While a Bully x 2000’s pop-rock crossover may not be on anyone’s most wanted list (and the results show why) there are enough vintage moments for this to not be a complete miss. Carried by Alicia Boganno’s incredible songwriting and lyrics, some of the strange pairings and poor work on the instrumental side can be looked past, especially if you’re already a fan of Bully or some of the throwbacks the album is aiming for.
After releasing the band’s 2017 album Losing, Nashville-based band Bully pivoted into a solo act around singer, songwriter, producer, and instrumentalist Alicia Boganno to great results. 2021’s SUGAREGG was the best project the band has released so far and features a more mature instrumental palette for Boganno’s incredible, raspy voice, and evolved the band’s grunge sound. On Bully’s fourth album Lucky for You, much of the production work is handed over to Grammy-winning producer JT Daly and the change is immediately apparent – and not for the better.
If you’re at all familiar with and have enjoyed some of the revival in 2000’s pop-rock, then this will certainly have some moments for you. For those more into the older, grungier sound Bully started with, it’s not fully gone either, just be ready to look a bit harder.
Boganno’s skill as a songwriter and lyricist carries Lucky for You. “Change Your Mind” is some of the closest Daly gets to Bully’s normal sound, and lyrically the track is one of the album’s most interesting, getting into Boganno’s struggle to fully emotionally engage in a relationship. On “Days Move Slow”, Boganno manages to fit a square peg into a round hole, because the instrumental sounds like an early Avril Lavigne track, but the gruffer vocals work anyway with the extremely heartfelt lyrics about the passing of Boganno’s dog. The best match between Bully and the instrumental work comes on “Hard to Love”: the guitars sound strong, the mixing is good, and the delivery of the vocals matches the beat perfectly. “How Will I Know” also sounds great instrumentally and Boganno delivers another great lyrical performance.
‘And I’m stuck somewhere in between
Your death and my lucid dream
I’m no help lately I know
But I’m tired of trying to prove my worth
To be accepted on this earth
Baby, I’m ready to go
And days move slow
I’m living in the same black hole
But there’s flowers on your grave that grow
Somethings gotta change, I know’
The biggest missteps on Lucky for You come from the poor match between Boganno’s strengths as a vocalist, and the production work by Daly. “A Love Profound” has some truly awful mixing, ghostly verses, and a hook with nothing on it, and is the one spot on the album where nothing from previous Bully albums is noticeable. “Lose You” is a solid single and I do like the Bully aspect of the song a lot, but Soccer Mommy shows up for exactly ten seconds and the vocals are mixed like shit so you can barely hear her anyway; it just ends up feeling like a huge missed opportunity. Boganno’s performance on “All I Do” is wonderful, but the instrumental sounds like a beabadoobee track, and her vocals are completely mismatched with these wimpy-ass guitars.
I’ll be honest: it’s hard to explain just how many things went wrong on the last track, “All This Noise”. First, it follows one of the best and most compelling tracks “Ms. America” – by far the better of two political tracks on the album. Second, the track’s less-than-two-minute-long blaring punk instrumental is totally out of place on this album and it’s completely jarring for a record that’s dabbled so much in 2000’s pop-rock to try this sound out. If you can make it past those two issues, the lyrics of the track are so all over the place it makes it impossible to get into. Not that anything Boganno says is wrong (she’s right on everything), but at some point there’s only so much you can say in 100 seconds before you end up saying nothing, and it’s very difficult for any of the points on the evils of AR-15s, dying polar bears, the corrupt news system of America, or hypocritical Christians (there were several more topics) to land.
Lucky for You most reminds me of Liz Phair’s greatly hated, then greatly underrated, and now slightly overrated self-titled album – both Phair and Boganno are too talented for the projects to miss completely, but this isn’t the best use of their skills. The moments Bully returns to their old sound are fantastic and mileage may vary on your enjoyment of the pop-rock moments, but they aren’t bad. The only true miss on the record would still be an interesting style to explore later. Thankfully, we’ve moved past the point where Boganno would be completely crucified for trying this out.