If for nothing else, give Thomas Rhett credit for this: He’s taken an incredibly average set of marginal skills and talent, and made himself into a bona fide arena-level superstar. That in itself takes a level of cunning that your ordinary citizen doesn’t posses. Music Row in Nashville has an implausible knack for making mediocrity seem exceptional.
Thomas Rhett couldn’t make his way out of even the most early stages of auditions for something like The Voice, and would have been laughed out of every song publishing house on Music Row in the 80’s. He can’t dance, and he has the stage presence of a cinder block. He’s so boring, the image consultants at the heart of the Thomas Rhett franchise spend more time pushing narratives and pictures of his hot wife than Thomas Rhett himself.
Yet here he is garnering enough attention to be legitimately considered for one of the precious five slots at the very top of mainstream country, which nearly assure you a #1 any time you release a single and lots of love from the annual award shows.
So we have yet another song comparing love (or lust) to either the effect or withdrawal from alcohol and/or drugs. That’s basically what you have with the new Thomas Rhett single “Craving You.” Here’s what Saving Country Music said about these songs some 1 1/2 years ago in commentary about the song “Relapse” in a Carrie Underwood review:
…just like in Zac Brown’s recent controversial single “Beautiful Drug,” it refries the incredibly-tired “love as drug” lyrical trope.
And yet here it is again. No wonder the listening population for mainstream country cuts across the mind-numbed zombies suffering from the opioid epidemic. Once Music Row finds a formula that works, they can’t stop pushing it, over and over. Some may even say they become addicted to it, as do the listeners. Soon nearly the entirety of Music Row becomes transformed into an assembly line factory conveyor belt, with steam-spewing billows belching out copycat songs that go sliding down chutes delivering them directly to mainstream radio and CMT, until any magic first captured by the original prototype is frittered away from the sheer frequency of the knock-offs that come mass produced afterwards.
Just like the effect of even the strongest of drugs, soon a tolerance becomes embedded in the population, leaving them with little to no pleasure, but still “Craving” the same crap they know is unhealthy for them and causing other adverse side effects in their personal lives. It’s too late though, they’re just another sucker on the vine, not listening to the latest Thomas Rhett single because they want to, but because they have to, extracting little to no true personal enjoyment, while the industry turns a blind eye to how they’re poisoning the population because of the obscene profits they’re pulling from it.
Did I draw that parallel between prescription drugs and poor country music singles out a little too far? Perhaps, but at the heart is the same irresponsibility on serving the public, which is putting profits before making decisions for the good of people. One of the reasons so many turn to prescription drugs looking for a spark to life is because their native culture has been robbed from them and lampooned by pop culture. And what that native culture has been replaced with is things like Thomas Rhett songs which inherently leave one wanting, even if they stimulate a short and pleasurable chemical reaction.
At least “Craving You” was not compelled to lean exclusively on drum machines, or to inject other electronic elements to prove its relevancy in today’s marketplace. It’s fairly organic, relying on a lot of guitar and live drums, even though the drums are heavily gated like an 80’s single that would be featured on Miami Vice, and you can’t find a single pixel of country influence in this composition whatsoever. The lyrics are incredibly formulaic of course, and you could say that Maren Morris should know better than to collaborate with Thomas Rhett, but if you listen beyond her single “My Church,” you would know that’s actually not the case.
This song will be a #1, because it’s from Thomas Rhett. It is not immediately vomit-inducing like Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Backroad” for example, but that’s about the best compliment an enlightened country music listener can come up with. “Craving You” would be fine as a pop song, but you actually need at least a modicum of talent in pop to make it there, and unfortunately, Thomas Rhett just doesn’t have that. So they hoodwink country listeners to hearing it, and like the handful of pills that goes from factory, to pharmacy, to pill bottle, to people’s medicine cabinet, without giving it a second thought, they toss it down the gullet, swallow hard, and never question if there is a better alternative.