Country California

Country music. Seriously.

Blame Reba: An Unstoppable Track-by-Track

rascal-flatts-creeper

One thing we take very seriously here at Country California is reverence for tradition. When a legend of country music speaks, we listen. We don’t know how long these people will be with us, so it behooves us to soak up every last bit of the wisdom they bestow on us while they’re still around.

It was in this spirit of reverence that I received Reba McEntire’s tweet of last Monday: “If you haven’t heard Rascal Flatts new CD, get it!!!!! It’s great!!!! I love it!!!! Whoohoooo!” I’m not going to lie: I’ve been a tad critical of Rascal Flatts in the past, even going so far as to suggest that Gary LeVox might not be the greatest singer in the world. But that was before I knew that Reba holds their music in such high esteem that it apparently gives her fits of fangirl-like exuberance. Who am I to dismiss that sort of enthusiasm?

On Reba’s recommendation, I cued up the band’s 2009 album Unstoppable and embarked on 45 minutes of musical education. Here’s a track-by-track account:

1. Love Who You Love
“Love who you love with all that you have/And don’t waste the time that flies so fast/Love who you love and say that you do/Hold on as tight as they’ll let you.” Aww, how trite sweet.
Mood check: peaceful, loving

2. Here Comes Goodbye
Almost country compared to the previous song, but I can’t shake the feeling that the melodramatic lyric and performance might be a clue as to why the woman is leaving the guy. Nobody likes a drama king.
Mood check: beginnings of a headache

3. Close
Before the beginning of the lyrics proper, we get LeVox singing “Hey yay yay yay yay.” This is bad, but not worse than a lot of other stuff on the radio. Given how much Rascal Flatts gets singled out, I’d expect it to be a lot worse. Are these guys simply the face of a whole corner of ‘country’ music that sucks just as much?
Mood check: do I really want to see this experiment through?

4. Forever
Same idea as the previous song (trying to get over someone), just written for the opposite gender. Oh, and this time it starts with an “ooh” instead of a “Hey yay yay yay yay.” LeVox reaches for the big notes nearly as often as Martina McBride, but lacks the ability to hit them.
Mood check: ooh yay yay hey blech

5. She’d Be California
Every California cliché wrapped into one song. “She’d be California if California was a girl” is both uninteresting and grammatically incorrect. Will there be no end to the lame guitar solos?
Mood check: underwhelmed

6. Unstoppable
Begins “yeah yeah yeah… hey.” I’m really getting tired of these interjections. Much like Taylor Swift, LeVox sounds okay when he sings quietly but spoils it by reaching for too many notes he can’t hit.
Mood check: somewhat fatigued

7. Things That Matter
“Things that matter, things that don’t” is a boring hook even by Rascal Flatts standards. The song seems to end, then one last lame guitar solo starts up. You might be tempted to skip ahead. Don’t do it. Tucked in the middle of that guitar part is a 20-second steel guitar solo. Oh, so that’s where they hide their countryness.
Mood check: mentally unstable

8. Summer Nights
Begins “ha ha ha.” The lyric “We went crazy cooped up all winter long/And school is out so let’s get it on” is the best window into the band’s uncomfortable relation to youth. Is LeVox singing in the voice of someone still in school (his imagined audience) or in his own voice, which is that of a thirtysomething man? Because if it’s the latter, “school is out so let’s get it on” is an alarmingly creepy thing to say.
Mood check: profoundly disturbed

9. Holdin’ On
Same idea as “Close” and “Forever.”
Mood check: bored

10. Once
“Once you made the world feel so right/Once you were my morning, noon and night” has to be one of the weakest lyrics ever. And again, they seem to like songs about departed lovers, which I suppose at least gives the album a passing thematic resemblance to something that might be called country music.
Mood check: running on empty

11. Why
Same idea as Blaine Larsen’s “How Do You Get That Lonely” with a weaker lyric. LeVox’s vocal is what Billy Gilman would sound like in 2025 if he hadn’t gone through that unfortunate voice change.
Mood check: angry (to have lost 45 minutes)

I don’t know about you sometimes, Reba. I think I need a drink.

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28 Comments

  1. I would like to nominate you for the Medal of Valor and a Purple Heart. You are a brave man.

    • This is awesome! I hope you listened on Rhapsody and didn’t go out and pay money for this. Are you sure somebody didn’t tweet on Reba’s account in a hostile takeover?

      • I was thinking (hoping) that maybe it was somebody impersonating Reba. Of course, she did record a duet with them on her last album. I still haven’t forgiven her for that.

  2. Sadly, the only thing country about Reba McEntire these days is her accent. It’s been that way for a long, long time so her tweet about the Flat Rascals doesn’t much surprise me. Hang tough.

    • I’m with you, Sam. I like her on some of her older and more country material, but based on most of what I’ve heard in the past several years it doesn’t surprise me that she would enjoy the Flatts.

    • As much as I love Reba, I’ll have to endorse this statement too. She’s the best of the best in my opinion, but needs to return to her roots and get off this ‘I’m not 50′ kick she seems to be on.

  3. First Dolly endorses Jessica Simpson, and now this? Is someone brainwashing the legends?

  4. This kind of thing happened in the 70’s and we were rescued by Waylon, Willie and Billy Joe Shaver. It happened again in the 80’s and we were rescued by Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, and Mark Chesnutt. Hopefully we’ll be rescued again.

    “You call it country, I call it bad rock and roll”
    – The Geezinslaws

  5. Clearly, you should have bought the J.C. Penney version of the album, complete with an exclusive bonus track. That bonus track probably would have turned the whole experience around for you.

  6. CM sold out and is going to endorse a Hersheys RF contest. They hooked him up with the free Cd and a year’s supply of Reeses Cups. Way to go!!

  7. Poor, poor Reba. I’m so disappointed!

  8. “5. She’d Be California
    Every California cliché wrapped into one song. “She’d be California if California was a girl” is both uninteresting and grammatically incorrect. Will there be no end to the lame guitar solos?”

    What’s with these songs that compare people to states and cities? Like that annoying Carter Twins song that plays on CMT just about every morning, “She’s Got A Heart Like Memphis” or whatever they call it. What does that mean to have a heart like Memphis? Maybe I’m dumb, but I just don’t get it.

    • Gary Allan frowns upon these shenanigans.

      Incidentally I’m listening to my iPod on shuffle right now and “She’s So California” came up just as I started typing this.

  9. C.M.,, I’ve gotta commend you. This might be the most courageous/stupidest thing you’ve ever done. At least with the radio/awards show blogs, there’s a least a chance you might get something good (with the possible exception of the CMT Awards). With this, you knew there was no chance of finding anything good in the album. And, yet, like the trooper you are, you fought through it, to unabashedly make fun of it for your readers. That takes guts…and an unstable psyche. Kudos, good sir.

    Also, I agree with your point about Rascal Flatts being the doormat for bad country music. I don’t like the vast majority of their stuff, but there are a couple of their songs (I’m Movin On, Bless the Broken Road) that are good. Levox’s voice is horrible, and they deserve venom for songs like “Bob That Head” and “Me and My Gang.” But most of their other stuff is just kind of bland to me…some days I can tolerate it, some days I can’t. And, honestly…my opinion of the Flatts isn’t all that different than that of a lot of the other country songs on the radio right now. I think people sometimes use Rascal Flatts, or other artists like Julianne Hough or Kenny Chesney, as a symbol for everything that’s wrong with country radio, and that seems unfair. A lot of the current acts getting play on the radio can share the blame for the lack of quality on the airwaves right now.

    • As much as I ran with the opportunity to poke fun at the Flatts, I also honestly appreciated getting the chance to at least hear them out over the course of a whole album. Even if this didn’t make me into a fan – and even if it didn’t stand a chance of doing so, since I brought my biases to the party – it gave me a better idea of what they’re doing musically beyond the radio singles I’ve heard. There’s something to be said for education… even when it hurts my ears. (Gary LeVox shrieking through earbuds is bad news. Definitely more of a voice for open air listening, I’d say.)

      They take a lot of the heat for bad pop-country in general, but I’m not sure that they’re the worst offenders: they’re just the most visible example of an act that has been really terribly successful doing a type of music that a lot of people (myself included) deem to be really terrible. As soon as I start feeling a little sorry for them, though, I remember that Gary Vernon renamed himself LeVox. Anyway, thanks for drawing that point out a bit more. I thought it was interesting.

      Guts and an unstable psyche just about covers it. Thanks, Mike.

      • Hey, not a problem. If I had to listen to a whole album of “The Voice” screeching, I probably wouldn’t be so quick to even give a half-hearted defense of their work

  10. Okay, there are people who do not like Reba’s singing….most of my friends. However, I love her voice and the way she just takes notes and makes them into a major event. Absolutely love her freaking voice. Especially when she goes into a vocal seismic drama fit. Anyway, one of my friends thinks she can’t sing. My point is Reba may honestly like this group….I don’t….but she apparently loves something about them to offer such a strong opinion………Furthermore, Reba’s music is what we call RELEVANT TO TODAY’S STYLE….SHE WOULDN’T BE A LEGEND AND A COUNTRY MUSIC ICON IF SHE DIDN’T EVOLVE……DUH!!!!

  11. IT’S CALLED EVOLUTION LADIES AND GENTLEMEN….SHE’D BE LONG GONE IF SHE KEPT SINGING TRADITIONAL COUNTRY MUSIC…..PERSONALLY I LIKE HARDCORE COUNTRY REBA FROM THE EIGHTIES AND ESPECIALLY LOVE DRAMA QUEEN POP REBA WITH ALL THE DRAMATIC INSTRUMENTALS AND OVER THE TOP SCOOPING, WHINING, TEARY EYED MULTI SYLLABLE JUST DOWNRIGHT TURN A PAPER CUT INTO A CRISIS REBA!!!

  12. I’m proud of you C.M……I really am. At least you had an open mind and listened, which is a thing I do sometimes just so I can’t be called a jerk for no reason.

    However, it never pays off for me. I ALWAYS end up disappointed. Thanks for taking the bullet for us….not that I was going to buy the CD for myself anyway…..but every now and then I’ll buy a CD like this and give it to my wife as she tends to enjoy this type of complete time wasting music.

    I never have to ride in her car so I’m not put through the pain….but OCCASIONALLY we end up on a family outing and that’s when I get paid back for my purchases. I try to bring my own CD’s with me in these situations, but believe it or not she and my kids get just as aggravated with my musical taste: Waylon, Elvis, Charlie Rich, Hank Jr save a few songs…that I end up in an argument over what we’re going to play.

    The last CD we agreed was great together was the new Miranda Lambert.

  13. Better you than me

    Rascal Flatts is the archetype for everything that is wrong with modern country music – bad vocals, insipid lyrics, rock guitars and a lot of posturing. I’d rather listen to an hour of Taylor Swift than ten minutes of the Flatts

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