Monday Hero #1 – Blake Shelton

And just like that, the weekend’s over.  Bummer. Good vibes, however, are here to stay. Let’s start this week off with a guy who at this point is synonymous with today’s country music: Blake Shelton.  

Blake has been a front runner in the Nashville music scene for over fifteen years and has seen elevated success not just in the recording studio but in mainstream media as well. With eleven studio albums released and countless awards received, Blake has established himself as one of the golden artists of 21st century country music and without a doubt one of the more recognizable personalities emerging from the genre.

When it comes to Shelton’s music, you know what to expect.  If there’s one artist that can make you feel equally as comfortable on a boat dock in July as in front of a fireplace in December, it’s Blake.  With his slow-grooving percussion section and clear-cut electric guitars riffs, Shelton’s signature sound combines Midwest twangy vocals with a zen-inducing instrumental harmony.  While the pervasive theme of his songs is generally love, relationships, heartbreak, and loss, he manages to bring a playful attitude to the microphone while addressing such topics.  Even when he’s singing about his recent divorce or the loss of his older brother at the age of fourteen, his strong and comforting voice brings a sort of comfort and solace to such difficult topics.  And plus, every once in a while he’s known to drop the wild card track like “Some Beach”, where he spends three minutes daydreaming about a sandy paradise instead of enduring everyday misfortunes like highway traffic, dentist appointments, and parking lot frustrations. (Safe to say we’ve all been there!)

The release of Shelton’s eleventh studio album, Texoma Shore, this past Friday naturally brings him to the top of the consideration list as Rhythm & Boots’ first official Monday Hero.  Hailing from rural Ada, Oklahoma and in recent years featured as a judge on NBC’s mega-hit reality show, The Voice, Shelton delivers another successful chapter in his impressive musical anthology.  With traditional electric and slide guitar sounds echoing over his characteristically mellow rhythm sections, Shelton’s voice is the dominating factor on each of the eleven, heartfelt tracks.  Thankfully, this new record, as a follow-up to 2016’s If I’m Honest, sounds more like traditional Shelton and less like the experimental and seemingly-forced songs that he released on that record which came out soon after the breakup with his ex-wife, country powerhouse Miranda Lambert. Yeah, his last album?  Not great.  The track “She’s Got a Way With Words” speaks for the rest of the album, so give it a listen (if you’re up for it) and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

As a person and an artist, Blake makes a statement — there’s no doubt about that. Measuring in at 6’5”, he has a stage presence unlike many of his counterparts and sells out show after show while on tour promoting his latest records. Typically sporting a collared shirt, blue jeans, and boots, Shelton is a blast to watch both live in concert and of course on NBC’s The Voice (Monday and Tuesday nights at 8/7c).  Whether he’s showing off his quick-witted sense of humor insulting rival judge Adam Levine (from Maroon 5) or delivering his constructive criticisms to show contestants, he’s always captivating to watch.  Not to mention his being a staple of the program for every season that the show has aired, which clearly speaks to the nature of his entertainment value. (Or maybe it’s because he puts his finger above his head and peer pressures the contestants into picking his team over the others, but either way, he never fails to stir up the laughs.)

Romantically, his new relationship with pop superstar Gwen Stefani has also brought him to front-and-center of press headlines.  While it seems he truthfully does have a big ol’ crush on the former singer of ‘90s group No Doubt, at the heart of it all he’s just a country singer from small town Oklahoma, and he’d be the first to admit that.  To this point he has had a stellar career spanning music and television, and even in 2017, it seems like he’s just getting started.

Let’s take a closer look…

  1. Austin (2001):
    1. If I’m honest, this is one of my favorite songs in country music: it’s poignant and clever, complicated yet simplistic.  And, best of all, it has a key change in the third chorus that makes you want to grab the nearest hair straightener or baguette and sing to Austin at the top of your lungs. From the acoustic guitar picked intro/outro through the full-band chorus, this song is audibly light while being lyrically heavy.  As the story goes, the main character is trying to get over a tough breakup by keeping busy and hitting the town, but he’s never truly over the relationship.  His ex, feels as if it won’t work, until…well, I won’t ruin it.  Listen to “Austin” to find out how it ends up.
  2. Bringing Back the Sunshine (2014)
    1. As one of the deeper cuts off of the album of the same name, this song is textbook Shelton to me.  With a bright and fiery guitar riff that is as close to literal sunshine as I’ve ever heard, this song is metaphoric and literal at the same time.  No joke, if humans could hear UV light waves they would sound exactly like this song, I’m sure of it.  Whether it’s overcast outside or you’ve just had an gloomy day yourself, give this song a listen and it is guaranteed to brighten up your day.  The sonic qualities here make Shelton seem larger-than-life, which is one of the styles that I think he does best.
  3. Honey Bee (2011)
    1. One of Shelton’s most popular songs, “Honey Bee” is as lyrically clever as it is catchy.  This song is nothing but good vibes and pick-up lines as Shelton tries to convince his lover that he’s the yin to her yang and the peanut butter to her jelly. (Well, not necessarily that last one, but he does mention a lot of other pairs.)  Whether you’re cruising down the interstate with the top down or just curling up on a lazy Sunday with your significant other, throw this song on repeat and you’ll feel right at home.
  4. I’ll Name the Dogs (2017)
    1. To close out this session of Monday Heroes, let’s talk about the lead single of Shelton’s latest album.  This track is audibly reminiscent of “Honey Bee” from #3, but with a slight twist.   Now that he’s no longer married to Miranda and has just become the next People magazine “Sexiest Man Alive”* (?), he throws all his cards on the table when trying to convince his lady (Ms. Stefani herself) that they’d make a great pair.  As classic as “Honey Bee” is, the light-hearted and enjoyable “I’ll Name the Dogs” might take the cake for the most Shelton song to ever exist, and I am certainly not complaining.  Well done, BS.  Well done.

Want to learn and hear more?

R&B’s Spotify playlist featuring Blake Shelton.

Also, check out a recent appearance of Blake on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon here. (laughs included!)

And finally, take a look at Blake’s rendition of “Some Beach” from his latest Country Music Freaks Tour, featuring Trace Adkins, Carly Pearce, and Brett Eldredge.

-R&B

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