By Tara Schoenborn

Hunter Hayes has the potential to be more than just a flash in the pan in both the country and the pop scenes.

Summer means warm air, windows down, shades on, and country music blasting. And while it’s still a few months away, it’s never too early to start perfecting that summer country playlist to get you pumped. Who should track one feature? Easy: Hunter Hayes, Nashville’s version of Justin Bieber, except, well, better. In 2012, this 21-year-old cutie was named the Country Music Association’s best new artist of the year and after listening, it’s not hard to see why.

His self-titled debut album starts of with “Storm Warning,” which has a great upbeat tune that’s beautifully composed and pulls the audience into the rest of the album. Next up is the one every girl can sing with whether they want to or not — “Wanted.” With lyrics like “I wanna wrap you up, wanna kiss your lips, I wanna make you feel wanted,” what girl could deny Hayes sounds like her dream man? This song took the mainstream by storm and makes you wonder if Hayes will follow the same path as Taylor Swift. Swift broke into the music industry with country but has now largely shifted to pop. Will Hayes do the same? At this moment, it’s too soon to tell.

However, one unique thing about Hayes is unlike Bieber, Swift, and many other artists his age, he played every instrument performed in his songs and either wrote or co-wrote every song. That’s impressive. Additionally, even though the songs sometimes lack a difference in tone, they do not all sound the same and each has a slightly different vibe. Songs like “Somebody’s Heartbreak” sound more like a John Mayer pop-rock song, and songs like “Love Makes Me” sound quite country and more like a Rascal Flatts song. And that’s just the fast songs. Hayes also produces ballads like “Rainy Season,” showing his versatility and soul.

So despite his Bieber look, there is more to Hayes than meets the eye. Only time will tell if he’ll become more mainstream as the success of “Wanted” might indicate.