Song Review: Thomas Rhett, “Marry Me”

(Still waiting for an official YouTube release for this song…)

I’m starting to think of Thomas Rhett the way I thought of Tom Brady early in his career: The Hall of Fame might as well reserve him a spot right now.

Music critics are rarely unanimous in their decisions, but “Marry Me” was singled out by most everyone (including myself) as the best single on Rhett’s latest album Life Changes. Apparently the higher-ups at Valory Music got the message: After Rhett’s last single “Unforgettable” rocketed to No. 1 so fast that you would have missed it if you blinked, the label delivered “Marry Me” to radio as Life Changes‘s third single. The song is surprisingly mature and powerful for a first attempt at a heartbreak song (yes, “Crash And Burn” was technically about a lost love, but it was framed too positively to count), and while I don’t think it’ll reach the heights of “Die A Happy Man,” I’ll bet it comes pretty darn close.

The production here starts small, with a classical piano handling the melody and a subdued drum machine keeping time, and mixes in enough bright tones to create the facade of a sappy wedding song. As the song progresses and the secret is revealed, more instruments are thrown in (guitars, real drums, and eventually an entire string section), and the song slowly builds volume and momentum, reaching an urgent crescendo on the bridge as the narrator debates what he should do before he runs out of time to do it. The mix does a nice job of maintaining sonic consistency while subtly adjusting its tone from sweet to melancholy to not only keep up with the writing, but accentuate and enhance it. It’s easily one of the better sound/lyric combinations I’ve heard all year.

Sad, serious songs are about the last thing you expect from Rhett, but he steps up to the mic here and delivers an earnest, understated performance that might be his best one yet. He does a nice job maintaining the song’s initial head fake until the punch line of the chorus, and while the song mostly keeps his voice in its lower range (where it has a slightly rough edge at times), he gets a few opportunities to climb the ladder and showcase his range. The real key here, however, is how incredibly believable he is: The singer of such classics as “Get Me Some Of That” and “Make Me Wanna” is talking about walking away from a women he desperately covets, yet exhibits enough charisma and sincerity to leave the listener thinking “Yeah, I buy that.” Rhett has successfully moved on from his Bro-Country roots to become a more-conventional superstar, and although we’ll probably still see a meatheaded single or two from him in the future (much like Cole Swindell and “Flatliner”), he’s shown that he’s got enough game to handle deeper tracks like this one.

The writing here is a nice play on all the wedding-ready ballads on the charts right now (“Greatest Love Story,” “I’ll Name The Dogs,” etc.). This track starts out in the same vein, but takes a clever twist at the end of the chorus to reveal that the narrator isn’t the one getting married. While there are certainly enough songs in country music about watching a love interest marry someone else, most of them either focus on a) barging in and confessing their feelings, or b) wallowing in self-pity as they watch the proceedings from afar. Here, however, the narrator not only comes to the wedding to offer support, but explicitly passes on the chance to step in and express his own feelings. It’s a mature, honorable gesture that I haven’t seen in a country song since Tim McGraw’s “Just To See You Smile,” and it’s pretty refreshing considering how many recent songs have handled such scenarios (Old Dominion’s “Break Up With Him,” Jake Owen’s “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You,” Jordan Davis “Singles You Up,” etc.). Pair this kind of writing with suitable production and vocals, and you’ve got an impactful tune that’s instantly one of the best songs on the radio today.

Even among Thomas Rhett’s impressive run of singles, “Marry Me” stands out as one of the best, featuring an excellent combination of sound, singer and writing. Sad songs tend to have a tougher climb to the top than happier ones, but this one is so good (and Rhett’s star is burning so brightly right now) that I feel like a quick trip to the top like “Unforgettable” is the worst-case scenario.

Rating: 9/10. It’s already one of my favorite songs of the year.