Welcome to The Singles Bar, a review series focused on new single and song releases.
Do not be fooled. This is Florida Georgia Line-level of faux-sentimentalism. That doesn’t make it inherently terrible, even if the hackneyed list of tropes are as vanilla as a drippy ice cream cone on a hot summer day. God bless him, Chase Rice is trying, and that at least makes up for such dumbsterfires as “Whisper” and “Ready Set Go.” He might not be he most talented of singers, but his delievery on “Three Chords & the Truh,” a guitar-heavy, sappy reflection on his journey so far, is sturdy. Cowritten with Jon Nite (Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Michael Ray) and Ross Copperman (Brett Eldredge, Luke Bryan), Rice goes for the glossy, pop-handed tribute, in lieu of offering significant heft.
“There’s a Tennessee two-lane sky, shades of Broadway bars at night, makes you wanna get a little too close to a Cali girl watching windshield satellites,” he paints on the opening line. “It’s the soundtrack to our lives. It’s the only reason why a kid from Carolina would drive to Nashville to chase a dream without a dime.” There is a gentle honesty to his vocal, true, even if it feels he’s chasing his own tail most of the time.
The chorus is as stereotypically anthemic as you might imagine, drenched in that plucky underdog-wants-to-rule-the-world spirit. “It’s why we drink too much on Friday nights. Raise our hand in the neon lights. ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and a ‘Ring of Fire.’ I could sing along til the day I die. Why we break up, fall back in love,” he declares. “Why we roll around in the bed of a truck. Why we all stop when we hear that one, and she whispers turn it up. For a second, we’re bulletproof. We get lost in a song or two. The world don’t move and all I need is you and three chords and the truth.”
Since name checking legends or classic hits is on trend, deduct two points. It’s glaringly obvious how forced it is. Why not build a visceral, empowering narrative on real, grounded and heart-strung details specific to his own experiences? That’s the problem with much of mainstream country: stories are so watered down to appeal to everyone that they ultimately mean absolutely nothing to no one. Sure, the first verse details Rice’s decision to move to Nashville on a whim–and that’s where the peg of the song should have been placed. Instead, we get a lukewarm pop-rock fizzled-out jam which does nothing but reuse that famous Harlan Howard quote. It feels tremendously exhaustive and half-cooked, in much the same way as FGL’s “Dirt,” an opportunity to show skin-deep emotion before plummeting back into gross misogynistic fluff pieces. No one wants that.
In his span of deep cuts, Rice has shown surprising potential, as with songs like “Room 205” and “Every Song I Sing” from 2012’s Dirt Road Communion. Even his otherwise, downright-nauseating 2014 album Ignite the Night has tiny slivers of hope with “Carolina Can” and “Jack Daniels and Jesus” (easily the best song of his career). Rice, get back to that, and then we’ll talk.
“Three Chords & the Truth” is a step in the right direction, but he’s got miles to go before he transforms from a Music Row robot into his own artist. The song samples his new album, Lambs & Lions (out Sept. 29), which he promises will showcase an outpouring of his most authentic self.
Grade: 2 out of 5