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 2015 Worst Album of the Year Nominees

Even with all the good country music available in 2015, there was still a ton of bad. As the popularity of bro-country faded, Music Row seemed more and more desperate to keep the mass interested by further moving away from country roots. R&B trends with faux rapping and an abundance of pop culture references resulted in straight pop songs being thrusted to the top of the country charts. Many younger, country newcomers entered the scene to bring more authenticity to Music Row’s reach for the younger demographic. Established acts remodeled themselves in an effort to stay relevant. Overall, 2015 was a year of identity crisis for mainstream country music, and this year’s nominations for Country Perspective’s Worst Album of the Year embody the soulless spirit of Music Row’s desperate attempt to maintain relevancy.

Josh and I selected these finalists and will ultimately decide who wins the glorious honor of Worst Album of 2015. Remember that we do value reader feedback will take your opinions into consideration. Please comment and voice your vote of which of the albums below you believe to be the worst of 2015. These albums were selected because they offer no intrinsic quality to country music. They existed merely to make money for the music business, and did so in the worst possible fashion. These are the albums whose sins are too grand to be ignored.

Worst Album of The Year Nominees (in no particular order)

Luke Bryan – Kill The Lights

Immature themes pandering to the generation after Luke’s own combined with an R&B and pop production that isn’t even remotely close to a country sound. That’s what you get with Luke Bryan’s Kill The Lights. R&B grooves and half-assed club music so Luke can “dance” on stage and keep getting ticket sales from women yearning to see him shake his ass.

The first half of this album is so atrocious that it’s on level with some of the worst music I have ever reviewed on Country Perspective. The second half of the album has some decent music, but for most casual fans with taste there’s no chance in hell they make it this far into the album. Bryan at this point in his career has become Gumby for Music Row. He’ll bend and contort into whatever is the latest trend. In his last album he pandered to bro country and now he’s giving his own take on the Sam Hunt, R&B styled “country” music.

Thomas Rhett – Tangled Up

When it comes to established acts conforming to trends to appease the label managers, Thomas Rhett may be the worst offender. His sophomore album is a complete sonic shift from his debut. Thomas Rhett isn’t an artist, he’s a puppet being forced to sing and dance whatever songs will get himself and his label money. The sad thing is, they can’t even accomplish this feat without sampling and ripping off music from other artists. There’s nothing original about Tangled Up.

This album is a mess and shouldn’t even be called music. The songs that combine country sounds with funk sounds are just a hodgepodge of noise that would make a deaf person cringe. The actual funk, disco, R&B songs are shitty and Bruno Mars himself wouldn’t even try to record that mess. Mainstream country isn’t exactly moving away from bro-country. Sure, these songs aren’t pop rock corn field parties, but the lyrics are still the same trashy immature sentiments meant to boost bravado and masculinity. Tangled Up is an embarrassment to country music, it’s an embarrassment to funk and it’s an embarrassment to music in general.

Canaan Smith – Bronco

Canaan Smith has pretty much fallen off the face of the earth after “Love You Like That” completed its chart run. But we won’t forget about Smith yet as his cliche-ridden terrible album has sustained its run as one of the worst albums of the year. Seriously, let’s revisit these lyrics as a reminder of the quality that Bronco offered country music:

We got that mad love
Haters gonna hate us
Yeah, you and me together
Some kinda crazy
But that’s us
Doin’ our thing

There isn’t much else to say about Bronco, other than it is a giant train wreck with the exception of one song. Canaan Smith took the most clichéd and tiring tropes and combined them with terrible, non-country production and instrumentation to give us an album that is spectacularly bad. What’s worse is that Smith had a hand in writing almost all of these songs.

Kelsea Ballerini – The First Time 

When Taylor Swift officially left country music, Music Row was left scrambling on who they could get to replace Taylor as country music’s youthful, female idol. That void was filled when Kelsea Ballerini popped on the scene. Sure Kelsea Ballerini achieved charting success unseen by a female debut artist in the past decade, but Ballerini’s offering to country music was the same bro-country dreck sung from the female perspective.

This is pop music. It’s rap and electronic noise try to pass itself as an “evolution” of the country sound. Don’t let yourselves be fooled. Sure you’ll hear various country sounds like banjos shoved in the mix, but that serves no purpose other than to make you think it’s country music. This is a pop album, not a country music album. Kelsea Ballerini can sing well, but she is a pop singer who would be laughed out of the country genre if we lived in a just world. If you ever wondered what it would sound like when you cross Sam Hunt with Taylor Swift, just listen to Kelsea Ballerini’s The First Time.

Old Dominion – Meat and Candy

Old Dominion is that kid at school who watched other students who wore Hollister and listened to generic pop to get popular and cool. Then they saved up money and bought a bunch of Hollister shirts for the next school to only find out that the cool style has changed to man buns and generic R&B. They’re the group that copied everyone else as a desperate cry for attention and recognition. These jokers released an album chock-full of bro-country BS that was old and tired in 2013. Meat and Candy is atrocious music that terribly combines spoken word and singing along with douchey, classless lyrics that are somehow supposed to be charming. Old Dominion is the what you get with you mix the worst parts of Sam Hunt with the worst parts of Florida Georgia Line. We didn’t review Meat and Candy here, but you can bet your last dollar that it would have been graded with a big fat goose egg, just like their debut single.

Michael Ray – Self Titled

Never has an artist’s success and career been more contrived than Michael Ray’s. Look at that album cover. That picture is why he has a country music career: Ray is a pretty boy who will attract women to his concerts. Ray’s debut album is full of clichéd, boring country songs. The lyrics are completely unoriginal with a vocal production that emulates the vocals of several of his male country singer counterparts. When I listen to Michael Ray’s album I only think about how he sounds like everyone else. Ray’s album has also produced not one, but two singles that have infuriated Josh and I. Michael Ray’s contrived country persona is defined through a stupid, clichéd album.

Album Review – Thomas Rhett’s ‘Tangled Up’ May Be One of Country’s Worst Albums

Let’s just be honest here: Thomas Rhett’s accomplishments and notoriety in country music today are solely because his dad is Rhett Akins. Thomas Rhett is a mediocre vocalist whose debut album was nothing but generic pop and bro-country schlock. There was zero originality because Thomas Rhett is not an artist. He’s a puppet willing to sing whatever his label, Valory Music Company (a subsidiary of Big Machine), wants him to sing and become whatever persona his label wants him to be. In 2013, the money was in bro-country. Fast forward two years, bro-country has faded and the money is in R&B-influenced sounds that create funky, danceable beats. Rhett developed a professional crush on Bruno Mars and says he’s changed the trajectory of his career to emulate Mars’ style of music. Conveniently, that funk pop musical styling just happens to be what makes money for Big Machine these days. Combine that all together and we have Bruno Mars Thomas Rhett’s newest album, Tangled Up.

The album begins with a club beat called “Anthem.” Don’t be fooled, just because you’ll hear a banjo in no way makes this song country. Drum machine beats and hand claps are front and center in the production as Rhett merely narrates how the song works. He speaks, not sings, but speaks lines like “this is part where the bass gonna stop” or “You startin’ to feel the momentum build so bring it on back to the chorus” and my personal favorite line of the whole song “this is the verse where you don’t know the words and you don’t give a damn ’cause it feels good.” It’s almost as if the writers are blatantly making fun of the generation that buys into this shitty music simply because it’s a “good beat.” But don’t get me wrong, this song flat-out sucks. “Crash and Burn” follows. Josh sums the song up perfectly with this segment in the single review: “Rhett does not have the charisma and soul of Mars to pull the song off. You need a high energy singer with great chops to make this song great and Rhett simply doesn’t have that. I feel like the instrumentation swallows his voice on this song. You notice everything else on this song before Rhett’s voice.” You could take that first sentence and apply it to just about every song on the album.

Up next is perhaps the worst song of the album: “South Side.” Before we even get into the terrible funk music, we get a distorted computer voice in an English accent (why?) saying, “Please commence shaking your south side.” I fought every urge in my body to not skip this song the moment I heard that sentence. I knew from that the song to follow was going to be terrible, but I just had to listen to it to know how terrible. Firstly, the funk mixed with stupid banjos sounds a bit like “Kick the Dust Up.” Rhett, again, simply sings about how a beat makes people want to shake their ass. But the second verse of this song is probably the worst verse in country music:

Like Memphis, Tennessee, got in bed with CDB
And had a baby and when the baby cried
It made this sound, ain’t no lie it was funkified

ARE  YOU KIDDING ME?! Thomas Rhett claims his new “funkified” music is the love child of Memphis Soul and Charlie Daniels! There have been some terrible name drops in country music, but this one just may take the cake. This song deserves a dedicated rant on its own. Moving on before I throw my computer into a wall. We get the first song on the album that I can actually listen to without getting angry. “Die A Happy Man” is a blues inspired love song. The sentiment is there and it feels somewhat honest: even if he never travels to see the world, he’d still be a happy man as long as he has his wife. However, I’m still not crazy about the song. The lyrics are rather bland and clichéd as Rhett still paints a shallow picture of how his wife’s looks and sexuality are what brings him to his knees and makes it hard to breathe. Also, Thomas Rhett is not that good of a singer, and in “Die A Happy Man” you can hear him trying too hard to sound sultry and sentimental.

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.”

“Like It’s The Last Time” is yet another generic pop country song about a party in a field. You have all the usual suspects here: Moonshine, trucks, raising cups up, hooking up with the girl you like, bonfires, generic mid-tempo guitars, pop beats, and an implication of Fireball shots. It’s just another song to add to the hundreds of corn field songs from the past two years. “T-Shirt” is a hookup song about a girl who keeps coming onto Thomas Rhett. Apparently the song depicts a couple who’ve had these rendezvouses before and vowed to stop, but obviously that doesn’t happen. It’s a boring up beat pop rock beat combined with terrible lyrics and bad vocals. “Single Girl” finds Thomas Rhett pleading to a single girl. He wants to be her man and Rhett, who doesn’t seem to understand the fact that people can be happy and satisfied while not in a relationship, questions why she’s single. He assumes that because she’s single that she’s lonely and that he can be the one to fix it. These assumptions are misguided, immature, arrogant and a little trashy.

Surprisingly, there’s an actual good song on this album. “The Day You Stop Lookin’ Back” is a song where Rhett sings to a girl with a broken heart. The lyrics are actually mature and respectful and the production is more organic with an acoustic guitar and very little pop effects on the drums. Rhett encourages her to stop letting a past heartbreak get the best of her because once she stops looking back, she can then move on. It’s not a great song, but compared to most of the garbage on this album, it sounds pretty good. But we return to the crap with the title track, “Tangled.” This song is straight disco with a backing vocal effects and auto tuned, funky keyboard notes, heavy drum beats for dancing, and a funk inspired guitar. The lyrics are just another song of how Thomas Rhett enjoys being with some female because of the way she loves him physically. “Tangled” is a good reminder of how poorly Thomas Rhett sings.

Another good reminder of Thomas Rhett’s poor vocal abilities can be found in “Playing With Fire.” Rhett sings this song as a duet with American Idol’s Jordin Sparks. She is a much better singer than Rhett. Her lone verse is a better vocal performance than the rest of the album, and she’s even under utilized. Sonically, it’s 100% a pop ballad, but not a bad one at all. Lyrically, it depicts yet another rotten hookup relationship where both parties know it’s bad for them. However, they give into those impulses because they love playing with fire. Thomas Rhett also collaborates with Lunchmoney Lewis on “I Feel Good.” This is a lyrical mess of random nothingness. It starts out describing a scene that would have belonged in “Vacation” then finds Rhett driving in his car celebrating the fact that he got paid. The lyrics of this song don’t make any sense, and Lunchmoney Lewis’ rap breakdown doesn’t help this stupid funk song at all.

Tangled Up finally comes to an end with “Learned It From The Radio.” This is a song where Thomas Rhett thanks Dallas Davidson, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line for teaching him how to be a cliché. “How to wake up, how to work tough, how to roll up those sleeves. How to throw down, how to get loud, and what to put in that drink. To give the stars in the sky a little halo, I learned it from the radio.” It’s every cliché list item from 10 years of mainstream country reworked into this narrative of “how I learned this, how I learned that.”

This album is a mess and shouldn’t even be called music. The songs that combine country sounds with funk sounds are just a hodgepodge of noise that would make a deaf person cringe. The actual funk, disco, R&B songs are shitty and Bruno Mars himself wouldn’t even try to record that mess. Mainstream country isn’t exactly moving away from bro-country. Sure, these songs aren’t pop rock corn field parties, but the lyrics are still the same trashy immature sentiments meant to boost bravado and masculinity. Tangled Up is an embarrassment to country music, it’s an embarrassment to funk and it’s an embarrassment to music in general.

Grade: 0/10