Coming off a mainstream breakthrough album like Need You Now (and more pressingly, its #2-charting, Grammy-winning, multi-million-selling title track), all eyes are on Lady Antebellum as they prepare their follow-up effort. “Just a Kiss,” the first single off their still-untitled upcoming third album, is destined to be compared to “Need You Now”—not just because it’s the kind of song that’s so good that everything else you write for the rest of your life is going to be stacked up against it, but because it’s another pensive, slow-burning piano ballad. But despite the superficial similarity, the two songs couldn’t be more different thematically: “Need You Now” was a deep cry of romantic and sexual urgency, while “Just a Kiss” is an ode to pulling back and taking things slow.
The way it’s structured, “Just One Kiss” (which you can currently listen to on Facebook, if you “Like” the song) sounds almost like it’s trying to bait listeners who are expecting “Need You Now, Pt. 2.” The piano-led intro and slow, soulful shuffle, leading into opening lyrics as sensual and seemingly invitational as “Lying here with you so close to me / It’s hard to fight these feelings when it feels so hard to breathe”—you’d be easily forgiven for thinking that this was going to end up as another testament to lustful surrender. But just before the first chorus, Lady A reign in their urges, declaring that “we don’t need to rush this, let’s just take it slow.” All of a sudden, things turn from Marvin Gaye to Jermaine Stewart, and the chorus consists of vocalists Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott concluding “I don’t wanna mess this thing up / No I don’t wanna push too far….So baby I’m all right / With just a kiss goodnight.”
The song is a good one, no doubt—any number of pop divas would kill for a groove this smoldering to be far more ostentatious than Lady A over—and pleasure-delaying adults and promise-ring kids alike will certainly appreciate the song’s slightly pop-unconventional theme. But perhaps there’s just nothing like your first time, because it’s hard to shake the feeling that this admirable demonstration of restraint and thoughtfulness just isn’t as much fun as the against-their-better-judgment confession of desire and desperation of “Need You Now.” It might not be a fair comparison, but hey—nobody asked Lady Antebellum to write one of the best pop ballads of the 21st century. They’re just going to have to live with the consequences.