Country singer-songwriter Thomas Rhett’s sophomore album, “Tangled Up,” released on Sept. 25, might be one of the biggest surprises for modern country this fall.
If you’re looking for songs about jacked up trucks and Fireball whiskey, this might not be the album for you. Rhett, son of country singer and songwriter Rhett Akins, comes by his southern drawl naturally, but pairs it interestingly with beats inspired by 70s Motown and disco on songs like “I Feel Good,”featuring LunchMoney Lewis, and the title track, “Tangled.”
Arguably, the biggest hit of the record is the debut single, “Crash and Burn,” released in April, debuting at number 38 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, and peaking at number one. This surprisingly upbeat tune about yet another failed relationship uses different sounds, including claps and whistles to drive the rhythm.
Following the theme of “Crash and Burn” and “Tangled,” many of the album’s other tracks discuss relationships: forming, failing, or going strong. Track four, “Die A Happy Man,” was written for Rhett’s wife of three years, Lauren. The slow song, not quite a ballad, has a sweet element to it with minimal percussion and easy guitar chords.
Other relationship songs include the persuasive “Single Girl,” and the encouraging “The Day You Stop Lookin’ Back.”
A pop-country album isn’t complete without a few dance songs. “Anthem,” “Vacation” and “South Side”—which doesn’t add much to the quality of the record—are traditional dance songs with party themes, strong backbeats and repetitive lyrics.
If you are looking for some songs about boots, trucks and moonshine, check out “Like It’s the Last Time” and “Learned It from the Radio.” Both touch on traditional country storytelling about the “good-ole-days” when country boys drove their trucks to the fields, cranked their radios, and partied.
The two biggest surprises of the record would have to be “Playing with Fire”—a duet with Jordin Sparks of American Idol fame—and “T-Shirt.”
“Playing with Fire” has a power-ballad feel, a slow song with a lot of sound, beginning and ending with a strong piano line. Rhett and Sparks voices blend well together to illustrate two sides of the same story.
“T-Shirt” is a surprise. It’s a very basic pop-country song with a catchy chorus, but the beat and the words are infectious. This is the kind of song you hear before you get out of the car in the morning and then you’re humming it all day.
Overall, this album gets three and a half stars out of four. There were places where the album could have been stronger, but it was a refreshing change of pace to keep the storytelling elements of country music while experimenting with new sounds and avoiding using the words beer and truck in every other line.