Single Review: Blake Shelton, "Sure Be Cool If You Did"

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March 11, 2013

SureBeCoolIfYouDid_Blake_SheltonBlake Shelton’s current hit takes a welcome break from the watery nineties rock of “Over” and “God Gave

Me You,” instead going for a light R&B groove with a synthesized hand clap. (It’s anybody’s guess when we’ll see the return of the fiddler and steel guitarist who have been seemingly M.I.A. since circa 2009.) To the single’s credit, this particular sonic backdrop affords some much-needed breathing room for Shelton’s vocals, the quality of which have generally remained consistent even when the song quality hasn’t.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to overcome the heavy air of complacency that hangs over the song itself.  It’s evident in the irritating little cliché phrases that keep popping up throughout the song, as well as in tacky rhyme schemes like “Now you’re standing in the neon looking like a high I want to be on,” and in self-impressed pickup lines like “You can’t shoot me down ’cause you’ve already knocked me dead.”  The plodding verses create a bar meeting scenario that lacks any first-person details more memorable than a “pretty pink lemonade shooter” as Shelton’s narrator romances a nameless, faceless female.  The chorus has an enjoyable melody, but the title hook reeks of stale, forced cleverness.

The single offers neither any substantial listener reward nor a compelling reason to hit the replay button, serving little discernible purpose except to hold Blake Shelton’s slot on country radio while he sees to his judging gig on The Voice.  For a reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, it’s a terrible shame that the music itself is not far more satisfying, and hasn’t been for a long time now.

Written by Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, and Jimmy Robbins

Grade:  C

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  1. JasonNo Gravatar says:

    Completely agree with this assessment. It seems Blake is focusing so much more on ‘The Voice’ that his music is suffering. It’s a shame, because he is talented. This single is just an awful representation of him.

  2. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar says:

    I risk losing all credibility I’ve ever had by expressing my true thoughts on this single.

  3. JakeNo Gravatar says:

    I wanted to hate it especially after the awful opening line but then I heard it a bunch of times and it’s just to catchy to not like. Completely agree with the review though.

  4. Motown MikeNo Gravatar says:

    This is BS, no it really is. This is what Blake Shelton has stooped to these days. This is the music he has decided he is going to record. That is, if he sticks it out with producer Scott Hendrix.

    Can we start a bring back Bobby Braddock campaign? Shelton’s song selection and musical production was at its best when he was working with Braddock. “Austin”, “Ol Red”, “Don’t Make Me”, “The More I Drink”, “Some Beach”, “Goodbye Time”…

    Ever since he has started working with Scott Hendrix as his producer his quality has been, being generous, hit or miss. Producing mostly misses really. “Sure Be Cool”, “Over”, “Drink On It”, God Gave Me You”…sure these are #1 hits, but they are artistic duds that will not withstand the musical test of time. The lyrical value offered up in many of the aforementioned songs trends close to a negative number. One of them border close to being tasteless and offensive; you know who you are. None of them certainly anywhere come close to the selections in his early catalog.

    Let’s get some better BS here. This is personally some of the worst BS I’ve ever heard. The remedy, start an internet coup-de-ta and overthrow the producer to get Bobby Braddock back with Team BS.

    Twitter…#BringbackBraddock? Facebook? How should we start haha? I’m only joking just to be crystal clear and wish no ill-will against Mr. Hendrix.

  5. PaceyNo Gravatar says:

    Totally agree with this review. If it hadn’t been for the R&B sound and Blake strong vocals, I would have given this song an E.

    Blake Shelton was one of my favorite singers and I always see him as one the dark horses in country music. But as of recently, he’s been releasing all these subpar and mediocre singles. Same for this one here, it has a nice hook and cool sound but that’s just it. It doesn’t pop or stand out from the rest of country radio. He make it sound so easy and like a Luke Bryan-ish sound. which is BORING. It’s a shame though, he has such great talent and strong distinct voice.

    I would prefer him to make use of the fame and accolades he has now to release more quality, creative and fresh music.

  6. LynnNo Gravatar says:

    The first line of the song, “I was gonna keep it real like chill like only have a drink or two” made me cringe, and it all went downhill from there. Blake is a gifted vocalist, pity he’s wasting his talent on throwaway songs like this.

  7. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    I thought the song was very boring. I agree wtih the C rating.

  8. VickiNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you for this review. I thought the same things when I heard some of the lyrics “looking like a Be on?” I thought good Lord Blake..it sounds like you are trying to be pop (or TRY to be like Taylor with lots of wordy lyrics)but not lose country and the mix together is well, blah. I am so excited though for the new Ashley Monroe album and Kacey Musgraves as well as hearing that the new Pistol Annies CD will be out in May. To me, poppish girls are voting for the country voiced but sounding pop/rock sounds of SOME of the country men and the real country viewers are looking for the real deal.

  9. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …feels kinda like an arena-rock ballad dips its big toe into a backroads water hole and finding it quite agreeable.

    i find the begining more pleasant than the end of the tune, when the rock elements of the production weigh like a dropped slushy on the country one. so it is only blake shelton’s voice, which sounds fine as usual, that keeps it just about connected to the genre. it comes across quite good on the radio, however.

  10. VickiNo Gravatar says:

    I keep wondering/waiting for the Blake Shelton’s “Tribute to the real country music old fogies” new cd.

  11. PeterNo Gravatar says:

    I think Shelton blows this song out of the water. It oozes a silly optimism. The charming and wistful vocals are deceptively simple and seductive. A lesser singer would sink this surprisingly subtle song. Peppering the lyrics with cliche pick up lines nails the awkwardness of the bar meeting and his urgent desire to take it elsewhere. The sexy groove keeps it from collapsing into camp, and the big and contagious chorus has me beating on the dash every time I hear it. Comparing Shelton to Shelton this song reminds me of “She Wouldn’t Be Gone”, another catchy as hell song Shelton sang the tar out of. Blake Shelton continues to be today’s Conway Twitty, and I am thankful for it.

  12. Noah EatonNo Gravatar says:

    Hey Shelton, would you mind up-ing the ante and releasing better-than-mediocre material again?

    I don’t necessarily expect you to, of course. But it’d “Sure Be Cool If You Did”!!! ;)

  13. Noah EatonNo Gravatar says:

    To springboard on Vicki’s earlier point, this can only possibly be classified “country” not by the sound/music whatsoever, but by the use of lowest-common-denominator cultural descriptors: namely the “Meet me in the middle of a moonlit Chevy bench seat and do a little bit of country song.” line in the chorus, and the protagonist asking the subject to “Let your mind take a little back road…” in the second verse.

    Whether any given song is “country” or not is more often these days predicated on marketing: and when the music doesn’t add up, the reinforced-to-death cultural descriptors are tossed in almost as though you have attended a party, left it, and have returned desiring re-entry and are showing off your neon orange wristband to prove you have already paid the cover. A growing number of paint-by-numbers artists are donning their own neon orange wristbands to get away with being “country” despite not having a studied appreciation for its rich, diverse musical tradition and are decidedly more geared to 80′s rock and/or metal, or Adult Contemporary.

    This is, through and through, a MOR late-90′s, early 00′s Adult Top 40 pop/rock song with a generic Urban Adult Contemporary R&B beat. This is really what “Sure Be Cool If You Did” is musically. It couldn’t be further from country, and the only two reasons this is being labeled “country” is 1) because of Blake Shelton’s already towering track record as a country artist, and 2) the use of reinforced “country” cultural descriptors as I described above.

    In closing, it is self-evident to me that country artists don’t identify with the music so much as its culture and ideology. It’s pretty obvious that’s where the genre is at now when storytelling/balladeering has been severely set aside in favor of non-sequitur cultural descriptors (“Beer! Shotguns! Cornbread! Jacked-Up Tailgates!”) while instruments traditionally affiliated with the genre are used more as flavoring agents and extracts than as actual instrumental tracks.

  14. CountryKnightNo Gravatar says:

    What cliche phrases? Must have missed them.

    However, this song starts poor and never improves. The first line is a sad attempt at trying so hard to sound cool.

  15. PeterNo Gravatar says:

    In June of 1998, Brian Mansfield wrote a short but brilliant piece for “Pulse”, Tower Records’ music magazine, titled: “Soapbox: In defense of mainstream country.” He said,” As far back as the days of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, country music has been largely the sound of Southern whites trying to re-create the pop music of their youth. It was then, and is now, intended to be commercial and a singles medium. More than any other musical form with the possible exception of big-band swing, country was born on the radio and was designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.”

    I share this fifteen year old observation because it was spot on then, and it still holds true today. It will tomorrow as well.

    Once we recognize the futility of clamoring for a return to some pre-fall state of country purity that never existed, we can get on with appreciating music in the moment. It’s really much more fun and meaningful than the hand-wringing, only-if take on music and cultural criticism.

    Mansfield ended his piece with this observation, “You can listen now [to current contemporary country music], or you can wait till your kids buy their retrospectives and then act like you were paying attention. Trust me, it’s gonna happen.”

  16. Motown MikeNo Gravatar says:

    @ Peter

    I think millions of people have already defined a level of country purity. They did so for decades by spending money on the records and live shows of artists like Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, George Strait, Randy Travis, Willie Nelson and on and on. They recognized what they liked and went out and bought it. Often times, on the records they bought and singles listened to included markedly better songwriting that “Sure Be Cool If You Did”. Those records also frequently held themselves to a defined standard of what a country record should sound like with steel guitar, fiddle and on.

    Do you think if Loretta, Tammy or George had recorded material like “Over” and “Sure Be Cool If You Did”, with lyrics adopted for the slang of that time period but without a multi-million dollar marketing machine behind them, they’d be just as successful as they had been? Had they called their Blake-like record country 40 years ago would they have been as successful as Blake today? Probably not. Why? Because there was a defined and accepted purity that existed in country music. A standard that seemed to apply to both songwriting and production.

    Additionally, if there were not a defined purity within the genre, then why do almost all artists start out their careers with a more country sound to there records and then start to lean pop with each album? Country music production generally had a mean. That was, an acceptable middle ground of how country a record must sound for that artist to stick around. All the fly-by-night pop-country singers of yesteryear, the Oliva Newton John’s, Juice Newton’s and company never did amass the commercial success or critical praise of the Tammy, George and Loretta’s of the world.

    In today’s world, it isn’t that country music’s mean (the middle ground for how much country sound must actually be in a country record) has changed by choice. Rather, it has changed by force of hand and a relentless marketing machine. Record label executives and corporate radio tycoons have told their listening audience what country music will sound like. They have manufactured gimmicks and said if you want to listen to “this” then you have to act and dress like “this”. Even if their marketing gimmickry spites years worth of purchasing and listening habits. Those that buck the fray coincidentally still become strong sellers. Easton Corbin, Josh Turner, Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill, etc. have all had critical and financial success in the onslaught of pop music. George Strait, Randy Travis, still touring and selling out shows at large venues.

    At one time it seems, quality song writing with real country instrumentation was marketed over gimmickery and tired cliches. That could still be a channel for success in today’s world if the marketing machine allowed it to be. Sure, there are more people out there that would rather be apart of some manufactured it-factor like Blake, Taylor or Lady A. That’s why those guys and gals are more commercially successful at times. However, those artists are not achieving success as country artists in any fashion. Tammy, George, Lorretta, Randy and those from their breed, they did.

  17. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Peter, in what ways do you feel that Mansfield’s arguments relate to the above review and related discussion?

  18. PeterNo Gravatar says:

    Ben, Mansfield’s comments relate to the review and discussion because he acknowledges the often impossibly heavy mantel of authenticity contemporary country stars are asked to carry, and, perhaps more importantly, just how artificial that standard really is.

    He encourages fans to have the confidence to stand on a coffee table in cowboy boots (thank you Steve Earle)and shout out an artist’s praise in the here and now, without the security and safety of hindsight. Don’t wait for history to validate your opinions or retroactively convince you of something’s significance It’s the opportunity to celebrate instead of lament.

    I still think Shelton nails this song. I know for years artists like George Jones, Vern Gosdin, and Conway Twitty were celebrated for their ability to elevate mediocre songs into something more by their sheer skills as singers. I think Shelton does that very thing with this song. However, because of his un-Twiity-like over-exposure, Shelton garners only passing praise for his vocal skills and is almost made to apologize for his successes elsewhere.

    “Sure Be Cool If You Did ” is not a pandering and patronizing production. I think the song is satisfying, albeit not traditionally, and his singing deserves to be celebrated as far more than generally consistent.

  19. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    There have been instances in which I felt an artist’s performance elevated a song, but I don’t really feel that there’s any saving this particular song. I’ve felt that way about most of Shelton’s releases over the past few years, many of which have also been weighed down by poor production.

    Do opinions change over time? Yes, but it’s not something one can anticipate, so I can only evaluate songs in the here and now according to the way I currently feel about them. There are some current country hits that I do enjoy, and a few that I even consider great (“Merry Go ‘Round,” “Mama’s Broken Heart,” and “Two Black Cadillacs” are a few recent examples), but either way I have to be honest. I don’t think that having the “confidence” to praise current mainstream artists is the issue here.

    Was country music commercial in past eras? Sure it was. Did subpar songs occasionally become hits as well as great songs? Of course. But I believe that country music’s current quality standards are lower than ever before, and that its identity as an art form is under severe threat, and there are many others who feel the same.

    Others may disagree, but I don’t see this song holding up ten years from now.

  20. PeterNo Gravatar says:

    Well said, Ben. Rest assured I have no expectation of any reviewer being clairvoyant. I appreciated the thoroughness of your review and how well it was written. I just happened to disagree with it substantively.

    Obviously, I disagree with you about the quality of Shelton’s latest releases and their production value, particularly this song. I have been a country music fan for over thirty years, so I expect I will make it another ten to find out if you are right or not. I also make no predictions as to where this song will stand in relation to Shelton’s other recordings years from now.

    I just wanted to share here and now how much I thoroughly enjoy “Sure Be Cool If You Did” and hopefully explain a little bit of why I enjoy it so much.

    I would love to have a conversation about how the current quality standards compare to other eras in country music history, and exactly just how strong the identity of the art form is in another time and place.

  21. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    I’m glad you were able to find more enjoyment in the song than I was. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Peter.

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