How Kelsea Ballerini Made an Ideal Companion Album for Social Distancing

Ballerini was supposed to be traveling for 21 straight days to promote Kelsea , doing the standard stops at talk shows and radio stations, and orchestrating surprises across the country.

In addition to those unconventional drone drops, which she and her team planned spur-of-the-moment right before release day, she’s started a TikTok, gone live on Instagram, and even done a quarantine-friendly workout with her trainer, in those special Ballerini-branded sweatpants — which boast the lyrics to her song “ Club ,” about how the allure of the nightlife fades with age but the insecurities linger.

Like “Club,” much of Kelsea tackles the arm-wrestle between the stardom she’s reached and the normalcy she craves; about getting used to slowing down and embracing stillness, about insecurities and adjusting to a life lived not only in the public eye, but also heavily online.

It would be surprising if Ballerini, who broke through with songs like “Love Me Like You Mean It,” “Dibs,” and “Yeah Boy,” off of her debut LP, The First Time , were anything but a hugger — her breed of country has always felt relaxed and intimate, conversational without the weight of a confession.

Of course, Ballerini isn’t “D-list.” She’s now a member of the Grand Ole Opry, had a hit with the Chainsmokers (“The Feeling”), and features collaborators and co-writers like Ed Sheeran, Halsey, and Kenny Chesney on Kelsea .

In her live show, she displayed phrases like “It’s never OK to call a woman a bitch” behind her as she sang, and she stepped into territory she’s always been hesitant to until recently: gender inequality in country radio.

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