Review Summary: A fitting title for my album of the decade, this seventh outing sees the trio in top form yet again.
Rascal Flatts has been the most acclaimed group in country music since the turn of the millennium. Since their inception, chart toppers have shot up the airwaves one after another, while overriding any aspersions about them being a country boy band or the product of some record executives. They've built a strong fanbase, with a once elusive following among younger listeners, and before long, making 27 cents a night in Printer's Alley and 10 million albums sold, were only a decade apart. So, it may be surprising that Nothing Like This
was almost their last album, and that the band contemplated breaking up before its release.
In early 2010, their longtime home Lyric Street Records shuttered operations, causing ripple effects in the personal lives of the Flatts. Longtime friends and colleagues were now gone, and it left the group tattered, contemplating if they had more to say and if they should call it quits. They decided to stay together, and hitched up with Big Machine Records. Rather than letting turbulent times overshadow the music, the Flatts instead chose to churn out one of their most vibrant and energetic projects ever. Nothing Like This
is a sunny, bright showing of country pop perfection from start to finish.
Album opener and chart topping lead off single "Why Wait" is a vintage Rascal Flatts special. It's armed with amiable instrumentals, ebullient lyrics about tying the knot, and of course, the Flatts' signature soaring vocal harmonies. The adult contemporary pulse of "Easy" showcases the group's massive crossover appeal, as Gary LeVox exchanges captivating vocal runs with Natasha Bedingfield. "Sunday Afternoon" is a particularly lush and vibrant reminder that Rascal Flatts can make love sound easy like no one else, while "Play" is a chance for Joe Don Rooney to offer up some thrilling guitar work, backed up by Jay DeMarcus' spirted bass.
The title track "Nothing Like This" is one of the best ballads in the group's discography. Gliding in on a strong mix of crooning steel guitars and poppier basslines, Gary LeVox sings introspectively of his unique love. "It's just a mystery, until you're standing on the shore and moved by every wave, taking your breath away like you do to me," he proclaims. "All Night to Get There" is an effervescent country pop tune that sees Gary inviting his lover on the exciting trip to anywhere. "We can do anything, I don't care," he happily shrugs. Following right behind is "Red Camaro", one of the best cuts this group has ever cranked out. This album was released in November of 2010, and this song will have you instantly longing for warmer weather and to roll the windows down. Had it been released as a single, it would have surely been another chart topper.
"They Try" glistens with a mix of shimmery electric guitar from JDR and a pulsating mix of synths and basslines. Here, Gary LeVox sings of a love that's stood the test of time, and it's anchored by one of the best choruses in the Flatts' entire catalog;
In this crazy world of mirrors and smoke
Where hearts can get broke
And forever's so hard to find
People still dream and people still hope
That someday they'll get it right
A love like yours and mine is why they try
"Summer Young" relies on the imagery
to carry the story. Gary thanks the little moments that stick out when he looks back on where his love has taken him, such as "that boardwalk you and I strolled down, lights dancing on the water from the merry go round," as Joe Don and Jay compliment him with their signature backing vocals and harmonies. "Tonight Tonight" readies the listener for a night out on the town, while the incredible closing cut "I Won't Let Go" reminds the listener that while Rascal Flatts can be the soundtrack to the good times, they'll also be there to provide solace in the darkest of times. This has certainly been just that for me, and it's one of many in the Rascal Flatts canon that's seen me through. On that, Nothing Like This
concludes, capping off nearly forty two minutes of the best country music released this decade with no filler.
Rather than splitting up when they clearly had more to say or letting the disarray around them cast a cloud over the composition, Rascal Flatts marched ahead with one of their best albums to date. It's got quite literally all
the hallmarks of a Rascal Flatts album. Sterling vocals, high production value, lyrics that make love sound easy and life worth living, glossy guitars, vibrant bass, genre-deaf composition; you name it, it's here. It's honestly quite fitting that the best album released in the 2010s decade is called Nothing Like This
and it's especially impressive that it was released early in the decade and stood up to all subsequent releases. For sure, one of my favorite albums of all time, and one of many that my favorite band has seen me through the best and the worst with.