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The change alluded to in the title of Rascal Flatts' Changed refers to the trio's embrace of self-production of its eighth album, but longtime followers and casual observers alike can be forgiven for thinking nothing is different here. Like any of Rascal Flatts' records, Changed is a smooth machine pumping out arena-country anthems and power ballads, interrupted by the occasional silly novelty or platform-jumping crossover. Here, they're not rubbing elbows with the likes of Natasha Bedingfield -- the British diva who didn't help the group break through in the U.K., but their "Easy" did reach the U.S. Adult Contemporary Top 20, which admittedly isn't foreign territory for Rascal Flatts -- and they've toned down the brightness that gave 2010's Nothing Like This some cheer, a subdued shift that's evident even on goofy roof-raising party tunes like "Banjo" (or "Friday" on its expanded Deluxe Edition; regrettably, it is not a Rebecca Black cover). Changed marches to a deliberate beat, the tempos shifting only slightly when things get either insistent or gentle, the group layering its harmonies heavily on both the soft and loud numbers, giving every cut a candied gloss. Taken in one sitting, this can be too sweet, but that's largely due to that unwavering beat and how it makes everything blend together, with the melodies not being quite strong enough to give the slickness definition. Which isn't to say that there aren't songs that announce themselves, in ways both good (the cool assured adult contemporary pulse of "Hot in Here") and bad (the repetition of "She's Leaving" is an instant irritation), but Changed always errs on the side of caution. And perhaps that says a lot about Rascal Flatts: when left to their own devices, they take fewer risks than usual. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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