For some country fans, radio singles may be the only songs they hear from certain artists, so artists want to choose the best singles that represent who they are. The only bad part about choosing a radio single is that the rest of the album cuts likely won’t be heard by the wider radio audience. For that reason, Sounds Like Nashville chooses one artist each month and features songs we wish had been singles. This is in no way a critique of labels or artists, but simply a chance for lesser-known songs to be heard.
This month, we look back at Thomas Rhett’s hit-ridden catalog to find songs that would have sounded great on the airwaves.
“Whatcha Got In That Cup” — from It Goes Like This
Thomas Rhett’s 2013 debut album, It Goes Like This, kicked off his career with five radio singles, three of which hit the No. 1 spot on the charts. However, there’s a few lesser-known albums cuts that would have sounded right at home on country radio. The album’s lead track, “Whatcha Got In That Cup,” certainly comes to mind. Its swinging country instrumentation and party-loving lyrics, which were just starting to get popular around that time, are the perfect recipe for a radio hit. This song didn’t quite make the cut for a radio single, but it’s a must-listen for fans who want to dig into the album.
“In A Minute” — from It Goes Like This
Another song from Rhett’s debut album that would have sounded great on the radio is “In A Minute.” In this feel-good tune, Rhett sings about the freedom of getting off work on the weekend and having a good time. In the chorus, however, the song conveys a deeper message of learning to enjoy life and live in the present. “I’m gonna have big time / ’cause you get one life / so I’m gonna make sure that I live it / ‘cause you never know when you’re gonna go / it could all be gone in a minute,” Rhett sings. In addition to the positive message and uptempo beat, the song also features Rhett’s classic twang and country rock instrumentation.
“The Day You Stop Looking Back” — from Tangled Up
Rhett’s sophomore album Tangled Up saw an evolution in his sound, which is prominent in many of the dance floor-worthy radio singles and album cuts from the project. However, one of the slower songs on album, “The Day You Stop Looking Back,” has such a poignant message that it certainly would have perked up the ears of radio listeners. The song finds Rhett singing to a woman who had her heart broken and can’t seem to move on. “The day you stop looking back, girl, is the day you start moving on,” he sings in the hook. While the song is directed at someone with a broken heart, it can be meaningful to any situation that needs to be left in the rear view mirror.
“Learned It From The Radio” — from Tangled Up
“Learned It From The Radio,” the final track on Tangled Up, would have been a perfect radio single because the tune essentially is a love song to radio. In the song, Rhett lists all the things he learned about life while listening to country music on the radio as a kid — from working hard, to having fun, to navigating a relationship. “How to live, how to love, everything I need to know I learned it from the radio,” Rhett sings. The song highlights the importance of what music teaches us, as well as the importance of radio for bringing that music into our lives. “Learned It From The Radio” also brings a sense of nostalgia to anyone who grew up learning from the radio.
“American Spirit” — from Tangled Up (Deluxe)
If the beautiful acoustic intro to “American Spirit” isn’t enough to get people listening to this Tangled Up Deluxe track, then the lyrics certainly will. In this song, Rhett paints a picture of the perfect American life with lyrics about driving down dirt roads, kids playing in a sprinkler, young love, Friday football games, a couple buying their first home, and more. He then wraps up all these iconic examples of American life and brands it the “American Spirit.” The mid-tempo beat and repeating guitar riff give a calming feeling to the song, as the listener remembers the “American Spirit” moments in their own life. All these elements add up to a beautiful song, which would have sounded great as a radio single.
“Drink A Little Beer” — from Life Changes
What happens when you mix Thomas Rhett and his all-star dad, Rhett Akins? A radio-worthy country jam. This song truly is what the title conveys: a song about drinking beer. In the tune, Thomas and his dad trade lines about having a good time while 90s-inspired fiddle instrumentation plays. Had the song been a radio single, the contagious beat would certainly have had radio listeners dancing along. In the last minute of the song, there is a quick pause before an all out banjo and fiddle jam occurs, as Thomas and Rhett talk and laugh over the music.
“Sweetheart” — from Life Changes
While “Sweetheart” was featured in the promotion of Rhett’s Life Changes album, it never quite made it to radio. This song is quintessentially Rhett, in that its a love song meant for melting hearts. Much like his hit “Die A Happy Man,” “Sweetheart” tells the story of everlasting love in the sweetest way. The song gives off a bit of a 50s vibe, while also staying modern thanks to Rhett’s voice and songwriting. Overall, the song’s waltz inspired-beat, loving lyrics, and catchy melody are the perfect combination for a radio single.
“Grave” — from Life Changes
This song was also a popular track going into the release of Rhett’s Life Changes album, but like “Sweetheart,” “Grave” was never heard on terrestrial radio. As referenced in the last paragraph, Rhett has many heart-melting love songs, but “Grave” brings new life to this theme, by singing about love in a more eternal sense. He knows he’s going to love his significant other for the rest of his life and after — even when he’s in the grave. “Can’t take diamonds, can’t take gold, but I’ll take your love with me when I go. I’m gonna take it to the grave with me,” he sings in the chorus. The song is a little slower than others, but the strong statement would have surely made it a successful radio single had it been released.