A self-described private person who has always been more inclined to bare his emotions in song form than in conversation, Kip Moore is known for prioritizing meaty, vulnerable songwriting in all of his albums. Even by that measure, Wild World is the singer’s most authentic, honest body of work to date.
There’s plenty of feel-good, dance-along tracks to be found on the collection, like the bluesy “Grow On You” and the euphoric “Red White Blue Jean American Dream.” But at its heart is Moore’s unflinching soul-searching. Over and over again, he takes a hard look at who he is now and who he wants to become, and comes to terms with the difference between the two.
Moore goes all-in on self-reflection in Wild World, even if it reveals parts of his identity that might feel a little contradictory, or even things about himself that he may not always like that much. In this album, Moore is a complex, whole person, complete with flaws, regrets and shortcoming — and these five songs prove it.
While the song’s premise — a fantasy about living off the grid, toting a “single action piece” and “livin’ on the outside of the law” — might not seem all that true to life for the by all accounts relatively law-abiding singer-songwriter, the song speaks to one of Moore’s biggest inner conflicts. He’s long felt a pull between a solitary, nature-based life and his desire to be a musician who spends his life in front of a crowd.
Ultimately, Moore finds a middle ground between the two extremes: While anyone who’s been to a Kip Moore show can attest to the energy and connection he brings to his live performance, he also regularly carves out time to explore his more introspective side. In fact, he spent the COVID-19 pandemic isolated at his rock climbing facility in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.
This song indulges some of Moore’s fantasy life — after all, the lyric he sings is that he should have been an outlaw, not that he is one — but there’s some truth to the untamable spirit he espouses in the track, both in music and in life.
Key Lyric: “Well, they’d never take this boy alive / ‘Cause don’t ya know that legends never die?”
Moore is no stranger to singing about specific characters. That tendency dates all the way back to his 2011 debut single, “Mary Was the Marrying Kind.” Both that song and “Janie Blu,” the leading track on Wild World, are about lost love interests that haunt Moore long after the relationship has ended.
“Mary” represented an ideal life partner, and Moore regrets not being ready to settle down while he was in the relationship. But “Janie Blue” is much more complex: She clearly has her own demons, and contributed just as much conflict to the relationship as Moore did. He knows that what the couple has is special, but ultimately, he realizes that he “can’t keep clingin’ to my Janie Blu.”
Still, “Janie Blue” is a ghost throughout Wild World, and even gets a mention in the sobering final track, “Payin’ Hard.”
Key Lyric: “I’ve seen you lean on sweet addictions / When the pain’s just a little too much / Do you think you’ll find redemption / In the arms of a stranger’s touch?”
This song is arguably the crux of Wild World, and Moore told People that it’s “possibly my favorite on the whole record.” It deals with the singer’s grief following his father’s death from cancer, and the regrets he holds about chasing his then-nascent musical stardom instead of spending time with his dad during his illness.
“I had that bottled up inside of me for years,” he admitted to People. “I’ve carried the weight of that regret in a few situations. I kept it all pressed down, and then I let it out, all in one go.”
“Payin’ Hard” is the last track on the album, and Moore resists the impulse to wrap all his problems up in a bow and end on an upbeat note. Instead, he dwells in the weight of his regrets, reflecting that he chose to put his career before some of his personal relationships, and acknowledging that that’s something he’ll always have to live with.
Key Lyric: “I’ll live with that, sleep with that / Make my peace, and I’ll die with that / My life’s a credit card, play now, pay later / And I’m payin’ hard.”
In country music and beyond, songs about winning over a new love interest — even if their feelings are initially pretty tepid — are common. In fact, Moore has a song like that on this album: The feel-good “Grow on You.”
However, the story of “Sweet Virginia” is probably more true to most listeners’ actual experiences. The lyrics describe the uncertainty that comes after spending the night with somebody new. Moore sings about wondering if he did or said the right things, and feeling, in retrospect, like he might have come across too eager — or not eager enough.
While it might not be quite as suave as a song about confidently sweeping a woman off her feet, it’s definitely more realistic for “Sweet Virginia” to be about self-doubt.
Key Lyric: “This black cup of coffee sobers my mind / And now I can’t shake the feeling that I left something behind.”
“Fire and Flame”
“Fire and Flame,” along with Wild World’s title track, speaks to Moore’s realization that he’s come a long way towards being the person he wants to be — but he’s not there yet. Musically, it’s arguably the most cathartic track on the album, with the singer’s voice soaring over a high-energy guitar line in the chorus.
Moore sings about meeting a wiser man who has found the kind of “perfect peace” that he hopes to attain one day. Still, he acknowledges that he isn’t ready to get there yet: When the man reaches out for his hand, he pulls away and keeps walking on his journey alone.
Ultimately, in this song, Moore learns to be okay with not having reached all of his goals yet. The song speaks to the singer’s spiritual side, and how the world continues to pull him back in, no matter how hard he strives towards a higher plane. Still, it’s a song filled with hope: Moore may not yet have achieved the peace he hopes to find one day, but for the moment, it seems that he’s okay hanging somewhere in between the two extremes.
Key Lyric: “I guess I’m stuck out in the middle / ‘Cause I got this reckless heart I can’t tame / Just when I think I’ve reigned it in a little / I’m still somewhere between the fire and flame.”