Album Spotlight: Thomas Rhett, ‘It Goes Like This’ – ToC Critic’s Pick
‘Make Me Wanna’ isn’t representative of Thomas Rhett‘s entire debut album, but it may be the project’s signature track. ‘It Goes Like This’ offers one surprise after another — a stunning accomplishment considering a quarter of the songs are already well-known radio hits.
Blues, hip-hop, rock, jazz, the ’80s, traditional country and that new subgenre known as “bro country” all stand up for attention on 23-year-old Rhett’s debut. The 12-song collection is as diverse and varied as anything released this year, but it fits together like dishes served at an expensive five-star buffet. Nothing smells like refrigerator leftovers.
Sure, not every track will please every fan. ‘Sorry for Partying’ is one that tries to be too clever, and ultimately fails to lyrically stand up to many of the others. It’s harmlessly tucked between a sweet ballad called ‘Take You Home’ and the under-appreciated Top 20 hit ‘Something to Do With My Hands.’ The former is a song Florida Georgia Line could have cut, but Rhett’s voice is much, much stronger. As he proved with ‘Beer With Jesus,’ he’s a very capable balladeer.
‘Front Porch Junkies’ offers the sound this singer helped make famous by writing ‘1994’ and ‘Round Here,’ two hits for other artists in 2013. Hip-hop and country music is still an odd marriage. Done wrong, it’s as puzzling a union as the toothless redneck hitched to the prom queen, but Rhett and his producers have crafted a song that feels anything but forced. Vocally, his performance is humble, not frat-boyish. The arrangement is still melodic, even with thumping loops.
‘It Goes Like This’ opens with the bluesy ‘Whatcha Got in That Cup,’ a fresh, progressive track that hints at everything to come. Still, ‘Make Me Wanna’ is a shock. A swinging ’80s guitar and bass line pin down this insatiable groove. No, it’s not going to be every fan’s favorite, but the fact that he can pull off this style between songs that borrow from so many others is impressive. This is truly a well-planned, well-executed album, not just a flashy serving platter for three singles we already know.
Put 2013 ToC Christmas Tour headliner Thomas Rhett on your short list of future country superstars.
Tracks to Remember: ‘Whatcha Got in That Cup,’ ‘Make Me Wanna,’ ‘It Goes Like This,’ ‘Front Porch Junkie,’ ‘Beer With Jesus’
Did You Know?: Often, a new artist won’t be offered songs from Nashville’s top songwriters. However, the day’s biggest hitmakers all appear on ‘It Goes Like This.’ The singer and his father Rhett Akins helped write all but one of the 12 songs. Additionally, Luke Laird, Ashley Gorley, the Warren Brothers and Josh Kear help out.