Rascal Flatts

Lyric Street, 2009


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Formula sure sounds good sometimes.

This being Rascal Flatts’ sixth album, the listener automatically knows what to expect: a couple of sad breakup songs, a rousing party anthem designed to get people to shout “Woooeee!” on the country dance floor, and plenty of soul-searching, yearning lyrics that don’t leave much room for interpretation.

Unstoppable follows this formula to a tee, then builds on it with added strings, piles of sound, and overproduction. Older hits like “What Hurts The Most” and “Still Feels Good” had a more authentic feel, while a song like “I Feel Bad” is a breakup song that speaks to the heart. This time around, everything sounds a little bit planned; instead of the sad songs actually pulling on the heart, they feel like they’re supposed to, as if the writers were saying “Look! Sad lyrics! Surely this will strike home with somebody!” One too many of these tunes makes the listener question the intent after a while.

That’s not to say they are bad songs or wrong sentiments. “Things That Matter” is a fine observation of that moment when you switch from griping about the little things to realizing what’s important; the song takes its time telling the message and brings the point home with a guitar solo. “Here Comes Goodbye” is the aforementioned breakup song, yet even in its shameless plug is the imagery of impending relationship doom (“Footsteps on the front porch / I hear my doorbell, she usually comes right in…Here comes the start of every sleepless night”).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Forever” is a less successful take on the breakup formula, while “Love Who You Love” piles on the sound to mask its rather thin arrangement (and sentiment). “Close” is better, detailing the inability of a woman to let go of a man she somehow lost (the song never says how, and it’s not important). The images of a worn-out Notre Dame T-shirt, a simple voicemail and the feeling of loss pervade the song; Rascal Flatts does this sort of thing better than most country pop bands, no matter how slick they get. “Holdin’ On” is the same song from the male point of view, and it’s not as good.

The title track is pretty slick, a power anthem with lyrics straight from those inspirational posters you find in dentist offices. Far better is the understated “Gone,” which weds a moody acoustic guitar with a bit of twang on top to a – wait for it – breakup lyric, though the “drunk on hope” line is pretty good.

Finally, we come to the two polar opposites of the album, the party anthem “Summer Nights” and the closing ballad “Why.” The irritating “Summer Nights” aims straight for the bar crowd; it may be musically fine, for this sort of thing, but the lyrics “Let that Igloo cooler mark your piece of paradise” and “Ladies, y’all keep doin’ y’all’s thang” are two of the worst to come out of 2009.

“Why,” however, is a moving, tenderly sung piece about suicide that is written with true emotion and the closest thing to authenticity here. Sung to a former childhood friend, words like “Who told you life wasn’t worth the fight” and “It’s not like you to walk away in the middle of a song” paint a picture of regret and loss better than anything else on Unstoppable.

Everything you know and like or dislike about Rascal Flatts is outsized here; if you dislike the trio, this is not the place to start, but if you like them, this is bound to stay in your CD player for some time. The adherence to the Flatts formula and obvious attempts at audience-baiting keep this from being necessary, but it’s better than a lot of what is on country radio these days, even if you’re not a country fan.

Rating: B-

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