By Geoffrey Rowlands
Having a number one single is nothing new for American country music star Thomas Rhett. The 27-year-old Valdosta, Georgia-born singer, songwriter and musician has registered eight pole positions on the US Country Airplay chart, one of which also took premier place on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. But despite the enormous popularity of his music, Thomas had never previously enjoyed a chart-topping album.
His previous LPs, 2013’s It Goes Like This and 2015’s Tangled Up, achieved identical listings of number two on the Top Country Albums chart and number six on the Billboard 200. But his newly released third album, Life Changes, has done the double. It debuted at number one on both charts.
“It’s probably the most personal record I’ve ever written,” Thomas revealed. “The songs are very autobiographical and kind of all over the place as far as sounds and production go. I’m very excited for it to come out and my fans to respond as they have.”
Life Changes could hardly be a more appropriate title. Thomas married his childhood sweetheart, Lauren Gregory, in 2012. The couple recently welcomed their first baby, Ada James. But she was their second child. Earlier this year, they adopted an 18-month-old Ugandan orphan, Willa Gray.
“Lauren found Willa when she visited Uganda with the non-profit organization 147 Million Orphans. We had to overcome a mountain of red tape and legal documents, plus more than a dozen visits to Uganda, but it was wonderful to finally get her home to Nashville.
“We’d actually given up on trying to have our own baby. We thought we should devote our time to Willa when she was really young before we added to our family. So, Lauren’s pregnancy came as a surprise. Having two such young children at the same time wasn’t really in our plans but we feel so blessed to have them both. It just means life will get a little crazy for a while.”
Full name Thomas Rhett Akins, he is the son of renowned country music singer and songwriter Rhett Akins. Despite growing up in the music industry, Thomas broke a promise to his mother when he entered the profession.
“My parents divorced when I was nine. My mom always believed the breakdown of their marriage was caused by my dad being away on tour so often. She didn’t want the same kind of thing to happen to me so made me promise to go to university and get a regular job.”
Although Thomas studied communications at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, he had no idea what he might do if his working life was not to be spent in music. After three years at Lipscomb, he dropped out of school to become a songwriter.
“The hardest part was telling my mom. She wasn’t happy. I got the full ‘why did we pay all this money for you to go to college’ thing, probably just like most any other parent would have said. But I did at least have a job. I’d been playing in clubs while I was at college. A Big Machine label executive saw me and offered a publishing deal to write songs.”
Unsurprisingly, Rhett Akins was fully supportive of his son’s career choice. “My dad wanted me to follow my heart. I’d learned to play drums when I was a child and actually performed on stage as part of my dad’s backing band. I’d also been in a band when I was in high school. Dad knew music was the only thing I wanted to do.”
Such was the quality of his songwriting and the demo recordings of his songs that the publishing deal soon became a recording contract. He was signed to Big Machine’s Valory Music Group division.
His first two singles made the Hot Country Songs top 30. But Thomas’ career really took off with his third single, It Goes Like This. The title-track to his album, it became his first Country Airplay chart-topper, hit number two on the Hot Country Songs chart and peaked at number 25 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Not that his songwriting for other artists was neglected. Thomas has written or co-written numerous hit tracks which were not kept for himself. In the week that It Goes Like This first hit number one, Thomas and his father wrote or co-wrote five of the top ten songs.
“It was the first time in the chart history that a father and son were responsible for so many of the top ten songs. The ironic thing is I didn’t co-write It Goes Like This. My dad and his songwriting partners, Ben Hayslip and Jimmy Robins, wrote the song.
“Dad was so pumped when it reached number one. I remember him saying I was meant to do this and we were meant to do this together. I love and admire my dad so much. His words will stay with me forever.”
There have been suggestions that Thomas chose his stage name with the intention that no-one should know he is the son of Rhett Akins. “The people who believe that don’t know my family. I am actually Thomas Rhett Akins, Jr. My dad doesn’t use his full name. He agrees with me that Thomas Rhett Akins doesn’t sound like a rock star name. He shortened it to Rhett Akins while I chose Thomas Rhett because that’s what I was always called as I was growing up.“
“My dad even tours with me. It’s great to be on the road together, particularly when we tour overseas, and get to share the experience of discovering new places. Oh, and my mom has long since forgiven me for becoming a singer. She’s now my biggest fan. My wife has also been in some of my videos so my career is a real family affair.”
Luis Fonsi / Charly Black
Could Luis Fonsi be able to dominate the world’s pop charts again?
The 39-year-old Puerto Rican singer, songwriter and actor hit number one in 47 countries with his reggae-Tron-pop track, Despacito. Undoubtedly aided by guest appearances from Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber, the almost entirely Spanish language dance track was one of the longest-reigning number ones in UK chart history. Only six songs have stayed longer at the summit than the 11 weeks it spent in top spot.
The official music video has been viewed nearly four billion times on YouTube. It will become the fastest to reach that mark as it was to reach two and three billion views. Adele’s Hello still holds the record for fastest video to one billion views.
Luis has now teamed up with Jamaican dancehall star Charly Black, real name Desmond Mendize, for a reworking of Charly’s 2016 smash hit single, Gyal You a Party Animal.
The song is actually now in its fourth incarnation. A remix created by and featuring Daddy Yankee was released last February. Daddy Yankee’s lyrical contributions were in Spanish. The video for this track is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIQ3mIGKquc.
Another Daddy Yankee remix, with predominantly Spanish lyrics, also features Colombian singer Maluma, Panamanian rapper El Boy C and Puerto Rican singer Farruko. This track was released last July. The video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9msHVONZGU.
The official video for Charly Black’s original song has amassed nearly 81 million YouTube views. This is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=K71gPNn52vE.
Now titled Party Animal, neither Charly nor Luis appear in the video for their new version. It features a number of choreographed routines performed by groups of female dancers. The video can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5C–jQjYgw.
English indie-rock quartet Wild Beasts have announced their intention to disband.
Their debut album, Limbo, Panto, was released in 2008. Their second album, Two Dancers, attracted enormous critical acclaim and was nominated for the 2010 Mercury Prize. Subsequent albums, Smother, Present Tense and Boy King, have all proved increasingly popular. The latter two peaked inside the UK top ten.
The band have given no specific reason for their split. The announcement enigmatically stated it came about “for our own reasons and in our own ways.” Fans can at least look forward to what will be their farewell concert tour early next year.
All five Wild Beasts albums are posted in full on YouTube.
Rap star Lil Wayne recently released his latest free mixtape, n Tune We Trust.
Also featuring contributions from Gudda Gudda, HoodyBaby, Jeezy, Euro and Jay Jones, the four songs can be heard and downloaded at www.datpiff.com/Lil-Wayne-In-Tune-We-Trust-mixtape.852132.html. It is one of many Lil Wayne mixtapes which can be found on the datpiff website.
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