Rascal Flatts

Still Feels Good

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Proving that nice guys do indeed finish first, Rascal Flatts fought off all challengers with their fourth record, Me and My Gang, turning it into the biggest-selling album of 2006 that wasn't High School Musical. Me and My Gang wasn't a smash hit because it was risky; it was a smash hit because it was friendly, appealing to as broad an audience as possible, the very qualities that Rascal Flatts has turned into a badge of honor during the course of their immensely successful but low-key career. Few bands have had such success without quite being noticed: the trio is so cheerfully average, they never seem like stars, nor do they seem recognizable even after regular CMT rotation and stacks of rewards. Such near-anonymity works for the band and helps give their music a universal appeal, and if that approach has been resoundingly popular, well, why mess with success? Rascal Flatts nearly acknowledges as much with the title to their 2007 follow-up to Me and My Gang, Still Feels Good. After all, if the formula ain't broken, why bother messing with it? And the band doesn't mess with it at all, unless the very vague rap of "Bob That Head" -- more Toby Keith's "Let's Talk About Us" than Cowboy Troy -- could be counted, for even the Jamie Foxx cameo on "She Goes All the Way" slides by relatively unnoticed. Foxx's inexplicable presence is the most overt signal that Still Feels Good is more pop than country, a criticism leveled against Rascal Flatts for some time now, and one they keep shrugging off because they do adult pop quite well. They continue to do this easy, smooth sound well, but increasingly they're doing it without distinction. Everything on Still Feels Good sounds fine -- the uptempo tunes are bouncy without being sprightly, the ballads are sweet without being too sappy -- but few songs jump out and grab attention. The first single, "Take Me There," is a gently pulsating pop tune, "Here" has a surging chorus ideal for both arenas and offices, "No Reins" vaguely sounds like Pat Benatar's "Shadows of the Night," "Bob That Head" rocks the party mildly, "Help Me Remember" is a textbook power ballad, while "It's Not Supposed to Go Like That" reveals a semblance of a social conscious. All of these ever so slightly stand out from the rest, but they also all settle into a soft mosaic of smooth pop that is as soothing as a warm bath. It's something that may be cozy, but it's not quite memorable, but based on the album's relentlessly relaxing vibe, Rascal Flatts isn't all that concerned about being anything more than easygoing guys next door. In other words, they're once again the most normal stars in either country or pop, but Still Feels Good suggests that there's not only a fine line between ordinary and dull, but that the group is on the verge of crossing it.

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