Song Review: Rascal Flatts, “Back To Us”

It appears that Rascal Flatts has officially entered Kenny Chesney territory: Every song they sing sounds like something they’ve already sung. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit their ceiling a bit.

After seventeen years in the business, Rascal Flatts is experiencing a resurgence in popularity with their latest album Back To Us, with “I Like The Sound Of That” and “Yours If You Want It” both topping Billboard’s country airplay charts. The title track has now been selected as the album’s third single, and while it’s a decent choice, it feels like it lacks that special comething to make it truly memorable, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard them sing this song before.

Sonically, the production is exactly what you’d expect from the group, with an acoustic guitar carrying the melody through the first verse and slowly passing it to an electric guitar as the song progresses. A steel guitar floats around in the background provide some spacious atmospheric sounds, and the (real) drums wait until the first chorus before jumping in. The mix does a nice job managing its energy level, slowly building momentum during the verses and releasing it with some punch on the choruses, and does a nice job complementing the writing by striking a serious tone yet also maintaining a slightly-hopeful vibe. While it does give off a “same old Rascal Flatts tune” feeling, you can’t complain too much when it’s put together this well.

Vocally, Gary LeVox gives the kind of strong, charismatic performance we’ve all come to expect, accentuated by his distinct tone (well, it was distinct until Dan + Shay showed up). While the song isn’t a great fit for his voice (it keeps him trapped in his lower ranges on the verses, and consequently his voice lacks a bit of power), it at least turns him loose on the chorus and lets him exercise his impressive range, and the band’s backing harmonies are as solid as ever. A song like this requires a competent singer to capture the narrator’s dual nature while still making them an empathetic character, and LeVox pulls it off with aplomb.

The lyrics tell the story of someone who discovers that his lifestyle has caused their relationship with their significant other to fall into disrepair, and pledges to make things right and get “back to us.” It’s not the most original idea (it brings to mind Jason Aldean’s “Why” or Lonestar’s “Let Be Us Again”), but unlike its predecessors, it at least offers a cursory explanation for the narrator’s fall from grace (being “gone too much,” not communicating enough). The line about the other person “waking up in a stranger’s bed” (it refers to the narrator’s changes, not infidelity) is kind of clever, but it loses its charm after about the fourth time it’s repeated, and it makes the entire song feel repetitive (even though it’s no more repetitive than anything else on the radio today). It’s nice to see the narrator admit their wrongdoing and announce that they will do better in the future (while actually sounding believable, thanks to LeVox), but I’d still mark the writing as the weakest piece of the track.

Overall, “Back To Us” is a decent song, but I’d call it a slight step back from “Yours If You Want It.” Fans of Rascal Flatts will certainly enjoy it, and everyone else won’t mind hearing it when it pops up on the radio, but I don’t see it sticking in peoples’ minds for too long either.

Rating: 6/10. It’s worth a listen or two to see what you think.