Brett Young has established himself as one of country music’s fastest rising newcomers with his ability to explore heartbreak in the form of a compelling ballad. But his latest project, Ticket to L.A., finds him with a more optimistic mindset while still delivering that same powerful emotion.
Typically pulling from real life heartache to tell a story, Young takes on a different artistic approach, opening the album with a title track that imagines a sweet love story between two strangers who strike up a brief romance before they go their separate ways. From there, Young delivers on his promise that the album would incorporate the soul influence that was crucial to his musical upbringing, particularly on “Where You Want Me.” The song serves as a strong representation of how even when Young is singing about heartbreak, he cuts through the bitterness by adding a positive element. “You look at love like a race, and once you’ve won, you’re done…you got me where you want me, but baby you don’t want me no more,” he croons, following a heartbroken man to his lover’s doorstep to confess his unfiltered emotions, yet is still faced with rejection. But the soothing melody composed of soulful electric guitar and piano makes the sentiment feel less painful. This same notion applies to “Used to Missin’ You” where he uses an endearing melody to balance the luckless feeling of not being able to let go of a past love.
While Young establishes a rejuvenated sound at the top of the album, the true signs of his growth are in the defining moments embedded in the latter half of the project. “Chapters” is one of these moments. Young calls on his friend and confidant Gavin DeGraw to help tell the story of his life, reflecting on the important events that define his journey. He tenderly sings of the impact his father had on him growing up, “every boy wants to be like his father, in Little League, when he was coaching me, I was hanging on every word,” before admitting that his body knew more than he did when an injury ended his path to playing professional baseball. The song’s message culminates in sage words of advice from DeGraw, who recognizes that it takes time to find one’s purpose. The song puts Young in a position of maturity, allowing him to reflect on his personal milestones and missteps, exhibiting a distinct vulnerability.
He displays similar qualities on “The Ship and the Bottle,” where he swallows his pride to let someone go for the sheer purpose of allowing them to grow. “You just might have to break me to do what you’re meant to do,” Young shares in a message of unselfishness rarely conveyed in a breakup song, making for one of the album’s most empathetic moments.
Young brings the album back to where he started with “Don’t Wanna Write This Song,” a somber ballad that yet again puts Young in the position of having to pick up the broken remnants of a relationship. While the reasons for the separation weren’t as dire as the breakup itself, he can’t help but longingly express “how can I just move on, I’ve loved you for way too long,” bringing the album to a moving, cinematic close.
Ticket to L.A. still feels like an authentic Brett Young album, while signifying his progression in sound and maturity. Though the first half of the album is mainly comprised of love songs tailor made for country radio, Young finds a way to inject emotion and reflection, combing the two characteristics that make him one of country music’s most honest artists.