Jennifer Nettles’ new single “Hey Heartbreak” may sound lighthearted and breezy, but there is some serious emotional combat happening in the story. The song, which appears on Nettles’ 2016 album Playing With Fire, was written by Sara Haze, Shane McAnally and Jimmy Robbins and was one of only a couple from the album the Sugarland frontwoman didn’t write.
Nettles personifies her emotions, imagining lonely, crazy and sleepless as additional relationships one has to navigate after a breakup. She comes out on the side of empowerment, giving all the negative ones the boot and claiming space for herself: “Hey heartbreak, give me your key/ It’s you, it’s not me,” she sings, while Dann Huff’s polished production subtly links contemporary country with the classic strains of girl group pop.
Like “Hey Heartbreak,” much of Playing With Fire puts a distinctly feminine spin on human struggles, from being the other woman in “Unlove You” to conforming to gender expectations in “Drunk in Heels.” The latter, written with Brandy Clark, expertly looks at the imbalance women face on a daily basis and grew out of Nettles’ own experience as an entertainer and mother.
“I applaud women, and I did my best and took my time after having a kid, in a healthy way get back to a place where I felt good in my body,” Nettles told Rolling Stone Country in May. “But it’s not an easy thing to do in any circumstance. But to do with a spotlight and a camera is sometimes a bit more brutal, for sure.”
This weekend, Nettles will sing the national anthem at the Pilot Flying J Battle, which is transforming Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway into a football stadium for the University of Tennesseee and Virginia Tech game. The event is expected to be the largest college football audience in history, with projections of more than 150,000 people attending.