Thursday, January 10th, 2019

Thomas Rhett – Sixteen

“‘Cause when you’re sixteen and somebody tells you you’ll be drinking wine with your wife at home at 25, you’re gonna believe them…”


Alfred Soto: I shuddered when I saw the title — years of songs by bros about beer and the women who are supposed to bring them, you know. Instead, “Sixteen” depicts how a bro’s adolescence memories make him soft at the knees. So I’m relieved. 

Crystal Leww: Country music is a genre obsessed with nostalgia and the good old days, whatever that means, and millennials are a generation obsessed with nostalgia. “Sixteen” is a song that points out the irony of it all: So many of us spent so much of our lives just wishing that we could be a little bit older, hit that next milestone, open up a new level of freedoms that were not afforded to us at the time. I’m guilty of the same – I spent so many years staring up at the bedroom ceiling just wishing I could be anywhere but Texas. Now, I have an odd fondness for it all, not necessarily a willingness to go back, but rose-tinted glasses for what it felt like. 

Ryo Miyauchi: The most truthful part of “Sixteen” is 15-year-old Rhett’s reply to his father — “I ain’t green like some ol’ 10-year-old” — that outlines the enormous gap in maturity that seemed to exist from one age group to the next when I was also that young, even if two teens were only different in age by a year. “Sixteen” operates in that similar logic with three- or four-year increments of life divided tremendously in tone from verse to verse. The comfort in following one predictable life narrative is a make or break, but Rhett at least couches that comfort in an equally sweet melody and sentimental personal nostalgia.

Thomas Inskeep: This is the kind of “remember when”/look back song that Kenny Chesney does effortlessly, and better than anyone else in contemporary country. That includes Rhett, whose voice doesn’t have the gravitas required for a record like this. The lyrics are kind of cheap and thrown off, too.

Nicholas Donohoue: I am thankful Thomas Rhett decided to end this slow march of things will get better at age 25, there were some serious moments of FOMO flashbacks that were edging up. In the osmosis of EDM and Country blending their traits, this is probably the best definitely a country song marinated in EDM juice, and even then it isn’t great. It has enough of that traditional, clever song premise and buildup and the music is dialed back even if it still issues out its wall of noise, simple melody lines, and campfire chorus of voices.

Tim de Reuse: The halcyon days of a privileged youth are described with such a forced, slimy nostalgia and through such specific tropes that the fiction of the whole thing is laid bare; as with much post-9/11 country, it’s marketing a false memory, pining for a more carefree time that simply didn’t exist for most demographics. Besides, if you look back this fondly on your teenage years, I can’t trust you as, like, a human being.

Edward Okulicz: The umpteenth hit from Rhett’s Life Changes album is also its best. Each little vignette has something that jumps out at me — the image of Rhett’s father (a fairly successful country singer) teaching him to drive, the rhyme of “perfume” with “curfew,” hell, even the way I keep inserting Eric Church singing “Springsteen” over Rhett singing “sixteen.” must be the product of some universal nostalgic trick that Rhett’s tapped into as well. Ultimately the message is that happiness is always over the hill until it isn’t, whether you’re fifteen or eighteen or whenever, and that’s not an especially wise message, and this isn’t an especially wise song, but it has a lived-in fondness that I find appealing.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Growing up, I never really had this mentality that things would get better as I got older. But I’m 26 now, and I’d like to think that I’m finally past my quarter-life crisis (God, please let that be the case), so I currently identify with this notion of adulthood being better than one’s youth. Getting older sort of just happened without me noticing, too. And at the very least, “Sixteen” gets credit for depicting the unceremonious nature of maturation.

Anthony Easton: There is this little trend, where a person’s life can be told via a set of writerly vignettes–Alan Jackson has done it, and Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, and Tim McGraw. All of these writers are slightly out of fashion, and Rhett is very young (although the son of Rhett Akins, he literally learnt how to do this kind of thing at his daddy’s knee.) I love the slickness of this, the weird yearning that seems both anonymous (the phrase “jetting off to Vegas”, how he rhymes “boy” with “radio”), and highly specific (the bar named Cotton Eyed Joe, the exact flavour and brand of chewing tobacco). He has written better and more specific songs, but the low-key pleasures of his work, how it moved from a low-slung pleasure to a tight depicter of domestic scenes, from a young kid talking about sex to a young man who sings about dogs and wives and babies, manages to be both an exacting ode to upper-middle-class nostalgia, an historic unleashing of other people’s nostalgia, and a note to his own mature development as an artist.  There are reasons to hate this, but it is clever enough that I can’t really. 

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One Response to “Thomas Rhett – Sixteen”

  1. masterful subhead

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