Kelsea Ballerini has become an unstoppable force of nature in the world of country music, and she's still just starting in her career. The 25-year-old's irresistible, upbeat sound and inviting, singalong lyrics make her one of the genre’s most promising young artists.
Ballerini's first single made her the first solo female country artist to hit No. 1 with a debut single since superstar Carrie Underwood. She's seen the top of Billboard’s Country Airplay four times in three years, with five of her singles reaching the Top 5 — a rare accomplishment for a budding act. While each of these five tracks can be described as bubbly and just plain catchy, Ballerini is starting to go deeper, and her words resonate. She's got a legion of fans propelling her already, but for the casual fan, this is where you should start.
"Dibs"From "The First Time" (2015)
With "Dibs," Ballerini follows a model of blending catchy beats and sweet lyrics in a way that worked for her previously. The young starlet has a talent for puling fans in with her youthful vibe and way with words about fresh love, and this song accomplishes just that. Frankly, “Dibs” is just a fun, light-hearted track that invites you to sing along like any effective pop-country song, which is why it’s no surprise it made an impression at the top of the charts.
"I Hate Love Songs"From "Unapologetically" (2017)
Ballerini's tongue-in-cheek anti-love song came around the time she married Morgan Evans, which makes it worth a double-take. It's a playful mid-tempo pop country song that slides easily into any set list or playlist. We marvel at her word play on this second single from Unapologetically. The way she and her co-writers slip celebrity references into the verse and choruses is a thing of beauty.
"Love Me Like You Mean It" From "The First Time" (2015)
Ballerini was 19 when she exploded onto the country music scene with this bubbly track in 2015. Not only did it land at No. 1 on the charts, but it also stuck like bubblegum to would-be fans. "Love Me Like You Mean It" found Ballerini positioning herself to become a confident pop-country queen like few before her. It's sassy, demanding her man to show her the respect she deserves and let the whole world bear witness. No one — even middle-aged radio execs — could get it out of their heads.
"Legends"From "Unapologetically" (2017)
Ballerini idolizes Taylor Swift, and "Legends" — the lead single from her second album — shows the pop-country superstar's influence. It's a first look at a more mature Ballerini, with lyrics that drive deeper into your heartache than songs from her debut album. It's still got that sticky-sweet irresistible pop feel, though, and it's poised to be one of her all-time best songs even years down the line.
"Peter Pan" From "The First Time" (2015)
"Peter Pan" is the most unique of the four singles Ballerini released off The First Time. It’s on this track that we see her start to grow and figure herself out. It's a more complex story — a new spin on an long-told love tale — and it's catchy as all get-out. But the hint of what's to come is what puts "Peter Pan" atop our list of must-have Kelsea Ballerini songs. We're hooked.