Thomas Rhett Totally ‘Kills It’ on Tangled Up – #Winning
Thomas Rhett • Tangled Up • Valory • Release Date: September 25, 2015
“And this is the verse where you don’t know the words / and you don’t give a damn cause it feels good.” Right on Thomas Rhett – right on! On album number two ‘country’ artist Thomas Rhett at times seems like he’s anything but a pure country artist, experimenting with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. The results are an album where you’re so shocked that ‘this is a country album’ that you indeed “don’t give a damn cause it feels so good.” Sure, Tangled Up may be too “tangled up” in its back of modern tricks for the “old guard” but for the current generation who like a cocktail of styles, this is an epic album.
“Anthem” kicks off Tangled Up with a lot of… swagger. Yes, swagger is indeed the right characterization. Country music has changed considerably over the years and the new brand of country blends dashes of pop, electronic, and urban music among other influences. “Anthem” hence is superb way to kick off Tangled Up with the youthful Rhett aware of the contemporary music scene and backed up by awesome, high-flying production.
On title track “Crash and Burn,” Rhett shines, showing off his lower register before ascending to that twang-driven upper register. Again, “Crash and Burn” doesn’t fit the mold of your father’s country music – it’s eclectic with the current generation in mind. “Crash and Burn” has nothing on the hip-hop country amalgam of “South Side” which opens with the hilarious line “please commence shaking your south side.” The hilarity doesn’t stop there as the hook is golden: “Now people on the left, shake your south side / people on the right, shake your south side / every single girl, shake your south side / all around the word, shake your south side.” That beat and that saxophone though!
“Die A Happy Man” smartly gives Tangled Up more of a traditional country sound. Even so, when first hearing “Die A Happy Man” it recalls Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” a soulful pop record recalling classic soul itself. “Die A Happy Man” is country – the pedal steel itself is enough to signify this – but it’s also soulful and still has that crossover appeal. Rhett’s traditional side doesn’t last too long – “Vacation” finds the rapper pop rapping – what! While it’s on the corny side, it’s infectiously corny. Is this really country music – that is the question? Somewhat (the liquor for sure) – but “Vacation” sounds more like a big pop record and there’s nothing wrong with that!
The oscillation between traditional country and ‘new’ country continues to be the storyline of Tangled Up, evidenced by the pendulum swinging back to the traditional side on “Like It’s The Last Time.” It’s a solid record, but after bolder experiments, “Like It’s The Last Time” is good, not transcendent or a truly assertive statement. No fears, “T-Shirt” should please pop and country fans alike, dancing on the fine line of both extremes. It doesn’t supersede bigger statements like the ridiculous “South Side” or the hella fun “Vacation,” but it is a contributing factor to why Tangled Up is such a fun album.
“Single Girl” is DING* DING* DING* – you guessed it – a big country ballad. It’s followed by another pure country number – “The Day You Stopped Lookin’ Back” – which breaks the ‘push and pull’ characterizing the middle of Tangled Up. Title track “Tangled” marks a return to eclecticism and experimentation that’s welcome. Who knew that Thomas Rhett could pull of a track probably best suited for Bruno Mars or Pharrell Williams? For a comparison point, think Mars’ “Treasure” from his 2011 Unorthodox Jukebox.
So if the pop ran strong on “Tangled,” how does Rhett’s unlikely duet with Jordin Sparks turn out on “Playing With Fire?” Actually it is more country-oriented, but has that gargantuan pop chorus working on all cylinders. Penultimate record “I Feel Good” is a return to form – well ‘new country’ form, assisted by LunchMoney Lewis. One of the most memorable lines – “My team won in overtime / I’m three sheets on Bud Light Lime.” SMH! “I Learned it From the Radio” closes more traditionally, but can you blame him? – He can’t completely go to “the dark side!”
How does Tangled Up stack up – very, VERY good to be honest. This is the “new guard” of country music in full force. Traditionalists may not be a fan and may even consider Rhett a sellout with his pop, dance, and soulful experiments, but personally – being part of the more youthful generation – Rhett’s rebelliousness deserves complete respect. Much like Sam Hunt’s Montevallo, this is a brand of country for people who wouldn’t ordinary like it or have preconceived notions. Highly recommended!
Favorites: “Anthem,” “Crash and Burn,” “South Side,” “Die A Happy Man,” “Vacation” and “Tangled”