I wouldn’t have thought a vacuous shill like Blake Shelton could actually sell out any more than he already had, but he did, with this, easily the worst Bro-Country album of 2013 (at least if you don’t consider Justin Moore’s Off the Beaten Path Bro-Country). Granted, Shelton had been a fairly respectable, almost Neotraditional Country act back in the early 2000s, but that’s just a distant memory now, and even back then he was never one of the top-tier acts in the genre. There would be no shortage of worse Bro-Country albums in coming years (Chase Rice’s Ignite the Night, Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes, and Luke Bryan’s Kill the Lights, to name just a few), but at the genre’s actual peak of popularity, there was pretty much nothing worse in it than this.
I’ll say one thing for this album…it’s the first thing Shelton had released in years to inspire any emotional response other than boredom. Unfortunately, those other responses are generally disgust, revulsion and the desire to do serious physical violence to the singer. The big hit from the album, “Boys ‘Round Here”, is one of the most freakish songs in the entire Country genre. Country songs that attempt to Rap are nearly always disasters, but from its opening lines (a stuttering ‘red-red-red-red-red-neck’), this is one of the most surreal attempts at genre fusion I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard people try to fuse Country with Dubstep.
The rest of the album is more normal than that…basically standard-issue Bro-Country formula, just done worse than average…but no less annoying. The most obvious examples of this are the revoltingly sleazy “love” songs “Sure Be Cool If You Did” and “My Eyes” (the chorus of which runs ‘my eyes are the only thing I don’t wanna take off of you’). Then there’s “Doin’ What She Likes”, which somehow manages to be cloying and sleazy at the same time. It’s particularly jarring coming right before “I Still Got a Finger”, which starts out as a rip-off of “Take This Job and Shove It” and then turns into a blatantly insulting breakup song, before climaxing with a horrible spoken punchline.
Particularly offensive is “Country on the Radio”, where Shelton claims Country songs ‘say the same old thing like a broken record’. No, Blake, that’s just the brand of Pop-Country you specialize in…real, Classic-style Country actually has a lot more variety than just ‘pretty girls, pickups and cut-off jeans’, as you so eloquently put it. The album even ends with some Justin Moore-style political pandering on “Granddaddy’s Gun”, something I actually thought even a hack like Shelton would be above doing.
About the only redeeming track on the main album is the touching ballad “Mine Would Be You”, and even it has some questionable lines. In fact, after all the sheer concentrated awfulness of this album, the songs that resemble Shelton’s usual dull-as-dishwater Easy Listening style, like the dull ballad “Do You Remember” or the bland attempt at sensuality “Lay Low”, actually come off as a relief.
Ironically, the two bonus tracks on the deluxe edition are vastly better than anything on the main album. Seriously, these two songs that got buried in apocryphal limbo are better than anything Shelton had done in almost a decade at this point. The genuinely insightful “I Found Someone” even bears a strong resemblance to Shelton’s first and best hit, the Country classic “Austin”. So apparently Shelton can still get material like this, but seems to think it suitable only for padding out deluxe editions, which means he’s an even bigger idiot than I thought.
Like I said, the Bro-Country genre would eventually get much worse than this, but the only year the genre was really a force in the mainstream was 2013. And while Justin Moore’s Off the Beaten Path contained a couple of Bro-Country-esque tracks and was certainly far worse than this, this is still the worst album consisting predominantly of Bro-Country to be released during the genre’s commercial heyday. And that’s more than dishonor enough, frankly, especially when you remember that we’re talking about a genre that is justly reviled at the best of times.