Watching Thomas Rhett's meteoric rise from a Big Machine-signed songwriter to a radio darling and tour-headlining country superstar has been nothing short of astounding.
Then again, the Georgia-born multi-hyphenate was blessed with good musical genes: His dad is Rhett Akins, who was a staple of the country radio charts in the 1990s and 2000s. Still, Rhett is forging his own unique path, courtesy of fresh-sounding songs that aren't afraid to stretch the boundaries of country music and incorporate other sounds and styles.
Rhett no doubt has a long career ahead of him. For now, however, here are his Top 5 songs.
"It Goes Like This"From 2013's 'It Goes Like This'
Rhett's Southern twang was in full effect on his debut album's title track, a double-platinum single with jagged electric guitars and stormy instrumentation. However, its passion and urgency reflect the song's sentiments, which are all about how creatively inspiring Rhett finds a lady in his life: "Lookin' at you lookin' at me that way / Makes me wanna grab my old guitar and play."
"Make Me Wanna"From 2013's 'It Goes Like This'
Rhett's penchant for summer-kissed atmospheres and unexpected instrumental flourishes is evident on the John Mayer-esque "Make Me Wanna," another song from his debut album. The first verse boasts soulful organ in the background, while Verse No. 2 shifts gears from bluesy guitars and incorporates striking electronic effects. After a bridge highlighting an evocative electric solo, breezy percussion — in the form of pattering congas — adds even more depth.
"T-Shirt"From 2015's 'Tangled Up'
Rhett took giant creative leaps between his freshman and sophomore albums, and started to experiment with his sound — as evidenced by a song such as "T-Shirt," which describes the consummation of a flirtation: "I see you spinnin' around in my T-shirt / Right there / Your hair, messed up like a Guns 'n' Roses video." Musically, the song promotes this sassy atmosphere by employing a danceable groove with funky piano and a bluesy bent, as well as an earworm chorus that's impossible to resist.
"Crash and Burn"From 2015's 'Tangled Up'
"Crash and Burn" is a throwback to the days when rock 'n' roll, R&B and country music were barely distinguishable. The Country Airplay chart No. 1 has a decidedly '50s vibe, between its whimsical whistling, doo-wop-inspired harmonies and swinging grooves, while its lyrics are decidedly self-aware about romantic self-destruction: "Some guys can't have all the luck," Rhett sings, "if others don't sing sad songs." "Crash and Burn" established Rhett as an artist who isn't afraid to take chances.
"Die a Happy Man"From 2015's 'Tangled Up'
Time will tell whether this No. 1 smash brings home the Grammy for Best Country Song in 2017; however, the laid-back, romantic song — which cherishes the perfection of a night marked by a "bottle of wine / And the look in your eyes and the Marvin Gaye" as the soundtrack for dancing — more than deserves being considered alongside the rest of the nominees. Not only is "Die a Happy Man" a showcase for Rhett's increasingly confident voice, but it embodies his ability to take a familiar theme (e.g., faithful, undying love) and find new things to say about it.