ sees the singer-songwriter explore the notions of fame and agonizing self-sacrifice. “Did you miss Norma Jeane or did you always wanna be Marilyn?” she asks with the song’s central line. Ballerini calls to her own relationship with the spotlight, feeling suffocated in much the same way.

18
2022 | Black River

You're Drunk, Go Home

A collaboration with Kelly Clarkson and Carly Pearce, ‘You’re Drunk, Go Home’ finds Ballerini shrugging off the drunken, clumsy advances from another bar-goer. “You’re nothing but a dive-bar Romeo,” sings Clarkson. With bar chatter poking through the production, the sloshy mid-tempo makes it feel as though the listener is planted in the room with them.

17
Black River | 2017

Get Over Yourself

Empowerment anthems are a staple in country music. Rather than keying an ex’s car or setting his bed on fire, Ballerini fired a single warning shot: “I'm over you / So get over yourself".

The saucy wordplay makes this Unapologetically deep cut a perfect kickstarter for our list.

16
2022 | Black River

Heartfirst

Despite all her scars, she lets love take her for a whirl again and again. “My head is yelling that I could get hurt, but I'm gonna jump right in…” she admits in the chorus. As they say, the heart wants what the heart wants. There’s just no stopping it.

15
2023 | Black River

Leave Me Again

With a single acoustic guitar in tow, Ballerini admits to abandoning herself for the sake of a relationship. “For a while the shoe fit, but then I outgrew it,” she sings. ‘Leave Me Again’ is the singer-songwriter in her rawest form. No frills, no fuss. Just the god-honest truth.

14
2022 | Black River

What I Have

Closing out Subject to Change is “What I Have,” in which Ballerini admits to comparing herself to others. “I got a roof over my head / I got a warm body in bed / I’m doing alright, right where I’m at,” she sings, almost as a way to convince herself. ‘What I Have’ is undoubtedly one of Ballerini’s most evocative performances.

13
Black River Entertainment | 2015

Peter Pan

There’s both an innocence and maturity to 'Peter Pan', Ballerini reframing Peter Pan and the Lost Boys to engage in a heart-rending tale of heartbreak.

The sweeping track, confrontational and sorrowful, demonstrated the uniqueness of her songwriting, even in those initial commercial days. “You’re never gonna be a man,” she sighed.

12
Black River Entertainment | 2020

Club

Ballerini likes her friends, tequila, and “putting on a dress and dancing with my feelings”. You weren’t likely to find her in a club, though.

Over a simple snap track and glistening production, the country star set up boundaries about what she didn’t want, even going as far as admitting her own suffocating social anxieties.

“What’s wrong with me?” she pondered, much like us all have.

11
Black River Entertainment | 2017

Roses

Red roses symbolize beauty and romance.

But as with any flower, withering and decay are inevitabilities, much like the changing of the seasons.

Ballerini compared a literal rose to tending a relationship. Written in past tense, the song depicted both the blossoming and the wilting against a rhythmically layered backdrop.

10
2023 | Black River

Just Married

With ‘Just Married,’ Ballerini wanders the halls of her former marriage, listless and unmoved. “I wasn't strong enough to keep on with all of the weight that I carried,” she unpacks. Her words come out as exasperated sighs, as she flits between true love to “just married” in the chorus. It’s a brutal realization that sees the singer baring every part of her soul.

9
Black River Entertainment | 2015

First Time

It can be difficult to let go and move on from heartbreak. Ballerini had been put through the wringer, yet managed to offer up sage, beyond-her-years advice.

“Let the memories burn and crash,” she urged. Sifting through the rubble of her heart, she finally put everything in her rear-view mirror.

8
Black River Entertainment | 2015

Stilettos

Ballerini has a way of dissecting misery that cuts to the core.

On 'Stilettos', she utilized flashy accessories as a metaphor for the walls we construct in our lives. “I wear my pain like stilettos,” she belted.

She may have been broken on the inside, but she wouldn’t dare let her ex know the truth.

7
2022 | Black River

Love is a Cowboy

Over the twinkle of guitar, Ballerini equates love to a wandering cowboy. “All the bad ones say they're good and all the good ones ride away,” she laments. There’s a particular sadness with which she sings, exposing the tattered fabric of her heart with abandon.


6
Black River Entertainment | 2020

Half of My Hometown

A spiritual sequel to 'High School', this Kenny Chesney-featuring ballad found her waxing nostalgic about her hometown.

The journey of self-discovering is a universal one; whether you stay or go, there’s always a hunger to be accepted and to find purpose and meaning in life.

“Memories make us wanna go back,” she sang, quite tearfully.

5
Black River Entertainment | 2017

Miss Me More

It wasn’t the sting of heartbreak that hurt her most. It was the loss of herself.

“I forgot I had dreams / I forgot I had wings,” she confides. A pulsing backbeat punctuated Ballerini’s reclamation of herself, as she stared down her ex and rose like a phoenix from the ash.

4
2023 | Black River

Mountain with a View

Off her divorce EP, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat, ‘Mountain with a View’ cracks open her heart and allows every ounce of pain to seep into the record. “I think this is when it’s over for me,” she sings. The arrangement is airy, yet it pummels the senses. Ballerini has rarely been this open, this unapologetic.

3
2022 | Black River

If You Go Down (I'm Goin’ Down Too)

Closing out Subject to Change is “What I Have,” in which Ballerini admits to comparing herself to others. “I got a roof over my head / I got a warm body in bed / I’m doing alright, right where I’m at,” she sings, almost as a way to convince herself. ‘What I Have’ is undoubtedly one of Ballerini’s most evocative performances.

2
Black River Entertainment | 2020

Homecoming Queen?

“Even the homecoming queen cries,” wept Ballerini. With this delicate ballad, the singer-songwriter peeled back the layers of public perception.

We never truly know what someone else is going through; even those like a homecoming queen, who seemingly has the world at their feet, have a fair share of pain.

'homecoming queen?' is an important exercise in empathy.

1
Black River Entertainment | 2015

Secondhand Smoke

Drawing from her parents’ divorce, Ballerini beautifully captured the deep pain and inherited trauma of familial dysfunction.

“Am I the product of a problem that I couldn’t change?” she questioned, her family’s fractured state distorting her own perceptions.

When marriages fray and end, people forget children can suffer the most.

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Written by Bee Delores
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