Country music is changing. Gone are the days of country radio being dominated by steel guitar-heavy ballads, George Strait, and Alan Jackson. Now, songs that fuse city and country culture have taken hold of the airwaves and with that, a new crop of artists have begun to emerge. Among these new artists is Thomas Rhett.
Rhett’s father, Rhett Akins, is one of the most prominent songwriters in Nashville and was the one who pushed him to a career in country music. Thomas followed into a career in songwriting penning hits for Jason Aldean and Lee Brice before starting a singing career of his own. Growing up in Valdosta, Georgia, Rhett used his roots to inspire many of his songs on his recently released debut album It Goes Like This.
The leadoff track, “Whatcha Got in That Cup,” is one of the most obvious examples of the mix of hip hop and country elements that makes the record so unique. Like other songs on the album, such as “Front Porch Junkies” (Remix), one of the verses is rapped and there are heavy hip hop influences in the beat of the song. These songs are part of what makes the record so unique and fun to listen to. Along with similar artists such as Brantley Gilbert, Colt Ford, and Eric Church, he knows that he has the chance to expand his fan base because of the amount of kids who were also raised on a mix of rap, country, and rock.
“Those kids are the ones downloading music on their iPod, jamming it in their car and playing it with their friends,” Rhett explain, “Those people become loyal, and they want to be the people that said they found you first.” Despite the amount of songs that incorporate urban tones, the ones that will most likely spread Rhett’s music are of a different breed.
These other songs are the love songs that many in country music have made their bread and butter. For Rhett, his first number one hit came with the song bearing the same name as the album. “It Goes Like This” is the standout of the record and one that will most likely push Rhett to fame. Co-written by his father, the song tells about someone who wants to write a song about a girl that he experiences love at first sight with. The lyrics exemplify a different emotional depth than many of his party-themed songs and are part of what makes Rhett such a fascinating artist. He has shown the ability to get rowdy and sing about partying while also still being able to convey a more sensitive and romantic side with “It Goes Like This” and other songs on the record such as “Make Me Wanna” and “Take You Home.”
From the anthem of “All American Middle Class White Boy” (which tells the story of his upbringing), to the slow narrative of “Beer with Jesus,” Rhett demonstrates the ability to not just put together an album, but one that holds an audience and tells a collective story that incorporates all aspects of his life. Very rarely do you find an album this well put together. The combination of the musical styles also shows that the new era of country has now arrived and is here to stay. Hands down, this is one of the best debut albums of the past few years and is a must-buy for any country music fan, die-hard or casual.