If you are already familiar with the midtempo love song “It Goes Like This” by Thomas Rhett, that’s no accident. While Rhett’s first two singles “Something To Do With My Hand” and “Beer With Jesus” flew mainly under the radar—the first because he was an unknown, and the second because the title belied the song’s meaning—his third single is now fighting Luke Bryan for the Number 1 slot on the Billboard Country chart. This puts Rhett in prime position to gain some much-deserved attention with his debut album of the same name.
If Thomas Rhett’s voice sounds a little familiar to you, that’s no accident, either. He’s a second generation country artist, the son of established singer-songwriter Rhett Akins of “Don’t Get Me Started” fame. But Rhett (the son, not the father) puts his own modern spin on country music, in the newly-established tradition of Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line.
Speaking of familiar, if you’re already a bit familiar with Thomas Rhett, then nearly half the songs on It Goes Like This will be familiar to you, as well; every song off of last year’s self-titled EP also appear on this album, the only difference being that “Front Porch Junkies” has been remixed (for the better, I might add).
The running theme here is “familiar”, and that’s going to work in Rhett’s favor. The truth is that while he’s been simmering under the top of the charts over the past couple of years, he’s been proving himself with consistent, radio-friendly songwriting. In addition to prepping his own career as an artist, he’s been doing co-writes for the likes of Jason Aldean (“I Ain’t Ready to Quit”) and Florida Georgia Line (“Round Here”). The thing is, this is a country artist who deserves to be a household name; this album is just the first chance most of America gets to become familiar with it.
Indeed, there’s plenty of radio-friendliness on this record, including on the songs we haven’t already heard. Fresh hooks abound, for example, on the seductive “Get Me Some of That” and the live-in-the-moment anthem “In a Minute,” and the rock-infused, slightly-politically-incorrect “All-American Middle Class White Boy” is destined to be a concert crowd favorite. For that matter, the closing track “Beer With Jesus” should have been a much bigger single than it was, if people had just taken a closer listen to it. Deeply meaningful.
That all being said, there are still a couple of things working against Rhett here. First, while he’s a clever wordsmith, the topics he covers—namely, beer, trucks, picking up girls who shake their money-makers—these are already well-worn territory in modern country. Second, his style and this subject matter are certain to draw comparisons to his current chart competition Luke Bryan, rather than setting him apart as a unique artist. The danger here is that Thomas Rhett will be viewed as a trend-follower rather than a trend-setter, and that could hurt his chances for longer-term chart success.
My hope, however, is that this won’t happen. While treading familiar ground, It Goes Like This is actually one of the most solid debuts of the year. proving that Thomas Rhett should have a place in the spotlight. If he can just find a bit more originality in content and style, there’s no reason he shouldn’t stick around for the long haul.