Life Changes (Deluxe Version)

Life Changes (Deluxe Version)

With 2015’s Tangled Up, Thomas Rhett established himself as a boundary-pusher in the realm of country music. Tapping into disco, EDM, and other sounds that were fresh to the genre, Rhett expanded his sonic palette and helped open up the idea of what was possible on a country record. The risks paid off, and Tangled Up was eventually certified double Platinum. On 2017’s Life Changes, he continued to explore a wide array of sounds in the context of country while addressing major and intimate developments in his life, like marrying his wife and the adoption and birth of his kids. The clearest example of Rhett’s songwriting playfulness comes thanks to the title track, a song that deals with the kind of developments that would normally get rendered in dramatic piano balladry but instead arrive in bouncy, uplifting pop. The album’s lead-off single, a collaboration with fellow country-pop star Maren Morris called “Craving You,” brings the banjo to the club for a simmering dance number. On “Kiss Me Like a Stranger,” Rhett taps into the silky smoothness of classic R&B, and with the heartland rock of “Renegades,” he nods to the hits of Tom Petty. “Leave Right Now” is one of the most explicitly EDM-influenced tracks in his body of work, recalling beachier cuts by The Chainsmokers with just a hint of pedal steel. There is, of course, some straight-ahead country, too. Rhett’s father-son team up with seasoned vet Rhett Akins, the laidback anthem “Drink a Little Beer,” foregrounds the stomp and fiddle. Life Changes earned Rhett his first No. 1 Billboard placement, and he’d keep up the spirit of pop experimentation with 2019’s Center Point Road before making a return to his country roots in the early 2020s.

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