Behold The Strange, Fascinating Beauty Of RMR’s Viral Absurdity “Rascal”

Behold The Strange, Fascinating Beauty Of RMR’s Viral Absurdity “Rascal”

Yesterday, a very strange video began popping up in my Twitter feed. Nobody seems to know who RMR, the singer behind the song “Rascal,” is. Nobody even knows what he looks like. In the “Rascal” video, RMR wears a ski mask and a designer bulletproof vest. Most of his associates wear ski masks, too. Most of them brandish guns at the camera. But this whole intimidating spectacle is set to a fucking Rascal Flatts song. It’s not easy to cut through the noise and capture people’s imaginations in 2020, but that’ll do it.

“Rascal” is a parody of “Bless The Broken Road,” a classic heart-tugger of a country ballad that’s been around for decades. It’s a warm, spare love song, one where the singer has to consider the twists and turns his life had to take for him to find love. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band first recorded the song in 1994, but it’s best-known as a Rascal Flatts song; they had a huge country hit with it in 2004. Rascal Flatts did the song on American Idol with Carrie Underwood, and they contributed an acoustic version of it to the 2009 cinematic opus Hannah Montana: The Movie. It’s the kind of song that will tickle some memory-sensor in the back of your brain even if you have no room in your heart for gloopily commercial mid-’00s country music.

On “Rascal,” this RMR character pretty much sings the “Bless The Broken Road” melody straight-up, twisting the lyrics to make it a song about escaping poverty and hating cops. RMR sings the whole thing over nothing but piano, and he puts heartfelt grandeur into all those big notes: “Bitches that broooke myyyy heaaaart/ They became hooooes I scaaaamed.” He even sings it in a slightly nasal upper register, sounding a whole lot like Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox. (I’m guessing RMR is not Gary LeVox in an elaborate and offensive disguise, but don’t count the possibility out.) The resulting song — a kind of heartfelt adult-contemporary goon-music ballad — is weird and pretty and oddly effective. And maybe it’s about to become a hit?

RMR has only been on social media for a couple of months. The “Rascal” video, directed by someone simply credited as Gabe, is the only video on his YouTube channel. There’s no information about who he is or where he’s from, though Los Angeles seems likely. The song has only been on YouTube for two days now, and it’s already got hundreds of thousands of views. We’ll see what happens. Check it out below.

Given how quickly this is taking off and getting coverage, it seems likely that RMR is some kind of secret major-label product being given a stealth rollout. But that doesn’t change how weird or fun it is right now.

more from New Music