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Playing with Fire

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Jennifer Nettles 5/13/2016

Review

The first time Jennifer Nettles stepped away from Sugarland she teamed with producer Rick Rubin for That Girl, a 2014 album that leaned hard on her earthy rock underpinnings. Playing with Fire, the sophomore set delivered two years later, is the flip side of the coin. Produced by Dann Huff -- a Nashville veteran with a back-story in AOR rock -- Playing with Fire is snappy, shiny country-pop with such a strong R&B undercurrent that it comes as no surprise when Jennifer Lopez stops by to duet on the album-closing "My House." Its lithe drum loops accentuate how well the rest of Playing with Fire incorporates modern soul. Much of the record plays with these bright rhythms -- "Hey Heartbreak" pushes it into the realm of crossover AAA pop, "Chaser" simmers with these nimble cadences, while "Sugar" swaggers like vintage Shania Twain -- and this playfulness winds up as an attractive accent to the album's professional sturdiness. Nettles and Huff have a keen ear for material, providing a showcase for Brandy Clark (the slyly funny "Drunk in Heels"), choosing songs that highlight her knack for understated balladry ("Three Days in Bed," "Salvation Works") or skill as a belter ("Playing with Fire"), yet nothing here feels like showboating. There's a subtlety to how all these moods fit together and that's what makes Playing with Fire a success: each song plays upon a distinctive mood but, added together, it provides a portrait of a sharp, savvy country diva. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 Playing With Fire Jennifer Nettles 3:1
  3. 2 Unlove You Jennifer Nettles 3:52
  4. 3 Hey Heartbreak Jennifer Nettles 3:33
  5. 4 Drunk in Heels Jennifer Nettles 3:19
  6. 5 Stupid Girl Jennifer Nettles 3:34
  7. 6 Three Days in Bed Jennifer Nettles 3:38
  8. 7 Sugar Jennifer Nettles 2:53
  9. 8 Chaser Jennifer Nettles 3:24
  10. 9 Starting Over Jennifer Nettles 4:11
  11. 10 Salvation Works Jennifer Nettles 3:46
  12. 11 Way Back Home Jennifer Nettles 3:28
  13. 12 My House Jennifer Lopez 3:26

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