Review – Thomas Rhett’s “Star of the Show”

thomas-rhett-star-of-nashville-pop

How can you follow up the worst single of 2016? After Rhett released “Vacation,” I wonder how he can top the awfulness of that song. I mean after all let’s take a look back at some of his singles: the sanctimonious bullshit (“Beer with Jesus”), the sexist garbage (“Get Me Some of That”), the poor ripoff of the Bee Gees (“Make Me Wanna”), the poor ripoff of Sam Cooke and Bruno Mars (“Crash and Burn”), the poor ripoff of Ed Sheeran (“Die A Happy Man”), the song about an article of clothing (“T-Shirt”) and the song that made me want to rip my ears off. What a stunning collection of music! The corporate Nashville machine must be so proud. When they tell Rhett to jump and rip off a much more talented artist in another genre, he tells them how high and how much auto-tune. But I digress. In lieu of a fifth single from the original version of the terrible Tangled UpRhett and team have decided to release a deluxe edition of the album and a new song as a single. That single is titled “Star of the Show.” Oh boy what do we have in store now?

The first thing of course that I wanted to figure out in regards to “Star of the Show” is which pop artist did he exactly rip off because Rhett doesn’t release original music. He only copies more successful and talented artists. After a few listens, the instrumentation and production strike me exactly as something you would hear in a Justin Timberlake song. If you have a better comparison, let me know in the comments because I would love to hear it (Rhett would too because he needs ideas for the next album). Now when I say a Timberlake song, I mean if you let country producers make it because Timberlake songs have energy and emotion. It’s usually good pop music and that’s not the case hear. The percussion line and the guitar play is limp and boring. It sounds like when they recorded it they were trying not to wake someone in the next room. I also notice how they jammed some pedal steel guitar in the background at certain spots so that way Rhett fans can point to this as proof it qualifies as country. To them I say it’s treated irrelevantly in the context of the song, so I will treat it as such.

The song itself is about Rhett expressing his love for his wife Lauren and Rhett says he wrote it after their wedding. It shocked me to find Rhett actually helped write it. I figured it would be Blake Shelton personal where he got five other people to write it. The lyrics aren’t completely terrible and I do applaud Rhett for actually basing his song around something personal, even if the songwriting is still pretty sub par. Still “Star of the Show” is a pretty below average song to put it lightly. Call it country, call it pop, call it whatever you want: what I hear is a bad song with weak production and lyrics that are based around a personal feeling, but fail to actually deliver any meaning and heart behind them. It’s breezy, fluff music that will be forgotten years from now. Listening to “Star of the Show” is the equivalent of eating cotton candy: accessible and easy to consume, but not filling and disposable. In other words, a big hit for country radio.

Grade: 2/10

Written by Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins & Ben Hayslip

Country Perspective’s Worst Albums of 2016 So Far

As our week of highlighting the best and worst of the first half of the year closes, we spend today looking at some of 2016’s worst albums thus far. As mainstream country has shifted away from bro-country and into pop, we’ve seen albums that are one of three things: completely pop music, bro-country hanging on by the very last threads, or a hybrid of the two. Needless to say, these albums have done nothing but continue to dig mainstream country into its hole.

As you’ll notice, we haven’t reviewed most of these albums, mainly because we didn’t want to spend the time to write a review about the album and complain about the same old things we’ve complained about time and time again. But we have listened to the albums. For the most part, mainstream country music released several boring, middle of the road albums, but there were a few that sank lower than that.

Without further ado, here are the worst country albums of 2016 so far…

Cole Swindell – You Should Be Here 

Cole Swindell’s second album pretty much did the exact same thing as his first album and any EPs he’s released. The album kicks off with an awful duet with Dierks Bentley called “Flatliner.” A majority of You Should Be Here is straight bro-country with a hint of Nashville Pop thrown into the song’s productions. “Middle of a Memory” finds Swindell lamenting over the fact that a girl he wanted to hook up with left the bar without him. The party never stops for Cole Swindell, with “Home Game,” “Up” “Party Wasn’t Over”, and “Stay Downtown” combining scenes of drinking and hook-ups. You Should Be Here is full of shallow music, and the album’s best song, “You Should Be Here” only mustered a 4/10 grade here. The icing on the cake of the album comes with the final song, “Remember Boys.” After making a name for himself as one of country’s bros, not to mention hit song after hit song about random hook-ups for just one night, Cole Swindell thinks he can be taken seriously as a “remember boy”: someone who’s serious about a relationship with someone. Please. Cole Swindell has been and continues to be a joke.

Randy Houser – Fired Up

The biggest flaw of Randy Houser’s Fired Up is that the track list is 15 consistently boring party songs with awful puns and terribly juvenile words and phrases. There’s a bonus track called “Whiskeysippi River” and “Little Bit Older” that features the phrase, “a little bit older a little Budweiser” as if it’s supposed to be some clever pun. Fired Up starts off strong with “Back,” but the rest of the album falters. The first single, “We Went,” was one of the worst singles in 2015. And the album’s second single, “Song Number 7,” essentially rips off Luke Bryan’s “Play It Again.” There was no originality brought into the album, with bro-country after bro-country. Perhaps the only bright spot of the album is that there isn’t as much pop music in the production, but at the same time, the music isn’t all that country.

Keith Urban – Ripcord

No matter which genre you stick Ripcord in, it’s a terrible album. This album felt like a to-do list of stuff Urban wanted to try because he felt like it and there was absolutely no direction planned for it. Some of it sticks like on “Wasted Time” and “Sun Don’t Let Me Down.” The rest however is pretty much a complete mess. I hear so much from country fans that an artist’s songs aren’t bad as pop music if I dismiss it as not country music. So the overall point I wanted to make with this review was to show that genre lines really don’t matter the most when it comes to judging music’s quality. Many refer to bad country music as pop and that’s insult to pop music because there’s a lot of great pop music (see Beyoncé’s Lemonade). This album even insults pop. It’s pretty simple: there is great music and there is bad music. Ripcord is bad music.

Kane Brown – Chapter 1 (EP)

Kane Brown exploded onto country music proclaiming himself to be country’s Justin Bieber. If by Justin Bieber, he means pop star, than he hit it right on the nose. Brown’s music is nowhere near country, and his first EP with Sony proves that Kane Brown is just another metro-bro clone making the same kind of music as every other solo male act. “Wide Open” is sung with no charisma and terrible vocals. The vocal effects on “Last Minute Late Night” are annoying, while Kane Brown begs for a late night booty-call. “Excuses” and “There Goes My Everything” are straight pop songs dealing with heartbreak, but Brown’s monotone vocal delivery is terrible. Chapter 1 is completely corporate manufactured pop music sung by a different puppet.

 

Dan + Shay – Obsessed

Obsessed is bro-country attitudes wrapped up in boy band pop. Sure, Dan + Shay have “From the Ground Up,” a well written love song, but it’s impossible to call this album country music. Slick computer generated beats with R&B influences, Dan + Shay are the poor man’s Justin Timberlake. This album is produced and the songs are written solely to appeal to the teenage girl demographic. As with most of the albums on this list, Obsessed falters because it’s a pop album marketed as country music.

 

Maren Morris HEROMaren Morris – HERO

Maren Morris’ debut album is anything but country music, despite how good the music actually is. The songs are well produced and well sung by Morris. When you look at Nashville Pop, HERO is an example of how it’s done right. It’s not a country album, but it’s marketed as such. Therefore, we can look it through the lens of country music and call it one of the worst “country” albums of the year. HERO will probably be the most polarizing album of 2016. Undoubtedly the biggest sin this album commits is it being called a country album. It shouldn’t have any business charting on the country albums chart too. If you’re angry about this and this prevents you from enjoying it, I don’t blame you because it would get a zero as a country record.

Country Perspective’s Worst Country Songs of 2016 So Far

We’ve already taken a look at the very best country albums and songs of 2016. Today we start to take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Yes, the very worst country songs of 2016 so far. As much great country music that’s been released, we’ve also had a lot of bad “country” music (or better termed, “Nashville Pop”). The beginning year saw a lot of metro bro music and ripoffs of Ed Sheeran and other pop artists. A lot of country artists are now just going straight pop with their music and yet still calling it country. This has made for some awful music. It feels less than last year though because a lot of the music I’ve found from mainstream this year to be somewhere around boring and mediocre more so than being terrible. But that’s not what this list is about. So now let’s take a look back at the absolute worst of the worst offered from country music in 2016 so far. (Click on the song titles for the full review)

Chris Lane – “Fix”

“Fix” is one of the most blatant attempts I’ve ever seen of making a hit song to appeal to the masses. The look behind the curtain to see “how the sausage is made” makes the song even more repulsive and disgusting. This is not artistry, but rather cold and calculated manufacturing of content to sell. There is nothing thoughtful, original or appealing about this song. Most importantly it’s not country in any way, shape or form. “Fix” is just plain bad and everyone responsible for it should feel bad.

Steven Tyler – “Red, White & You”

I’ve come to two possible conclusions about “Red, White, and You.” The first is, as I’ve said throughout the review, that this song is a cry for attention. It’s a little kid kicking and screaming in the toy aisle at the store. The second possible conclusion is that this song is a brilliant parody of every Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell, and Florida Georgia Line song ever. I know that the first one is far more plausible than the second one, but I don’t want to imagine that these lyrics actually exist as a real attempt to get on country radio. I know that some of Aerosmith’s singles weren’t exactly deep, but even “Love in an Elevator” seemed aware of its silliness. “Red, White, and You” though?  It’s a cringe-worthy attempt at a real pop country song. It’s a sad joke with no noticeable self-awareness of how low it stoops.

Old Dominion – “Snapback”

Old Dominion is an absolute abomination to country music. They are the pinnacle of Nashville pop and all of the baggage it brings. “Snapback” is a song with superficial, mind-numbingly dumb lyrics that only young teenage girls who spend their days taking selfies while at Starbucks will enjoy. The amount of synth layered throughout this droning song would make the worst of 80s bands blush. And they loved their synth! To top it all off this song has lots of “whoooooaaaa” echoed throughout to remind us just how creatively brain dead Matthew Ramsey and Old Dominion are when it comes to songwriting. “Snapback” doesn’t belong in country music. It belongs in the garbage.

Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On”

There’s nothing else to say about a song that has nothing to say. “Lights Come On” is just noise that fills space, nothing more and nothing less. There is absolutely nothing fulfilling or moving about this song. It’s sole purpose was to net radio play and endorsement deals from the likes of Bass Pro Shops and Pepsi. This is worse than terrible music because at least terrible music makes me feel rage and anger. I just want to passively loathe Aldean more after hearing this. But hey I’m sure Aldean fans will love this after drinking about ten overpriced beers at some overpriced music festival this summer. “Lights Come On” is the equivalent of a light, nagging headache. Just avoid it or have some aspirin on-hand after hearing this song.

Chase Rice – “Whisper”

I hope to hell Chase Rice is recording better music than “Whisper” for his new album because this is just flat-out awful in whatever genre you would put it in. The shortest way I could possibly describe this song to you is “Ride” part two, a song that was basically a prelude to this one and had just as ridiculous production. Rice is capable of more and promises to show more, but until he walks the walk he will continue to be judged by songs he releases like this one. You can’t be a deep artist unless you put out deep music. “Whisper” is the opposite of deep. It’s shallow, vapid and boring. It’s a complete waste of time and you’re better off for not hearing this song.

Dierks Bentley – “Somewhere On A Beach”

This song is easily on the level of some of the worst songs I’ve reviewed in recent years during the bro country and metro country eras. Just because this is Dierks Bentley, doesn’t mean he gets a pass. “Somewhere On A Beach” is absolutely terrible. If this song was food, it would be McDonalds. It appeals to the lowest common denominator of taste and it sells like crazy. But it has no nutritional value.

Randy Houser – “Song Number 7”

Randy Houser doesn’t sing with any kind of charisma, and the chorus features some awkward, jarring vocal harmonies that strangely pop way after a natural echo would. The production of this song is crap with random intensified drums. I almost didn’t want to review “Song Number 7”, but it’s such a near copycat of Luke Bryan’s hit that it deserves to be put on this platform. Absolutely no effort went in to making this song even a little original. Instead of playing to Randy Houser’s strength as a vocalist and letting his traditional country-style expand, his label has decided to prop him firmly in the shadows of the A-List bros by having him record songs that continue mainstream country down a path of cutting the same, boring song. “Song Number 7” is terrible due to the fact that it has no originality whatsoever.

Jana Kramer – “Said No One Ever”

This is worst song of the year quality right here, folks. The lyrics have an intelligent level hovering around room temperature. It’s no surprise one of the co-writers of this song is the infamous busbee (the other writers are Natalie Hemby and Nicolle Galyon), who is responsible for a laundry list of generic and terrible songs. This song consists of Kramer singing some ridiculous lyric, followed by “said no one ever.” This song is pretty good…said no one ever.

Kane Brown – “Used To Love You Sober”

Overall “Used To Love You Sober” is at best a very ho-hum, boring song that belongs more in pop than country. At worst it’s a terrible attempt at appearing to be sensitive and emotional, when really it’s just another douche anthem that Sam Hunt has championed at country radio over the last year or so. I’m sure fans of Affliction and Ed Hardy t-shirts will disagree with me though. The one surprising conclusion I’ve come to about Kane Brown is that he isn’t definitively the worst artist at country radio, which is pretty sad considering Brown is a boy band reject from The X-Factor.

And of course we wouldn’t forget the odds on favorite to take home Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Song of the Year Award. Every other terrible song from here on out will have the task to try to topple this shitastic song in awfulness. God speed to them because I don’t think it can be done….

Thomas Rhett – “Vacation”

Tangled Up is an album chock full of ideas and sounds borrowed from others. No other song is as indicative of his lack of originality than “Vacation.” There are 14 credited songwriters for this train wreck. 14! But half of those songwriters come from the band War. Rhett wisely credits the band for the song because the beat of the verses is essentially the beat from “Low Rider.” The song is about a party at home, but the partygoers are acting like they’re on a tropical vacation. It’s stupid lyrics that Thomas Rhett poorly raps set to a borrowed beat. Even the second verse where Rhett raps about a Walgreens beach chair and Busch Light sends the same simple life sentiment of Jake Owen’s “Real Life.”

 

Dishonorable Mentions

  • Blake Shelton – “Came Here To Forget” (All I remember is the annoying whistle in the background)
  • Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” (Beathard is the worst vocalist in country music today)
  • Keith Urban – “Wasted Time” (Just go to pop already)
  • Clare Dunn – “Tuxedo” (Superficial pop noise)
  • Jordan Rager (feat. Jason Aldean) – “Southern Boy” (Aldean wannabe sings with Aldean)
  • Jake Owen – “American Country Love Song” (Remember when Jake tried?)
  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” (Any week now it’s going to enter the top 30 in the Pulse and I’ll give it what it deserves)
  • Thomas Rhett – “T-Shirt” (Blatant pop music)
  • Dierks Bentley (feat. Elle King) – “Different For Girls” (Outdated and plays to stereotypes)
  • Cassadee Pope – “Summer” (“Hey let’s make a summer song and put summer in the title! Then they’ll know it’s summer.”)
  • LoCash – “I Know Somebody” (I wish they were still irrelevant hick hop artists)
  • Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” (Probably his best single. But the rest have all been at rock bottom where this is about an inch above it)
  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” (Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! That’s half of the song)
  • Drew Baldridge – “Dance With Ya” (Thankfully he’s remained irrelevant)
  • Joe Nichols – “Undone” (Joe is a lost cause at this point)