Almost three years after she released her debut album, 2016's HeroMaren Morris' sophomore record, Girl, arrived on Friday (March 8). Morris knows it's been a wait for her fans -- but giving herself that time to create freely, rather than feel pressure to release a new project, was important.

"I gave myself the time to be on the road, to get married, to really give these songs that I had written time to breathe," Morris reflects. "I really believe in the art of an album still ... so giving these songs time to breathe is what I had to learn, and to be patient with myself, be patient with the process."

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While a large chunk of Girl hones in on Morris' experiences falling in love (with fellow songwriter and artist Ryan Hurd), there are love letters to herself as well: the single "Girl," of course, but also "Flavor," a statement of individuality, and "Common," an introspective look at her place in the world. Even Morris' love songs have an independent streak running through them.

"There's this weird thing or complex that maybe some people have once you get married, [that] you're completely someone else's and you don't get to be sexy anymore," Morris tells Taste of Country. "I don't care if I'm married right now, I'm still a very independent person."

Girl melds country, pop and R&B influences, making it a sonically diverse album, but don't let the melodies distract from the lyrics. Morris is saying things we need to truly hear, both about herself and the world around her.

Giving Girl a listen? These five tracks are especially worthwhile.

  • "The Feels" Is a Perfect Windows-Down Jam

    The second track on Girl, "The Feels," is the 2019 version of Faith Hill's 1998 hit "This Kiss." It's bright, with a bouncy bass line and perfectly timed finger-snaps, and as Morris sings, "What can I say / Hey, you're giving' me the feels, baby / Head down to my heels, baby," it instantly makes you feel just a little bit lighter. Morris co-wrote the song with Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz, and much like "This Kiss," it, too, has crossover potential as well.

  • "All My Favorite People" Is Your New Buddy Anthem

    If AIM were still a thing, we'd be putting the lyrics of this song in our profiles, with our friends' initials under it. A collaboration with Brothers Osborne, "All My Favorite People" finds John Osborne shredding on guitar while Morris and TJ Osborne sing about the best kind of friends, who "leave well enough alone / Stay out of business that ain't their own," and who "drink on a Tuesday night / Mixes their liquor with Crystal Light." Speaking from experience, the latter will give you a mighty hangover, but, yeah, it makes for a dang fun night.

  • "Common" Gets Deep

    "Common," Morris' collaboration with Brandi Carlile, exudes both hopelessness and hope at the same time. "We've got way too much in common / So what's the point in fighting?" they sing, before dropping an honest reflection: "If I'm being honest / I don't know what God is." The lines "How do we get to the bottom of this / When we're sittin' at the top" reflect the depth of society's big problems, but also that it's up to everyone, even the privileged, to help solve them.

  • "Make Out With Me" is H-O-T!

    "This is the end of Side One of this record," a British voice tells listeners six songs into Girl -- and with that, the mood shifts. If the first half of the album is Morris finding herself and letting fans know where she's at as an individual, the second half is her owning her sexuality and opening up about her marriage. The short "Make Out With Me" kicks it off, a message to her love, who's returning home from a trip. It's hot, but there's still a sweetness to it -- the lyric is "make out with me," rather than, say, "make love to me," after all -- and really, who hasn't missed someone in that way?

  • "Gold Love" Sets Up the Love Songs

    There's half a dozen reflective love songs on Girl, but "Gold Love" contains threads that run through the rest of them. Written by Morris and busbee, the song starts out with a tie to "The Hell and Back" and nods to the post-writing session drinks that set the foundation for Morris and husband Ryan Hurd's relationship throughout; then, in "Great Ones" and "Shade," Morris calls back to the gold metaphor. She hits on the theme of a shining, strong love, even in the face of adversity, in "Great Ones," "The Bones" and "Good Woman," too.