Since their founding in 2002, the duo known as Sugarland have released six studio albums -- and every one of them (even their Christmas album!) has charted within the Top 3 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. Those records have also resulted in 18 singles, five No. 1 hits and two Grammy Awards.
Back in 2004, when they released their standout debut, Twice the Speed of Life, however, Sugarland weren't a duo, but a trio. Seventeen years ago, current members Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles were joined by Kristen Hall for their first major project, which produced four Top 20 singles and catapulted the group into the country music mainstream.
In honor of Twice the Speed of Life's anniversary, The Boot went back for a listen, to rank all of its songs. Keep reading to see how they stack up:
“Time, Time, Time” isn’t the most memorable song on Twice the Speed of Life, if we're being honest. It’s a mid-tempo story song that uses the framework of the narrator slowly falling for the boy next story to explore broader ideas about the essential goodness of life. In a nutshell, as she sings, “That’s life, if you open up your eyes / You’ll find it gets better all the / Time, time, time.”
“Speed of Life” has a sound that matches its message: big, hopeful and upbeat. It’s about wanting to dive fully into any new situation and go for great things. The song traces this idea from the narrator’s childhood to her parenthood; the whole time, she admits that when it comes to seizing opportunities and seeing beautiful things, “I don’t want to wait even one more night / It’s hard to slow down when it feels so right.”
“Tennessee” is an upbeat, poppy song that tells the story of a radio DJ who doesn’t “often take time to answer calls on the request line.” But the one time she does, she finds herself trying to help a listener (a “desperate man”) get his message of love out across the airwaves. The song is fun, if a little gimmicky, as we find out that “Tennessee” is the woman this listener is trying to reach over the radio. “Two words can free us, so repeat them after me,” he says. “‘I do’ from a boy in love / To a girl called Tennessee.”
“Small Town Jericho” is a wistful, gentle, acoustic song about what it’s like to love and leave a small town. It’s deeply nostalgic, with the narrator describing why she loves the small town of Jericho so much, and why she has to leave it anyway. “And every road here looks the same / This ol' town won't ever change,” goes the chorus. “And that's what I love the most / And it's the reason I must go.”
Similar to “Small Town Jericho,” “Fly Away” is also about a small-town girl who wants more out of life. But while “Small Town Jericho” reflects on how hard it is to leave a place you love, “Fly Away” is focused on the ways that small towns and small thinking can be limiting -- and why it’s so important for the narrator to get out. “I swear this town gets smaller every day,” go the opening lines, “and I’m waiting for my chance / I’m gonna break away.”
"Down in Mississippi (Up to No Good)"
“Down in Mississippi (Up to No Good)” was the fourth and final official single from Twice the Speed of Life. It’s the biggest, most frenetic of the album’s radio releases: an uptempo romp about a girl’s night out that’s definitely the best party song on the album. “Had it with the wife thing / Living on a shoe string / What’s a poor girl got to do to have some fun?” the narrator asks. “If anyone asks, and not that they would / We’ll be down in Mississippi and up to no good.” It peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
“Stand Back Up” closes Twice the Speed of Life, an acoustic ballad with fiddle work that sounds at times as though it would be right at home on a Dixie Chicks song. The powerful track is about believing in your own power -- about acknowledging darkness, but not letting it define you. “When the darkness tries to get me / There's a light that just won't let me,” go the lyrics. “It might take my pride, and my tears may fill my eyes / But I'll stand back up.”
“Hello” is a soft, reflective song about loving the simple things and feeling nostalgic for childhood. It’s the most folksy song on Twice the Speed of Life, fueled by Nettles and Bush’s simple, but effective, harmonies. “Hello” is rife with beautiful outdoor imagery, with the song opening, “I want to run through those cottonwood trees / Fall asleep in a big bed of fresh fallen leaves.”
"Just Might (Make Me Believe)"
Sugarland would soon become a duo of only Bush and Nettles, but Hall left her mark on this first project with “Just Might (Make Me Believe).” The soaring ballad about the power of love is the only song written by Hall alone, and it’s one of the best on Sugarland's debut album.
“Baby Girl” was the first single from Twice the Speed of Life, a lively, hopeful song about struggling to make it in the big city, with the narrator admitting in the chorus, “Dear Mom and Dad, please send money / I’m so broke that it ain’t funny.” It started Sugarland off on the right foot, too: “Baby Girl” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It was such a hit, in fact, that it was nominated for both Song of the Year and Single of the Year at the ACM Awards, and for Single of the Year at the CMAs.
The big, vibrant opening track on Twice the Speed of Life is “Something More,” the second official single released from the album. It’s about wanderlust, about dreams, and about believing “[t]here’s gotta be something more / Gotta be more than this.” “Something More” was another No. 2 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.