By Maxim Mower
For many, Valentine's Day is one of the more challenging milestones in the calendar, particularly if it looms soon after a tough break-up.
But if this is the case, then fear not - Kelsea Ballerini has provided the perfect Anti-Valentine's soundtrack.
At midnight, Ballerini dropped a brand new EP and short film, entitled ‘Rolling Up the Welcome Mat’.
The vulnerable project zooms in on Ballerini's high-profile divorce from fellow country artist, Morgan Evans, and dissects the breakdown in their relationship.
The EP, which comprises five genre-fluid songs and a moving interlude, seems to pivot around the keystone lyric - “Yeah, it was love / Then it was just married”.
Some might have been expecting a swaggering, ‘I-don't-need-you’ record from Ballerini, following the fun, uptempo SUBJECT TO CHANGE, which the Knoxville native dropped in 2022.
However, ‘Rolling Up the Welcome Mat’ is more of an introspective, subdued examination of all the things that went wrong between the couple.
It's melancholic but undoubtedly peaceful, without much sense of lingering bitterness or regret.
On ‘Penthouse’, Ballerini offers an eye-opening snapshot into the married life of two people who are constantly out on the road (“I guess wrong can look alright / When you're playing home in a penthouse, baby”).
All the tracks incorporate the pop-leaning, synth-infused sound that pervaded kelsea and SUBJECT TO CHANGE, with the project's ‘interlude’ even venturing into alt-R&B territory.
One of the most powerful moments comes on ‘Blindsided’, which serves as a direct riposte to Evans’ ‘Over For You’.
Evans released the heartbroken ballad straight after news of the divorce broke, and he sang openly about how Ballerini's announcement had come as a shock to him.
Ballerini responds with the cutting line, “Were you blindsided, or were you just blind?”
The accompanying 20-minute short film delves deeper into the project's heart-rending, unrestrained honesty, providing a cinematic retelling of the relationship's deterioration.
‘Rolling Up the Welcome Mat’ ends on a quietly hopeful note, with Ballerini singing to Evans across the simple strum of an acoustic guitar (“I hope that you get the house, and the good wife, and the kids / And I hope I never leave me again”).
Ballerini is currently gearing up for her keenly awaited UK tour, which kicks off on February 22. Fans will be hoping she performs a selection of songs from ‘Rolling Up the Welcome Mat’.
For more on Kelsea Ballerini, see below: