Song Review: Thomas Rhett ft. Riley Green, “Half Of Me”

“Half Of Me” would like to like this song. The other half would really like to stop talking about the country music meta.

With songs like “Die A Happy Man” and “Marry Me,” Thomas Rhett was one the artists defining the genre’s sound in the mid/late 2010s (his frequent odes to his wife were a precursor to the Boyfriend country trend). More recently, however, his star seemed to have faded somewhat: He’s still releasing chart-topping singles (although his latest release “Slow Down Summer” only made it to #2 on Billboard, snapping his #1 streak at twelve), but in the popular consciousness he’s fallen behind artists like Thanos and (sigh) Morgan Wallen, and has gone from a leader to a follower in Nashville (so much so that he pivoted to new material in the middle of a double-album release). Nowhere is this more evident than in his new single “Half Of Me,” the second single from his sixth album Where We Started. The single is undeniably catchy and even gets a few things right, but at its core it’s a mindless, pointless sequel to “Beer Can’t Fix” that goes to great pains to check every box in the current meta, from the vaguely-retro sound to the cliché tropes to the unnecessary feature artist (this time it’s Riley Green, who’s been missing—but not missed—since “If It Wasn’t For Trucks” crashed and burned in 2020). It’s a song whose sole purpose is to have you turn your brain off for three minutes, and it simply doesn’t justify its existence.

I’m hesitant to call what we’re hearing on the radio right now a traditionalist revival (ask Midland or William Michael Morgan how well the last one went), but the genre seems to be leaning slightly in that direction right now, and Rhett has jumped on board with both feet. There isn’t a whole lot to this mix and what’s here is exactly what you expect, but at least the pieces are used effectively. The retro electric guitar from “Country Again” is back to open the track and provide it with a foundation, the combination of an acoustic guitar and mandolin provide a bright and relaxed feel to the sound, a steel guitar fills in nearly every gap between the words (although a more-modern electric axe handles the bridge solo), and the mix of real and synthetic percussion (yep, Grady Smith’s favorite snap track is here) is unobtrusive and stays out of the way of the writing. The result is a sound with a chill, optimistic vibe with a decent groove, exactly the sort of thing you’d be listening to while sipping on something alcoholic. In other words, the production isn’t the problem here, and it proves that the labels “meta” and “quality” need not be mutually exclusive.

Vocally, there isn’t a lot to say about Rhett’s performance: The song doesn’t make any major technical demands of him, and he breezes through it without breaking a sweat. Still, a relaxed performance is exactly what the song needs to feel believable, and Rhett’s provides enough charm and charisma to allow the listener to sense his peaceful easy feeling. Unfortunately, it might be a bit too chill for its own good: Instead of giving the user a sense of relaxation, it give them the sense the narrator is irresponsible and doesn’t actually care if things gets done or not. In contrast, the second performance here raises one big question: What the heck is Riley Green doing here? He plays the same role as Rhett and he doesn’t do anything to set himself apart in any way, so why on earth would you put together two artists that overlap this badly? (Given that Green is four years removed from his last Top 10, it’s certainly not for star power.) You get the feeling that he’s only here because the powers that be think you have to have a second artist on your track to get on the radio, or because Big Machine wants to use Rhett to salvage their investment in Green’s career. The redundancy is unnecessary and is more of a distraction than anything else, and Green should have been given his own song to sing.

As for the writing…frankly, it’s a leftover track from the Cobronavirus era that’s so formulaic that it feels like it was written by an algorithm. While the chores facing the narrator are more immediate and smaller in scale than the ‘ignore everything!’ mantras in 2020, the crux of the argument is the same: Abdicate your responsibilities and drink a beer instead. (Honestly, the procrastination is a bit more inexcusable here because the tasks are the direct responsibility of the narrator. No one else is walking through that door to mow the lawn or fix the fence.) The “both halves want a beer” hook is laughably weak, the imagery is boilerplate and overused (of course the mountains are blue and the truck needs washing), and the Alan Jackson name-drop is beyond forced in the second verse (and given that the song is mostly chorus, it only feels like half a song). We’ve heard this tale a hundred thousand times before (including from Rhett just two years ago), and it’s honestly hard to find a lot to say about a song that says so little.

“Half Of Me” isn’t the worst booze-soaked nihilistic song in the world; in fact, with its atmospheric production, it might be one of the better examples of the group. However, it feels like it’s trying too hard to cram itself into the current mold, with writing that is unimaginative and repetitive and vocal performances that are laissez-faire at best and extraneous at worst. Both Thomas Rhett and Riley Green are capable of much more than following the crowd and pitching shallow escapism, but the genre demands that its artists follow the script or hit the road, and even someone with Rhett’s track record is not immune from the pressure. There’s absolutely no reason to tune in here, and while half of me wants to see the good and the potential in this song, the other half has already forgotten it exists.

Rating: 5/10. You’ve wasted enough time on songs like this; there’s no need to throw good time after bad.