Sure, it helps when your dad is Rhett Akins. Growing up with a successful country singer songwriter to help show you the musical ropes and make introductions is invaluable. But at the same time, it brings a lot of expectations. Through two albums, Thomas Rhett managed to turn those expectations on their head and create his own brand of crossover country.
In just four years since his debut record, the Big Machine Label Group artist created a tour de force, headlining his own tour and earning a reputation as an outsider from the inside. He’s certainly become the cream of the crop of his bro country class (which includes folks like Cole Swindell, Dustin Lynch, Justin Moore and Brantley Gilbert). Thomas Rhett suddenly finds himself nominated for awards with superstars like Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley.
It definitely didn’t come without the usual “that’s not country music” controversy, similar to Sam Hunt’s meteoric rise. But his throngs of adoring fans certainly don’t seem to care what you call it, and neither should he. From heartfelt ballads to small town anthems, let’s take a look at the top 10 Thomas Rhett songs through his brief but impressive career.
His debut album in 2013 It Goes Like This included several No. 1 hits on the country airplay chart. This song near the back of the pack was not one of them. But the rocking tune resonated with his fan base and became a favorite, largely thanks to the unapologetic embracing of Rhett’s very, very normal middle class white boy upbringing. He adds plenty of self-referential lines, and though he’s not doing anything particularly unique for the time period, he turns what some could see as a bit of a slight into a calling card. Plus, he wrote the tune with the acclaimed Jay Joyce, who also produced the song (which explains the cool textures in the song).
“Get Me Some Of That” marks Rhett’s second No. 1 single and his fourth single off his debut album. Though getting a No. 1 is certainly a huge milestone in mainstream country, getting the second assures that it’s not just a “flash in the pan” success, and that’s precisely what this song did. It established Rhett as the boyish charmer of bro country with an infectiously catchy shotgun lyric.
Written by Jaren Johnston (from The Cadillac Three) and Luke Laird, “The Day You Stop Looking Back” is a beautiful change of pace for the usual light-hearted and party heavy Rhett. It’s a simple message, but an important one to hear every now and then, no matter who it comes from.
“Beer With Jesus” actually went to radio in September 2012 off Rhett’s debut EP. The song made it to the top 20, but it hit No. 1 on the “bubbling under” chart and helped establish Rhett’s name as a songwriter. And it certainly shows Rhett’s bloodline is ultimately rooted in traditional country.
“Craving You,” which is featured on Rhett’s latest album, Life Changes, once again shows his desire to create crossover aesthetics. Heavy on 80s synth sounds and Duran Duran-esque pop vibes, the song really shines with Maren Morris’ subtle but sturdy harmony. Written by Dave Barnes and Julian Bunetta, there’s nothing revolutionary about the lyrics, but they all fit the package of Rhett’s evolving sound perfectly. And it also gave Morris her first part of a No. 1.
Rhett re-released a deluxe version of Tangled Up in 2016 after the massive crossover success of another song on this list. All it did was propel bonus track “Star Of The Show” to No. 1 status again, making it his 7th No. 1 single at the time. Worth mentioning: he wrote the song with Ben Hayslip and his dad, Rhett Akins.
It’s hard to deny the title track off his debut album as anything less a than a well-crafted pop country smash. His first No. 1 single and a double platinum song, “It Goes Like This” skyrocketed Rhett’s name. And it was probably a nice paycheck for his dad, who co-wrote the song along with Jimmy Robbins and Ben Hayslip.
Another song off Tangled Up, “Playing With Fire” features Jordin Sparks and, though it never received the single treatment, became a huge hit with fans. Rhett eventually released another version of the song featuring Danielle Bradbury on the deluxe edition of the record. Both singers perform admirably, but what makes the song so good is its stronger lyrical depth and mega pop ballad style (something that, honestly, Rhett doesn’t normally shine at).
Another extremely catchy tune, “Crash And Burn” was written by Chris Stapleton and Jesse Frasure. The song features a bit more of a “doo-wop” vibe and showcased what we now know is Rhett’s desire to stretch his crossover boundaries in every way possible. It became his most popular song to date, until…
The cross-genre smash hit that inspired a Nelly version on pop radio, “Die A Happy Man” completely took over the radio waves in 2015 and 2016. It won the ACM Award for Song of the Year and the CMA Award for Single of the Year, truly establishing Rhett as an heir to the country superstar throne. The song was co-written with Sean Douglas and Joe Spargur and was inspired by his wife, Lauren, who also appears in the music video.