REVIEW: Rascal Flatts – Changed

RascalFlatts-Changed2

Artist: Rascal Flatts
Album: Changed
Genre: Country
Label: Big Machine Records

I’m not exactly a country music connoisseur, even if my countrymen seem to have a twisted fascination with it (parochial Ireland is even more laughable than you think sometimes). The only artist with which I’m thoroughly familiar is Taylor Swift, but Taylor transcends a certain country/pop boundary and I’m sure there are many who would argue that her work isn’t very country at all. That said, I can see why the genre has such vivid and widespread appeal. It seems heartfelt, familiar, and intimate – there doesn’t seem to be much aggrandizing or hidden subtexts about war, politics, and the environment (at least not beyond what people can readily identify with). It seems to come from a good place, and its subjects are warm and honest.

Having considered all of this, it’s easy to see why Rascal Flatts have enjoyed such longevity and appeal. They easily encompass all of the above, with deeply personal, emotionally charged tracks specifically designed to knock the charts dead. Even when they decide to get a little outré (as in the chirpy “Hot In Here”), it’s all very non-threatening and even pre-pubescent in nature. Wholesome is perhaps the word I’m looking for – simple, effective, and safe.

Changed is Rascal Flatts’ eighth studio album, and one with huge crossover appeal. For each song that involves the banjo, down-home mainstays of country music, there’s another that’s typically poppy enough to endear the masses. The opening and title track is mellow, sweet, and earnest, featuring a plain set up of vocals, drums, and gentle guitars. It’s slow-burning and meaningful and easy to love. “Banjo,” which has already been released as a single, is more in the traditional vein. It benefits from a sprightly, energetic beat and its sunny cheer is infectious. The band know how to compose a crowd-pleaser, as further evidenced on later track “She’s Leaving” – a rhythmic and guiltily enjoyable track that describes a lover’s departure in breezy, matter-of-fact terms. “Sunrise” should also win favour, one of the few songs on the album that departs from a predictable set-up. It’s a longer and more intensive ode than the other songs, with a natural and fresh feel that endears itself in spite of the sugary sentiment.

Changed is otherwise peopled by gushing, heartfelt balladry. It seems to be a trend amongst those country artists that have crossed my path to intersperse each happier song with something morose, ensuring the album lilts up and down and never settles on one easy mood. “Come Wake Me Up” is the first glimpse of tenderness here. Using careful vocals and every heart-tugging instrument you can think of, it pours copious love and longing into its four minutes and creates a big, sweeping declaration of feeling. “Let It Hurt” is less contrived. Its wistful piano refrains are bare and beautiful, evoking a poignancy that’s only slightly undone by the gushing chorus. Tracks like these are formulaic and predictable, but they retain a certain sweetened vulnerability that lingers over time. “Hurry Baby” is in the same vein, but “Lovin’ Me” is sincere and genuine; a warmly affectionate love song with all the embellishments needed to illustrate.

This album is nothing you haven’t heard a thousand times, but it’s very competently executed and filled with loveable songs. From the toe-tapping strains of “She’s Leaving” to the sunny romanticism of “Great Big Love,” it has enough to involve both long-time country appreciators and mainstream fans. Changed is an open and natural addition to Rascal Flatts’ repertoire.

SCORE: 7/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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