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Music / Rascal Flatts

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Left to right: Joe Don Rooney, Jay DeMarcus, and Gary LeVox
Life is a highway,
I wanna ride it all night long,
If you're going my way,
I wanna drive it all night long.
"Life Is a Highway"

A prominent Country Music band known for its slick country-pop production. It was founded in 1999 by lead singer Gary LeVox, his second cousin Jay DeMarcus (bass guitar, piano, keyboards), and Joe Don Rooney (guitar). DeMarcus and LeVox first made themselves known as members of Chely Wright's road band, meeting Rooney after another musician in the band didn't show up.

Rascal Flatts signed with Disney's then newly-formed country music label, Lyric Street Records (a division of Hollywood Records), in 1999. The band led off its career with a highly successful album that produced four Top 10 hits. Next in the series came Melt, which produced their first Number One hit, "These Days." The band's momentum has continued through six studio albums and one Greatest Hits Album for Lyric Street. Following the 2010 closure of Lyric Street, the band was to have transferred to another Disney label, but instead went with the independent Big Machine Records.

The band's sound is quite divisive in country music: although it was always much closer to pop than most mainstream country, they were generally met with positive reception on their first albums. Starting with Me and My Gang, the band's sound has become much more processed and reliant on bombastic guitar and strings, after changing Record Producers from Mark Bright to Dann Huff. With the switch to Big Machine, their sound once again mellowed somewhat, culminating in their abandonment of Huff (except for one track) on 2014's Rewind. Starting in 2018, the band announced that it would be releasing standalone singles instead of full albums... followed in 2020 by the announcement of their retirement. However, their farewell tour was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After Joe Don Rooney's summer 2021 arrest for a DUI, he formally quit the band and Rascal Flatts quietly disbanded.

Rascal Flatts was initially known for a breezy country-pop sound indebted to the then-contemporary Boy Band movement, but gradually shifted toward a more Power Ballad-driven sound on later albums. Many of their songs feature three-part vocal harmony arrangements fronted by LeVox's distinct nasal tenor voice.


  • Rascal Flatts (2000)
  • Melt (2002)
  • Feels Like Today (2004)
  • Me and My Gang (2006)
  • Still Feels Good (2007)
  • Greatest Hits Volume 1 (2008)
  • Unstoppable (2009)
  • Nothing Like This (2010) First album for Big Machine.
  • Changed (2012)
  • Rewind (2014)
  • Back to Us (2017)

Tropes present:

  • As Himself: The band appeared as themselves in an episode of CSI which centered around DeMarcus suffering amnesia after getting shocked by his bass.
  • Band of Relatives: LeVox and DeMarcus are second cousins.
  • Boy Band: The first album tried to cast them in this image: none of them played any instruments on it, and the songs were very lightweight and hooky. The harmonies stayed, but Rooney and DeMarcus began playing instruments on the second album.
  • Careful with That Axe: The Title Scream of "BOB! THAT! HEAD!" It got to the point that some stations actually cut out the intro...however, there's a second title scream near the end...
  • Censorship by Spelling: Used in "Backwards":
    We sat there and shot the bull about how it would be
    If we could turn it all around and change this C-R-A-P
  • Common Time: A surprising number of aversions: "I'm Movin' On," "Feels Like Today," "Skin (Sarabeth)", "Every Day", "Easy" (a duet with Natasha Bedingfield), "Come Wake Me Up", and "Back to Life" are all in 3/4 or 6/8.
  • Cover Version: “Life Is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane.
  • Declaration of Protection: "I Won't Let Go" certainly has shades of this.
    I will stand by you
    I will help you through
    When you've done all you can do
    And you can't cope
    I will dry your eyes
    I will fight your fight
    I will hold you tight and I won't let go
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The liner notes to Rewind credit the production to "Rascal Flatts and Jay DeMarcus".
  • Determinator: The subject of "Stand" is one of these, overcoming an undefined life obstacle and described in open-ended metaphors such as "a picture with a broken frame".
  • Distinct Double Album: Greatest Hits came with a bonus EP of Christmas Songs to coincide with its late-year release.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Their first three albums are more lighthearted feel-good country pop, with the first in particular pushing a more Boy Band image (lightweight hooky songs, none of the band members playing their own instruments). This stands in contrast to the heavier, more Power Ballad-driven sound of "What Hurts the Most" onward.
  • Fake Shemp: When on tour with Sara Evans in 2012, they often had her sing Natasha Bedingfield's part on "Easy".
  • Fan Flattering: "Here's to You":
    It's the girls in the front row singin'
    It's the boys with the wheels that bring them
    Its lighters in the air and you guys up there
    You're the heart and soul and the reason we do what we do
    Here's to you
  • Grief Song: "Why" ponders the suicide of a loved one.
  • Heavy Meta: "Backwards" pokes fun at the Dead Unicorn Tropes of country music by using the old joke about playing a country song backwards and getting one's dog, truck, wife, etc. back.
  • Hidden Track: "Skin (Sarabeth)" was a hidden track on Feels Like Today, done as Loophole Abuse to get around the label's limitations on how many tracks the album could have. A program director accidentally discovered the song and started playing it, causing it to get as high as #38 while then-current single "Fast Cars and Freedom" was climbing. Due to the attention it got, "Skin" was issued as a single after "Fast Cars and Freedom" had peaked, and a re-issue of the album officially added it to the track listing.
  • In the Style of:
    • "Me and My Gang" is a blatant emulation of Big & Rich's sound.
    • The band wrote "Winner at a Losing Game" with the intent of making a song in the style of the Eagles.
  • Insomnia Episode: "Prayin' For Daylight," about being unable to sleep in the wake of a break-up.
  • Lead Bassist: Jay DeMarcus has a number of songwriting and production credits outside of the band.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Same three guys from 1999 to 2020.
  • Loudness War: One criticism of Dann Huff's production style in general: he tends to layer on screaming electric guitars and strings way too heavily, causing Gary to oversing to a sometimes ear-splitting degree just to be heard over all the noise.
  • Lustful Melt: "I Melt," which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Prayin' For Daylight" sounds very bright and upbeat despite the subject matter about someone reeling from the failure of a relationship.
  • Lyrical Shoehorn: "The last sacred blessing and, hey / Feels like today" in "Feels Like Today". Really? That was the best rhyme the writers could come up with?
  • Lyric Swap: In "I Know You Won't", the first chorus says "You say you'll call, but I know you won't." After that the lyric is, "You say you'll change, but I know you won't," showing the situation as even more hopeless.
  • Lyrical Tic: Gary tends to sing a lot of "yeah"s and "ooh"s between words, particularly at the end of songs. And if he's not doing that, he's drawing out the last note melismatically. Or singing "yeah" or "ooh" melismatically.
  • Meaningful Name: Gary LeVox is a stage name, which means "The Voice." His real surname is Vernon.
  • Melismatic Vocals: A common criticism of LeVox is that he really overdoes the melisma.
  • New Sound Album: Their second Big Machine album, Changed, seems to be hinting at this. Many fans consider the Big Machine era a return to form after the critically-derided bombast of their last few years at Lyric Street.
    • Rewind also seems to be an example, as they finally ditched Huff in favor of producing by themselves.
  • Power Ballad: "What Hurts the Most" codified Dann Huff's bombastic style for them.
  • The Power of Love: "Unstoppable" has the lyric "Love is unstoppable".
  • Record Producer: DeMarcus has produced albums by James Otto (his brother-in-law), Chicago, and Kix Brooks.
  • Rewind Gag: "Rewind" is about wanting to "rewind" a special night with a lover just to experience the feeling of doing it again. Naturally, the music video shows this happening.
  • Shout-Out: In "Rewind", there is a line that says he wishes he could "try to talk George Strait into giving us an encore" — a double meaning, as this refers not only the narrator's desire to "rewind" a good night with his girl and do it all over again, but also a subtle plea for Strait to continue touring even after his last tour.
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Gary's fairly US American speaking voice is in stark contrast to his very Canadian singing voice.
  • Signature Style: They have a tendency toward songs that start off soft and quiet, usually with just Gary LeVox's voice and a piano. Then a soft chorus, medium second verse and chorus where the electric guitars join in, and loud, bombastic bridge/final chorus replete with a string section and lots of Melismatic Vocals. LeVox himself has a tendency to end a lot of songs with a falsetto "ooh" or "yeah".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Gary lets Joe Don and Jay share the lead vocal on "Long Slow Beautiful Dance" and "A Little Home". They did likewise for two Christmas releases: a rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" made for a multi-artist Christmas album in 2001, and a cover of "Mary, Did You Know?" nine years later.
  • Stock Joke: "Backwards" is an entire song built around the age-old joke of "What happens when you play a country song backwards?" (You get your house back, your truck back, and your wife back. The song includes those, and throws in your mind, your nerves, your first night in jail, your best friend, and your hair.)
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Some of their songs use this:
    • "Summer Nights" goes up a half-step twice at the end. By the final chorus, it's too high for even Gary to sing, and he noticeably sounds strained.
    • In an odd variant, "Easy" goes up a minor third (C♯ minor to E minor) halfway through the second verse.
  • Undying Loyalty: "I Won't Let Go".
  • Video Full of Film Clips: "Life Is a Highway" features several clips from Cars, on whose soundtrack it was included.
  • Vocal Evolution: LeVox has always had a very high, nasal tenor voice, but for the most part he used it well. Come the Huff era, however, the production became so loud that he had to oversing just to be heard over the wall of sound — his voice would often become a grating, whiny, over-sung squeal that often went off-key. Now that the production has been dialed back down with the move to Big Machine, he's gone back to his original sound for the most part.