August 15, 2014 Rascal Flatts – Rewind (Album Review)
Rascal Flatts returned from a two year album hiatus this past May with their most recent release Rewind, the ninth studio album the group has released together since their inception in 1999. Rewind is an obvious attempt to update and modernize their sound in order to fit into the constantly changing country music landscape. During the early and mid-2000’s, Rascal Flatts was one of the biggest acts in any music genre in sales, popularity and touring. A dip in their prosperity as the 2010’s came was a turning point for the group that had maintained success and been a household name for around 15 years total. It prompted them to make significant changes in their sound, production, and musical style on Rewind, giving it a different feel then any of the previous albums they have recorded.
Facilitating their decision to make big changes in how their music sounded, Rascal Flatts broke it off with the producer of their last four albums, Dan Huff, and handed the reigns over to popular rock and pop producer Howard Benson. Benson, who has worked with artists and bands like My Chemical Romance, All American Rejects, Three Doors Down, Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson, Papa Roach, and Adam Lambert, might sound like an unlikely choice for a country group, but Benson has definitely achieved the goal of adjusting and modernizing Rascal Flatts sound to be more relevant in today’s country world and more desirable to radio stations. Outside of finding a new producer, the group even set out on their first radio tour in thirteen years this past January in an attempt to revitalize their slowly waning radio success.
The first single on Rewind, also titled “Rewind,” was released in January of 2014, debuting at #46 on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart, and #47 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. “Rewind” in particular really exemplifies Rascal Flatts attempt to have a more modern and fresh sound to their music. The usual flawless melodies and harmonies that we’ve grown used to from Rascal Flatts are still present in this track, but it also brings many new elements that make it more comparable to the sound that is popular and successful in country music today. The music in the background and throughout the track is a definite earworm. Although the subject matter covered in the song is nothing new in country, how Rascal Flatts executes it and the modern production in the song are very unique and original, for them in particular. The track even includes a George Straight name-drop which is always an attention grabber for listeners. “Rewind” peaked at #1 on the Mediabase country charts and #3 on the Billboard country charts, while selling 38,000 downloads in it’s first week, and 626,000 as of June 2014.
The opening track and current (second) single on Rewind, “Payback,” starts the album off with energy from the get-go. A very upbeat and catchy song, “Payback” is a breakup/revenge song from the point of view of a man persuading a recently single woman to go out with him as revenge on her previous boyfriend who treated her badly. The song seems to have been hit or miss so far among longtime fans of Rascal Flatts, but the track is very radio friendly, has a relatable subject, and one that makes you want to turn up the volume and sing along.
Other significant tracks on Rewind include “I Have Never Been To Memphis” a throwback to a sound we are more used to from Rascal Flatts, and possible future single candidates “Night of Our Lives”, “DJ Tonight”, “Riot”, and “I’m On Fire”, all very polished, pop-influenced and radio-friendly songs. “DJ Tonight” might be the catchiest and most pop sounding song on the album, with a hook that will capture fans from the first listen, the exact type of song that country radio has been eating up lately.
As a whole, Rascal Flatts did a solid job reinventing themselves to keep their sound up-to-date with today’s country music. Rewind has its flaws, and there are some moment some fans may find less enjoyable such as the twelfth track “Honeysuckle Lazy,” where they attempt an edgier and distinguishable sound. Instead, it just ends up with loud and cluttered production, and the group seeming a bit out of their element. Perhaps these are just growing pains as the band spreads their wings as musicians. For those that have been career-long fans of the group and are very accustomed to the sound they have retained for the better part of fifteen years, Rascal Flatt’s new sound may be a bit jarring and will definitely take some getting used to. Despite this, their evolved sound will help introduce a new and younger demographic of fans to their music, and with the success of Rewind, it has already planted the seeds for rejuvenating their radio success. Hopefully Rewind is the beginning of a path of continued longevity for Rascal Flatts, a band who has been much loved in country music and a staple in the genre for over a decade. CrypticRock give this album 3 out of 5 stars.