Thomas Rhett Kills It on Sophomore Album ‘Tangled Up’
Up-and-coming country artist Thomas Rhett represents the “new guard” of country music in full force on his exceptional sophomore album, Tangled Up.
“And this is the verse where you don’t know the words / and you don’t give a damn cause it feels good.”
On sophomore album, Tangled Up, Thomas Rhett at times, seems like he’s anything but a pure country artist. He experiments with a little bit of everything throughout the album. The results are a project where you ultimately “don’t give a damn…” that is nontraditional country “…cause it feels so good.” Tangled Up may dabble too much in modern tricks for the “old guard,” but for the current generation, it’s an epic album.
“Anthem” kicks off Tangled Up with a lot of swagger. Country music has changed considerably over the years. The new brand of country blends dashes of pop, electronic, and urban music among other influences. “Anthem” is a superb start, with the youthful Rhett aware of the contemporary music scene. He’s backed up by awesome, high-flying production.
On “Crash and Burn,” Rhett shines, showing off his lower register. He eventually ascends to his twang-driven upper register. “Crash and Burn” doesn’t fit the mold of your father’s country music; it’s eclectic with the current generation in mind. Hip-hop country amalgam “South Side” opens with the hilarious line, “please commence shaking your south side.” The hilarity doesn’t stop there. 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”
“Die A Happy Man” prudently gives Tangled Up a more traditional sound. Even so, the record recalls Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” a soulful pop record that recalls classic soul. “Die A Happy Man” is country – the pedal steel itself is enough to signify this – but also soulful with crossover appeal. Rhett’s traditional side doesn’t last too long. “Vacation” finds the singer pop rapping! While corny, it’s infectiously corny. Is “Vacation” really country music? Somewhat, but it sounds much closer to big pop records.
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 between 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 off 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.”
“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 good to be honest. This album represents 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 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!
Gems: “Anthem,” “Crash and Burn,” “South Side,” “Die A Happy Man,” “Vacation” & “Tangled”