Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Song of the Year – Thomas Rhett’s “Vacation”

There have been some pretty awful songs in country music in recent years. Check that there hasn’t just been some bad songs, but horrendous songs that any music fan would be repulsed by and run away in fear of indecency. You don’t have to be a country fan to recognize bad music because it’s pretty obvious to the ears. Every genre has their fair share of awful acts. But in the other genres most of the times these bad acts get laughed out of relevance. In country music these acts are known as some of their biggest stars who can stay in the spotlight for several years. So that means every years there’s a nice batch of awfulness to choose from for this award. But amongst the truly terrible one song usually stands out worse amongst even the worst. This year was no different. One song was horrendous that it was a no-brainer for me to give the award. I present Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Song of the Year award to Thomas Rhett’s “Vacation.”

thomas-rhett-vacation

Not only is this the worst country song of 2016 in my eyes, but one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. When listening to Rhett’s album released last year, I knew there was a good chance he would release one of two truly awful songs (the other is “South Side”) as a single in 2016 and if he would it would win the award hands down. Lo and behold I was right. The only good thing I can even say about “Vacation” is thankfully it only peaked at #30 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. But that’s also an indictment on the song. This single was so horrible that not even country radio wanted to play it and they’ll play almost anything.

So let’s talk about this abomination of a song. You know what this isn’t even a song. This is fucking torture. It makes me long for the dulcet sounds of Rebecca Black, William Hung and Milli Vanilli harmonizing together. I would rather listen to the theme song for Barney on a loop over this song because a purple dinosaur at least has something to say in his song. Here Rhett literally sings about nothing. He just wants to party on vacation! How fucking original is this? The thing is country radio has been flooded with terrible beach music for years, but at least all of the other terrible beach songs had a catchy hook and it didn’t make me want to tear my hair out. The lyrics can’t get any worse. Speaking of songwriting, this song has 16 songwriters. 16 fucking songwriters. I won’t attack the poor bastards from the rock group War, who are innocent bystanders in this train wreck. I wouldn’t want to be credited for being a part of this song in any way, shape or form. In fact I would sue to have my name taken off of it. To the others who helped conceive it, may you step on a thousand Legos. This obviously isn’t country, as anyone with properly working ears and a brain could tell you. I would like to think Johnny Paycheck is haunting Rhett for the rest of his life for unleashing this upon the world. And don’t call it pop because they don’t deserve this crap either. This is horrendous, money-grabbing noise that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I wish it was instead buried deep into the ocean where no soul would ever hear nor see it again.

It’s really hard to believe it took this long for Rhett to win one of our worst of awards, but I guess he can thank Sam Hunt for not releasing anything new this year to block his path to winning. Florida Georgia Line even put out better music this year along with Cole Swindell (or at least tried). While this is the first time he’s won, I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t the last either. Regardless Rhett will forever be Country Perspective’s Worst Song of the Year for 2016.


Dishonorable Mentions:

  • Chris Lane – “Fix” – I think I covered this one pretty well in the Worst Album of the Year post. But I’ll add this: this probably would have won if “Vacation” wasn’t released as a single. These two songs had a pretty good gap on the rest of the field.
  • Steven Tyler – “Red, White, and You” (The Yum Yum Song) – 2016 was the year Steven Tyler tried to go country and failed miserably. If he was 40 years younger country radio might have actually played it. But thankfully most ears never got to hear a song that reference’s a woman’s vagina as yum yum.
  • Chase Rice – “Whisper” – Rice himself essentially admitted this was a bad song!
  • Dierks Bentley – “Somewhere on Beach” & “Different for Girls” – No artist disappointed me more this year than Dierks Bentley. He released both of these singles and each repulse me for a different reason. The first is so lazy and clichéd and the second is sexist bullshit. Of course both went on to be #1 songs. Bring back the old Dierks please.
  • LoCash – “I Know Somebody” – The amount of auto-tune on this crappy song hurts my music loving soul. As one reader told me, these guys are the definition of a bar band.
  • Michael Ray – “Think A Little Less” – This song is essentially a sequel to Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time.”
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” – Yeah no. Go to the Disney channel already.
  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” – I’m not seeing red. I’m seeing more bullshit from one of the most transparently sell out artists in country music.
  • Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” – This song is like rubbing sandpaper on your ass.

Country Perspective’s 2015 Worst Album of the Year

When it came to mainstream country music, I thought it couldn’t get any worse than bro country. Allow me to say that I was dead wrong. This past year we saw mainstream country take in influences from Funk, R&B, rap, and just about anything else. To sum it up: everything was country music in 2015 except ACTUAL country music. Needless to say, there was plenty of music glued to the bottom of the barrel to choose for this award. When I reviewed Thomas Rhett’s Tangled Up, I thought I had heard the worst album of the year. But there was one album worse. There was one album that completely exemplifies everything wrong with mainstream country music from the past three years. That album, my friends, is none other than Old Dominion’s Meat and Candy.

Old Dominion takes the spoken word/R&B influences of Sam Hunt and combines them with the bro country douchebaggery of Florida Georgia Line to make some truly awful songs. The band’s debut single, “Break Up With Him,” has already been heavily criticized on this site and was nominated for Worst Song of the Year. That song merely scratches the surface of the cocky, dude bro attitude found on Meat and Candy. “Wrong Turns” is a song that sounds like a rejected Florida Georgia Line song. “Half Empty” plays on the glass half full/half empty motif for a “will you hook up with me tonight” song. “Beer Can in a Truck Bed” is a song that compares the narrator’s sexual intentions to a literal beer can rolling in a truck bed. “Let the night do what it does best. Shake me up and baby turn me loose. I just wanna roll around with you.” And “Said Nobody” uses the pop culture phrase “said nobody ever” as the hook for a song about wanting to get with a girl. “Don’t come any closer; Don’t give me a kiss cause I don’t wanna taste your lips. Said nobody, said nobody, ever.” Somehow I believe people have said that before, and I wouldn’t be surprised if lead singer Matthew Ramsey has heard a few girls say that to him.

Meat and Candy is the 1997 Batman & Robin movie of country music: a terrible, campy media piece that’s loud, shallow, and full of awkward, cringe-worthy lines. The album is nothing more than 11 songs about wanting to have sex with a girl. Any girl. Old Dominion screams desperation in their hook up attempts with some of the lamest pick up lines and moves:

  • “Strictly outta curiosity, what would happen if you got with me? Kissin’ you would hit the spot with me. Come on skip a couple rocks with me.” – “Snapback”
  • “Hey girl, what’s up?” – “Break Up With Him”
  • “No pressure, whatever, just do what you gotta do, but if I was you I’d tell him that it’s over, then bring it on over.” – “Break Up With Him”
  • Completely changing your interests and personality so she’ll like you – “Crazy Beautiful Sexy”

That is more creepy than it is charming. The icing on the cake of Old Dominion’s desperate, douchey approach to women is in “Til It’s Over.” The entire lyrics basically read as “girl, there’s no pressure but I want to have sex. Seriously though, no pressure, you can say no and leave. But I really want you stay. But for real, no pressure you can go. But I really just want you to stay and have sex.” The way these guys lay out the story is mind numbingly idiotic. Take a look a the song’s chorus.

We can keep it on the couch
And keep the lights on
Naked makin’ out, or keep our clothes on
Don’t worry ’bout where it’s going
If it dead ends, or if it’s headed
Up the stairs or down the block
If it last forever or until one o’clock
It is what it is ’til it was what it was
Let it do what it does ’til it’s over
If it’s right then it’s right
If it’s wrong then it’s wrong
Let’s keep playing the song ’til it’s over

There isn’t one redeemable song on Meat and Candy. All 11 songs do nothing but add to the pile of bro country songs. It’s the album born out of the Tinder hook-up culture of 2015 and acts as the poster child for all dude bros who do nothing but chug cheap beer and expect any woman within sight to be willing to have sex with him. Meat and Candy combines the worst parts of country music’s worst sins of the last three years and boils them together for an album of nonsensical noise. In a year with a ton of bad music, Old Dominion has given us the worst of the worst.

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

Review – Michael Ray’s “Real Men Love Jesus” is Trash in Every Way

Michael Ray, a pretty face from Florida singing pop country, somehow got a number one song in country music with his debut single. Ray was pushed, pulled, molded and thrown up to the number one spot on the airplay chart with “Kiss You In The Morning”, an ultra-cliché, paint by the numbers bro country hookup anthem. Naturally, with a successful debut single, it makes sense to release a follow-up single to radio. And Ray picks a song that’s even more cliché and stupid: “Real Men Love Jesus.”

I don’t even know where to begin to dissect this lyrical train wreck. I guess the easy place to start is how many cliché “country boy” tropes Ray sings about. Excuse me, these are tropes about “real men” not country boys. (I’ll get to this in a bit). Writers Lance Miller, Adam Sanders, along with Brett and Brad Warren hit on just about every single piece of country cliché imaginable. Fishing, fast cars, football, cowboys, outlaws, living life too fast, dancing, pretty girls dancing, cold beer, blue-collar pride, mama, fighting when necessary, charming, and never giving up. Oh, and a reference to a classic country song. It’s like they only listened to the third verse of “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” to learn how to write a country song. Honestly, the only thing that’s missing here is American pride. Quite frankly, I’m glad we’re spared a shoehorned line about loving the troops, unlike another Adam Sanders penned song.

But here’s the kicker of it all. According to the song, if you don’t like or do any of the things mentioned, you’re not a real man. If you prefer beer and conversation on the patio with a buddy over a dance club, you don’t exist as a man. If you work a white-collar job where your hands don’t get dirty, might as well hand in your man card now. And if you don’t believe in Jesus, then you’re a fake man. This song is 100% pandering bullshit to southern white males. All the damn tropes these writers toss into this mess have all been used to describe country boys, but have simply changed the description to “real men.” That’s got to be the most close-minded view of gender since RaeLynn.  I can’t even put into words how terrible this damn song is without turning this review into an f-word infested essay, and even that might be a better read then these dumb-ass lyrics.

This song flat-out sucks. I don’t care that the instrumentation is a mid-tempo acoustic melody that actually resembles country music. Johnny Cash could sing these lyrics and it would still be a terrible song. In fact, if Cash wrote and sang a song called “Real Men Love Jesus” then it might actually be good. Cash has a better head on his shoulders than the five people who wrote and sang this song combined. After I heard “Kiss You In The Morning” I didn’t think there could be a more clichéd song in existence. And I can’t believe I’ve been proven wrong. “Real Men Love Jesus” is shit and Michael Ray should stop making music if he’s going to continue recording cliché-ridden, boring, stupid, pandering, shitty songs.

Grade: 0/10

I’m not linking this garbage. Instead, here’s a better song about being a “real” southern man.

Review – Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”

Keith Urban Panders Hard

What the hell is this crap? That was my reaction after hearing Keith Urban’s newest single “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Now Urban has never been classified as traditional country. In fact many traditionalists have jeered him for years. I’ve personally never been a huge fan of Urban, but I’ve never hated him either. His brand of pop-country has always been just okay most of the time for me. He’s certainly not amongst the worst of the genre and he didn’t get too engrossed in the bro country trend. Not to mention he’s skilled on the guitar and the lyrics in his music have never made me want to bang my head against the wall due to its stupidity. Well that is until this song.

Let’s get this out-of-the-way up front: This song is not country in any way, shape or form. This song has a blatant electronic, hip-hop beat with DJ scratches permeating throughout the song. Guitar play is pretty much missing from this song. Didn’t I just mention that one of Urban’s pros is that his guitar play is good? Yet it’s completely missing on this song. The beat is bad enough, but the lyrics are an absolute train wreck. The best way I could describe the lyrics for “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” is that it’s what it would sound like if Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids” and Jake Owen’s “Real Life” were mixed together. This is absolutely terrible. The name-checking in this song is taken to its most ridiculous level. The song title itself is freaking overkill, but on top of that Kris Kristofferson, John Wayne, Don McClean, Marilyn Monroe, Mark Twain, Hemingway and every other American cult star are mentioned. Can songwriting get any lazier and more formulaic than this? By the way the writers behind this song are Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman and Josh Osborne. Those two songs I mentioned above along with this new song from Urban all have one common denominator: McAnally had a hand in writing all of them.

Equally as bad as the songwriting is Urban’s spoken word, pseudo rap delivery in the song. Just like Jake Owen, Urban should never do this ever. Urban at least sings a little bit, but I just don’t care. I can’t take this song seriously at all. This song does nothing but pander to the lowest common denominator of American pride and intellectual thinking. I like to refer to this as the Toby Keith Method. It’s cheap, but guaranteed to sucker in tons of people to listen to this same derivative crap every time an artist puts something out like this. I just can’t fathom how people get excited hearing an icon’s name mentioned in a song. A great song doesn’t rely on such easy themes to connect with an audience. This song was completely fabricated to get radio play and chart success. No quality control nor care was put behind this song. It’s simply another song off the Nashville songwriting conveyor belt.

Keith Urban is capable of producing much better music than “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Urban’s laziness and chasing of the almighty dollar is quite evident here. Urban knows exactly what he’s doing. This is a song from an artist that praises Sturgill Simpson and wore his shirt on national television. Simpson wouldn’t be caught dead cutting a song like this one. I thought Urban would be inspired by a truly talented artist like Simpson, but it’s apparent that Urban is only interested in listening to others make quality music and not try to do this himself. “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” is absolute garbage and I highly recommend avoiding it. This is one of the worst songs I’ve heard in country music in 2015.

Grade: 0/10