Rascal Flatts Is the Worst Hugely Popular Music Act in America

Categories: Strum & Twang

rascal_flatts_jc_penney.jpg
Executive Visions, Inc.
Rascal Flatts or a heartland radio station's morning zoo?
Rascal Flatts will be performing tonight at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in San Jose. We won't be there.

Rascal Flatts is produced by the guy who played guitar on "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul.

That's not reason enough for them to be the worst hugely popular musical act in America, of course. After all, country fans don't much mind that today's typical Nashville hit sounds like all of previous pop balled up into 3:30 with a hint of twang, so why should it bug us?

No, the reason Rascal Flatts is the worst popular music act in America is how atrocious all those pop influences sound when wadded together and caterwauled over by Gary LeVox.

But let's start with that producer.

Before rising to prominence as one of Nashville's top hitmakers, Dann Huff played guitar in the Christian rock band White Heart, and then the pop-metal band Giant, which broke up once Nirvana wiped power ballads off rock radio. Huff also enjoyed an impressive run as a session guitarist, playing on Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again," Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," DeBarge's "Rhythm of the Night," and Bette Midler's soundtrack to Beaches, the record with "Wind Beneath My Wings."

Frankenstein those four songs together and you'll have a sound something like the three CDs Huff has produced for Rascal Flatts. A Flatts cut mixes together any of the following elements: Whitesnake's cocksure swagger, Jackson's pop-gospel triumphalism, DeBarge's empty-headed party boogie, and Midler's theatrical emotion. (Like Midler's, LeVox's vocals are so over-the-top they can see your house up there.)

In short, Flatts' seven number-one hits with Huff have the mad, magpied feel of mash-ups from some alternate '80s. On "Here," a Flatts No. 1 from 2008, there's the austere-to-grandiose build-up of Giant's power ballad "I'll See You in My Dreams."

On "Why Wait," a No. 1 from 2010, a glittery guitar figure echoing the bass shuffle from Michael Jackson's "The Way you Make Me Feel" loops endlessly beneath crisp power pop suggesting lesser Rick Springfield -- whom Huff, of course, once played with. (Slick, Springfieldian new-wave is also the primary mode of hat-eschewing country star Keith Urban, another artist produced by Huff.)

Of course, rote sonic signifiers tweak Huff's pop/rock numbers into something recognizable as country. Some off-the-rack fiddle might offer a measure or two of counterpoint at the end of a verse, and the whine of a pedal guitar might be layered in the guitars and synthesizers like a thin strata of clay in a rockbed.

Then, contemporary signifiers remind listeners these songs are of the now, rather than of the actual 1980s. The vocals often glisten with that silvery sheen of Autotune or a vocoder. To build drama, most of the instruments drop out for a breath or two before the final chorus, which than explodes like confetti from a cannon. Beneath all this there often thumps a rubbery dance beat out of those 1990s hits that Mutt Lange produced for his wife Shania Twain, whose global club-hit empowerment anthems were re-worked for different markets: country, pop, and world.

Huff, of course, played on Twain's Come On Over LP, and Lange, tellingly, also produced Def Leppard's Hysteria, a pioneering effort in making mass-market pop out of a genre act. Add a fiddle in there someplace, and tweak the lyric so it's about fidelity, and the Lep's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" could likely be a country No. 1 today.

Even fewer changes could flip pop hits of the past to 2011 country, from "Suspicious Minds" to "Black Velvet" to "I've Had the Time of My Life" to any ballad from any Disney movie to Tom Cochrane's hard-pop '91 hit "Life is a Highway," which, with its placeless road imagery, its impersonal exuberance, and its loud and sexless rock momentum always struck me as the progenitor of Rascal Flatts well before Rascal Flatts covered it for the soundtrack to Cars.

Once the retro-pop stew is cooked up, LeVox hollers thinly on top, his every note birthed in the sinuses. On "Easy" he works so hard sounds like he might pop something; on "Summer Nights," he offers Morris Day-style shout outs to the ladies and then to the fellas, and then he vaults up into an aiming-for-Journey falsetto scream that sounds less like Steve Perry than it does Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

So, the music is terrible. But it is still country, in its way, especially in the lyrics. For the first 90 seconds of "Why Wait," Gary LeVox seems to be singing a horny come-on in the tradition of the thousands of other horny come-ons that are the through line of American pop. LeVox insists that he and the woman he's singing to should "do something crazy," should "do it now" and "think about it later," and shouldn't "wait another minute" for something they "should have done yesterday."

Then, at the end of the chorus, he promises, "I know a little church with a preacher that could hook us up right away." LeVox's chipperness suits this chaste courtship, and the music likewise is keyed to celebrating rather than hungering.

The same goes for Keith Urban's giddy power-pop love songs "I Want to Kiss a Girl" (not any particular one). Imagine if Rick Springfield's Jessie were after some tangible woman the singer burns for but instead some idealized vision of womanhood itself, like Betty Crocker or a Dickens heroine. Perhaps a better name for producer Dann Huff's pop-country is "abstinence-only rock 'n roll."

Terrible, terrible abstinence-only rock 'n' roll.

Oh, Rascal Flatts also has its own clothing line at JC Penney.

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Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Alan Scherstuhl @StudiesinCrap, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.

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61 comments
choos1886
choos1886

Rascal Flatts is the Nickelback of "country" (I use that term loosely... metrosexual pop music with a faux twang) music.  Unoriginal, repetitive, lacking in musical talent... both bands have these things in common.  Despite the lack of good music, both of these bands are hugely popular and sell lots of albums.  I really think that the majority of the American public is made up of idiot sheeple.  

Dlangley43
Dlangley43

I love it. Rascal flatts are awfull, and that's the truith. Its just not real country anymore...

Sesame Street songs
Sesame Street songs

Love Songs. Whether you're in love, falling in love or falling out of love, love songsenhances the life of romantics of all ages. 

RA
RA

Some of these comments are hilarious. As much as a lot of the posters are annoyed by it, the writer is perfectly entitled to state his opinion. Of course, I agree with his opinion. Not living in the US, I'd never heard of Rascal Flatts until someone mentioned them yesterday. I listened, with an open mind, to some of their songs. I first reaction was 'Wow, this band is AWFUL. Boring, turgid, cloying, unoriginal, badly produced musical slop, with one of the worst singers I've ever encountered. I like interesting and non-conventional singers, but the Rascal Flatts guy left me speechless (in a bad way). Well, this is all just my opinion (which I am entitled to), and I can see that lots of people like this band (chuff knows why, but again, they are entitled to that opinion too). Musical taste is a funny thing. I'd rather eat my own knees than listen to a whole album by this band, but there you go.

Fred Gingerale
Fred Gingerale

A little envious? Don't hate just because you're life seems pathetic in comparisons to guys Like Huff, Urban and the Flat Boys. It kills you inside that these guys are living their dreams and making mountains of money while doing it. Though I'm no huge fan of these artists, their songs are better than every "rock" band out today with the exception of Kings of Leon. Don't hate, it's only music. Fans buy it because they like it.

Hailey Denise Adams
Hailey Denise Adams

dude i think u just need to shut your mouth right now because Rascal Flatts worked hard to be where they are today, and if you don't like Rascal Flatts than don't lisen to ther music. And by the way didn't your mom ever teach you that if you don't have something nice to say then don't say it at all?

Jacob
Jacob

You are in idiot. This is the poorest written article I have ever read as well.

MB
MB

The response to this post (on behalf of RF fans) has been completely hilarious. Granted, I'm sure I'd get just as defensive about my own favorite band, but some of the commentary is priceless.

Rach
Rach

I recommend you spend your time more wisely, rather than writing crap about such an amazing band. No one cares what you think, idiot!

B Rock
B Rock

When I first heard Rascal Flatts I thought, "This chick is terrible."

Garygirl
Garygirl

First of all, if you are gonna trash a group, at least get the facts straight! As a fan of Rascal Flatts, they must be doing something right in order to have sold MILLIONS of albums, won several awards and SOLD OUT many, MANY shows! If you don't like them, that's fine....you dont have to listen to them! Because the fans (the ones that count) will stick by them and listen to them regardless of what idiots like YOU say about them! Personally, I have gotten through A LOT of personal situations bc of them. I'm forever grateful to them for that! And not to mention, they are the sweetest, most talented, down-to-earth, awesome MUSICIANS I've ever met! They don't make the music for critics like you, they make it for the fans, bc the fans are the ones that count and that is in the word of Jay DeMarcus! So get a life, and if you want to bash a group, find one that hasn't had the SUCCESS that Rascal Flatts has had! Count them...11 years in the Music Industry and still going strong! And, as a fan, Gary LeVox's voice is unique and that's what we LOVE most about it!

Karly
Karly

Sharpworm,

Taking a fucking chill pill and learn some manners.

Just because you don't like Rascal Flatts doesn't mean they suck. Their millions of fans who've bought concert tickets and albums would beg to differ with you.

How can you be so rude to someone who's husband protects our country? Maybe their music helps her and her husband deal with their time apart. Don't be so quick to judge.

You say their fans need to "grow up, you butthurt babies?"

Pot, meet kettle.

Don't stereotype Rascal Flatts or their fans, if you don't even bother to give either a fair chance.

Alan,

Thanks for the reply. We'll have to agree to disagree, but that's what makes the world go around. (:

Sharpworm
Sharpworm

Thought this was over the top but then I played the vids. Holy fuck, those songs suck. This is not country, its shitty pop for jc penney's. Rascall Flatts fans need to grow up, haven't you seen that the internet is full of opinions, you butthurt babies"

garysangel07
garysangel07

You are a complete ratard! My husband fights everyday for your freedom to speak such bullshit! If you don't like Rascal Flatts then don't listen to them. Dan Huff has worked with so many music genres and talented musicians, you are just a hater! I happen to love RF, their music has helped me with a lot in my life. They are 3 extremely talented musicians who's fans love them! They dedicate so much to others, Vanderbilt Hospital, Jason foundation for suicide prevention just to name a few! You make me sick! Do us all a favor and f&$@ off!

HowRude.
HowRude.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but just because you don't like the band doesn't give you the right to trash them. Like others have said before, if you don't like them you don't have to listen to them. Rascal Flatts is hugely popular because they play catchy music. So what if it has pop influence? It works for them and they have become successful because people enjoy listening to them. Music is created for entertainment so enjoy it or stop bashing it. 

Blake_0118
Blake_0118

You are an idiot. If you want to know how bad they are talk to this fans or the country music association who have given them multiple awards for thief horrible music.

You need to pick on a band that actually sucks not one you are jealous of. Moron

Karly
Karly

I know I've already commented, but I felt the need to add something that no one has mentioned yet.

I don't have an issue with the fact that you cannot stand Rascal Flatts & you don't think they're "country enough." As a longtime fan, I can admit I've seen (and heard) much worse criticism of them and their music over the years.

What I don't understand though is why you feel the need to call Rascal Flatts "the worst hugely (hugely? Don't even get me started on that one..) act in popular music."

Have you even glanced at the Itunes charts lately? We have to endure mindless ditties from everyone not named "Adele" on pop radio.

If you honestly believe acts like Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Lil' Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift (and I could go on), are making better music than Rascal Flatts, you should try opening your ears and taking a listen. The difference between Rascal Flatts & so many other acts is they have music that touches everyone in all walks of life; 90% of their songs lack the emotion and heart most music lacks these days. There have been countless (maybe thousands) of stories out there from Rascal Flatts fans who've used one of their songs at a wedding or funeral, or used it to move on from a relationship, or helping them heal from a broken heart. It's not surprising the two Rascal Flatts songs you've decided to mention are two of the weakest cuts in their 11-year career. [Rascal Flatts have recounted the story of a guy who was driving on the road one night & he heard their song "I'm Movin' On" on the radio. He listened to it, and was so moved he called into the radio station, saying that he was considering suicide, and the song helped him change his mind. In a way, it helped save his life. You can go on about how you don't like Rascal Flatts & I'm not saying they deserve all the praise in the world. I'm saying is, if you really gave them a chance, you might realize their songs have incredible meaning & they're some of the sweetest, most hardworking people in show business. If you can actually listen to their music & open your ears (and mind), there's no way you'd could tell me Rascal Flatts are the worst musical act in any genre. Miley Cyrus & Justin Beiber are waiting....

So True!!
So True!!

The only thing you forgot to mention is how the fans are clearly illiterate morons! Great article and VERY true!

Buller
Buller

I do not believe that you are the right person to be the judge of music. You obviously do not know much when you believe that Rick Springfield was singing about a girl named "Jessie." In the title of the song, it clearly states that it is "Jessie's Girl," not Jessie, the girl...

Hweir22
Hweir22

Congratulations, you've wasted your time and ours with the shittiest article written. Stay home and masterbate in your mom's basement while listening to "good music." Sad. You need a life. Rascal Flatts isn't the most HUGELY popular band for no reason. It's called fans & we ENJOY their music and talent! ;) Youre missing out!

Shandra
Shandra

While the guys are screwing the plethera of hot girls they get on any given night, you and your hand will be sitting there typing these lame commentaries.  Next....

Ryan
Ryan

Youre a jizzbag with no talent. Did mommy and daddy not listen to little boy when he was talking? Poor angry little boy.

ellis
ellis

i normally don't respond to articles like these, since i believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion (and yes, that implies that i am a rascal flatts fan but don't assume i'll be ignorant because of this). however, there is something to be said for checking your facts.

1. dann huff has produced (or co-produced alongside the band) four of rascal flatts's albums, not three.2. rascal flatts do not use auto-tune in any of their songs (and i have absolutely nothing against autotune, i'm just stating a fact).3. american living is not designed by rascal flatts, but was a sponsor for two of their tours, and they are technically no longer affiliated with the brand or jcpenny.

Tabitha
Tabitha

You're just an ignorant idiot. Read the responses to your article, almost all negative feedback towards the bull you are trying to cram down people's throat. Think before you speak!

Jim_3786
Jim_3786

Wow... you are an idiot....but congrats... You can use Wikipedia.You however have no concept of how music is written or produced. If you did you would never draw the ridiculous parallels that you do.You should at least go to a show before you judge ...At least i read your entire article before I judged you.....loser

Fourtyandnine01
Fourtyandnine01

Rascal flatts is the best band to ever grace us with there presence!! Oct 7th will be my 40th rf concert!! Gary can sing his heart out...they have helped me through a lot ib life thanks rf!!!

Lauradawson
Lauradawson

Your an absolute idiot!!! Rascal Flatts happens to be the most awarded Country Group in the last 10years. Their albums have all gone platinum or multi-platinum which in an age when everything is digital says a whole lot. They are one of the most successful touring bands in the last decade as well which in this economy says even more but hey you don't like country music so bash Rascal Flatts. 100's of thousands of fans will still pay for their music regardless of your hateful review.

Carrie
Carrie

Rascal Flatts..... let's see!!!!  They are a hugely successful, award winning, platinum selling Country Group with millions of fans and thousands of people screaming for them at sold out shows!!! Ya they must be doing something wrong!!! Then we have you, and your are....wait who???   

Karly
Karly

I'm sure Gary, Jay and Joe Don are flattered that you took the time to write a column about how much you hate them. *Eye roll.*

They're amazing musicians, and amazing men. They've raised three million dollars for the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, performed for our troops & provided more "wishes" for children involved with  the "Make-A-Wish Foundation" than any other celebrity.I'd love to hear, what have you done for others lately? Nothing, except insult them?

For you to sit behind a computer and insult them for being so successful and, more importantly, for changing lives and being a soundtrack to their fans lives, is truly pathetic.

I'm sure they're laughing all the way to the bank; Millionaire musicians doing what they love, while being married to gorgeous women vs. the broke, jealous journalist. I think we all know who comes out on top.

Evey
Evey

I think Rascal Flatt's are awesome and who are you to try to stop them. All your negativity just makes them and any anyone else stronger. There still on top. So you can just keep wasting your time and energy in writing whatever you like hater.

RonnieH90
RonnieH90

Your life must suck if all you can find the time to do is to write crappy articles about great people who have achieved awesome things. Learn some respect please. Jealousy ain't gonna get you anywhere.

Julie
Julie

Your a classless idiot go get a real job and stop bashing hugely popular successful bands like Flatts who earn more than you will make in your ever so pathetic lifetime

award
award

Wow, it's too bad they're so rich making what you call "terrible rock 'n' roll".  It must really eat at you knowing all they do is laugh at your work . . . and the edit mishaps, ouch, need a band-aid?

Jlandry1
Jlandry1

You are a huge idiot. Let's see you do better. While they are out making money and banging their playmate wives your sitting in your moms basement trashing people cause your just jealous. Get a job.

RiteAsRain
RiteAsRain

WRONG!!!!!  The level of ignorance you possess with regards to artistic aesthetic would be addled by the intellect of even a single-celled life form.  Popularity has NOTHING to do with product integrity.  None would argue with McDonald's business success, yet what accolades has McDonald's received with regards to the delicious quality, nutritive benefits, and/or wholesomeness or its products?  NONE!!!  Would you like to know why McDonald's is successful?  Non-Derivation.  Because the product you get from McDonald's in Toronto is the same as the product you get in Dallas.  That's why shallow people can relate to the safety of of Rascal Flatts.  Because it reminds them so much of things they are already comfortable with.  Sameness. Non-Derivation.  (As opposed to uniqueness, which I'm quite certain means something rather different that you think!)  And as you allude, I do not have to eat at McDonald's, just as I do not have to listen to Rascal Flatts.  Yet the fact remains, whether or not I choose to eat at McDonald's does not lessen the horribleness of their product.

B Rock
B Rock

You sound like so many that have defended NKOTB's music.

Sharpworm
Sharpworm

Personally I think our soldiers are man enough to deal with having their bands insulted on the internet. Is this where all your arguments go? Like you get over charged at Wal Mart and you wave the flag and tell them they made your hubby and some bald eagles cry?

Dictionary
Dictionary

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion but just because you don't like the band doesn't give you the right to trash them"

Actually it does give him the right to trash them, you see, that is what is called his opinion....

True
True

I couldn't agree more. They all totally missed the point. Talent and artistry is not fame and money.

Alan Scherstuhl
Alan Scherstuhl

Thanks for reading before responding, ellis. A couple things:1. I only counted three Huff RF records, but I'll take your word for it.2. Like lots of folks, I use "Autotune" to refer to whatever electronic voice-sweetening software the producers are using these days. (Kind of like I call a tissue a Kleenex.) That's kind of lazy, I'll admit. Also, I have no problem with such techniques when used well. Still, as I have written elsewhere, LeVox's vocals on "Here Comes Goodbye"sound exactly like that unhelpful paper clip from Microsoft Word would if it cut a record on Music Row.3. I never said they designed the clothes. But they wrote a song for the line, did commercials, and were contractually obligated to wear the clothes on stage, which is more than Martha Stewart ever did for K-Mart.

JJ
JJ

I love how people critique music and always attack the artist that they don't like based on claims that they use autotune. Considering the fact that they haven't used autotune in professional music production since the very early 90's, that goes to show how much these morons know about music production. It's also funny seeing a Metallica fan trying to harpoon other bands for using autotune when Metallica actually DID use it, what do people think those straw-sucking sounds in their songs were? The technology was crapped-out back then, all they could use was autotune. Now that technology has greatly improved, the author's just peeved that Metallica is no where in sight to reap the benefits, oh well.

RiteAsRain
RiteAsRain

Drugs and alcohol have helped some people though a lot.  Does that make them good?

Right and you know it
Right and you know it

Brittany Spears went diamond and is even richer than they are too. I guess she is even better than Rascal Flatts then right? By the train of though of most of you commenters, this would have to be true. Artistry, popularity and fame are all very different things. It takes a half intelligent mind to discern that. Brainwashed any?

RiteAsRain
RiteAsRain

Rascal Flatts is doing nothing wrong.  They are financially successful artists.  Artistically worthless, but successful.

Incidentally, for all you non-thinking cro-magnons who somehow have mastered the skill of typing without the ability to discern artistic integrity from marketability, let me say it real simple so even y'all can understand:  RASCAL FLATTS FINANCIAL SUCCESS SHOULD BE APPLAUDED.  THEY HAVE MANAGED TO CONNIVE AN AESTHETICALLY VAPID AUDIENCE INTO DIGESTING THEIR DERIVATIVE DRIVEL. THE POINT IS, THEY ARE EASILY DIGESTIBLE!  AND PEOPLE CONSUME THEIR PRODUCT SO THEY MUST BE GOOD!  That said...  THEY REALLY TRULY ARE JUST AWFUL AS ARTISTS.  Undeniably bad.  It's okay to be wrong and like them.  Just know that you are what you are: Artistically ignorant. 

Karly
Karly

Alan,

I'd still like to know why you singled out Rascal Flatts in this article? What makes you believe they're worse than Miley, Beiber, Taylor. Lil Wayne, etc?

Big Bad Brad
Big Bad Brad

 Yes, there is no question regarding Flascal Ratts being financially successful. This is due to the fact that there are millions of "pop" music lovers. I'm of the same opinion as you regarding the "Artistically Worthless" comment. Everyone has an opinion of who (in there mind) is great or who sucks. That will always be a debate. But the FACT is, Flascal Ratts is a "pop" boy band. They play "pop" music. It's played on all the "pop" top 40 radio stations. It ain't country. No shape or form. Never will be. The typical Flascal Ratts fan is also not country. They are a "top pop" fan. I'm sure they have all the latest "pop" mp3s in there cute little Ipods by other "pop" artist such as kelly clarkson, adele, katy perry, lady gaga, lmfao, train etc. Oh, and of course all of Flascall Ratts songs too.

Alan Scherstuhl
Alan Scherstuhl

I actually enjoy Taylor Swift, whose music I often find urgent and affecting! A while back, I wrote that she (like all great popular musicians) matches something true in her to something true in her audience and then sets it off like fireworks. I hear and feel nothing personal and vital in RF's songs.

(As for the others: Miley and Beiber are kids' stuff I doubt will be around too long, and Lil Wayne's latest is pretty awful, but lots of his earlier work connects with me, at least at the beat level.)

I find RF's vocals histrionic, its songs generic, and its production a stiff stew of old pop played more uptight than it was the first time around. It sounds to me like someone spliced together Def Leppard and the soundtrack to The Bodyguard and then put 'em in a pair tighty whities. That said, I'm happy to see that so many people feel moved to defend the Flatts. It would be worse to think that this music that's everywhere hurt everyone as much as it does me. Y'all keep doing y'all's thing.

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