It's far too easy to hate Rascal Flatts these days. It's far too easy to complain about the overproduction, the oversinging, the head-bobbing… Lately, it seems like it's just about impossible to say anything nice about the band at all, except that they're giving their fans what they want (even if they're drawing absolutely zero new fans in the process).
Their new single "Why" (listen here) is a whole different story altogether. Either it slipped through the cracks or it's a sign of things to come, but "Why" shows a side of Rascal Flatts that the last batch of radio singles has mostly buried under swelling strings, screaming guitars and squealing vocal histrionics. The lyrics alone are beautiful, with the narrator asking just why a special person in his life had to commit suicide. Perhaps the best line is "Why you'd leave the stage in the middle of a song" — a very striking metaphor. "Who told you life wasn't worth the fight" is also a very powerful line. Overall, the song strikes just the right balance of detail and open-endedness to invoke emotions, not beat the listener over the head or trigger a knee-jerk "emotional" reaction. Even if you haven't been directly affected by suicide, the chorus alone should hit you.
Gary LeVox' voice starts off incredibly soft and emotional, effortlessly slipping into a warm falsetto on the first chorus. Come the second chorus, the song grows much fuller and louder in typical Rascal Flatts fashion, but here, the crescendo is organic and not a ham-fisted, overproduced attempt at drama; Gary just sings a bit louder, he doesn't scream or squeal like he usually does, giving what has to be one of his best vocal performances ever. Even better, there are almost none of the gratuitous "yeah, yeah ooh"s that are also quite typical of Rascal Flatts songs.
"Why" isn't just a future hit from a band that can seemingly take any song to the top of the charts. This is Song of the Year material, maybe even good enough to net a Grammy or two. It's a welcome reprieve from the last few years' worth of blandness that Rascal Flatts has given us, and it's certainly thrilling to see the band pulling off something outside of their usual scope.
You can read the review of their latest album Unstoppable by clicking here.