“Three Chords and the Truth”
Written by Chase Rice, Jon Nite, and Ross Copperman
Chase Rice’s previous singles, which collectively represented the absolute nadir of Bro Country, set such a low bar that it was nearly unfathomable that he could somehow do worse as he approached his sophomore album.
In all fairness, “Three Chords and the Truth” does represent a marked improvement for Rice. The single doesn’t actively debase or objectify women, trade in pandering rural stereotypes, or sound like it was recorded using the drum loop from a mid-90s Casio keyboard. So, based on those criteria, it’s more worthwhile than “Ready, Set, Roll,” “Gonna Wanna Tonight,” or “Whisper.” Quite the accomplishment, eh?
On its own merits, though, “Three Chords and the Truth” is indistinct. Rice’s limited, adenoidal baritone doesn’t set him apart from the other marginal singers who have been dominating radio for the past five years; he can’t really sing, but, unfortunately, he’s far from modern country’s worst offender. In terms of its songwriting, much like Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here” or Florida Georgia Line’s “Dirt,” the single strives for depth that its erstwhile Bro simply isn’t capable of producing. A juxtaposition like, “Don’t you know, we were raised on the radio/It’s why we drink too much on Friday night,” doesn’t make any literal or figurative sense as-written, while name-dropping familiar song titles (“Anything But Mine,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Ring of Fire,” among others) is always shorthand for substance.
As a co-writer for “Cruise,” Rice demonstrated that he can at least structure a decent hook, and “Three Chords and the Truth” does make effective use of the natural meter of its language in its chorus: “‘Copperhead Road’ and ‘Mama Tried’/I could sing along ’til the day I die… For a second we’re bulletproof/We get lost in a song or two/The world don’t move, and all I need is you/And three chords and the truth.”
Those aren’t bad lines by any stretch. But the song still pales in comparison to Sara Evans’ single of the same title and, moreover, against a recent hit by Blake Shelton (“Every Time I Hear That Song”), which was already a dumbed-down rehash of Trisha Yearwood’s “The Song Remembers When.” Thematically, this song has already been written as real country poetry, and Rice simply can’t match it.