Album Review: Blake Shelton, Based On a True Story…

Blake-Shelton-based-on-a-true-story

Blake Shelton
Based On a True Story…

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Bear in mind that Blake Shelton isn’t just another country singer.  He is the reigning Male Vocalist of the Year for both the ACM and CMA Awards, as well as the CMA Entertainer of the Year.  Due to his position as a judge on “The Voice,” he is one of the most recognizable country stars around.  Therefore, his new album Based on a True Story… isn’t just another album release.  It’s an event.  It’s a highly anticipated occasion.  So how does Shelton kick off this record?

Backwoods, legit, don’t take no s***
Chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit.

Those words of wisdom come from “Boys ‘Round Here,” the opening track and one of the worst country songs of recent memory, even by the relative low standards of country-rap.  Sexist, crude and jam-packed with country stereotypes, it’s an embarrassment to everyone involved, including Shelton, the songwriters (Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson and Craig Wiseman) the Pistol Annies who sing background vocals and even the guy who says “red red red red red red red red redneck.”

That’s the low-water mark for the album, though it’s certainly a harbinger for what comes after.  For all the references to country songs and country living scattered throughout, it’s largely pop music, with some R&B and adult contemporary elements thrown in the mix.  In other words, it’s an ideal country album for people who like Shelton as a famous personality but don’t really care for country music.  The two most traditional-sounding songs (as well as two of the best songs) are available in the download- only deluxe version, so anyone who wants to avoid anything sounding like actual country music can easily do so.

There are plenty of other country singers who are employing pop sounds to reach a wider audience, so Shelton isn’t alone in that regard.  The problem with True Story is that the songs are so pedestrian and unmemorable. “Sure Be Cool if You Did” and “My Eyes” are essentially the same song about picking up a woman, though at least the cheesy pickup lines are different. “Small Town Big Time” is essentially the same song as half of Jason Aldean’s back catalog – the bad half – with some Auto-Tuned verses thrown in for

good measure.

“Country on the Radio” deserves special mention because it attempts to justify all of the hokey, redneck-centric songs that have clogged up the country charts for the last few years.  Why are they all about dirt roads, pretty girls on tailgates and homemade wine?  Because that’s how country folks roll, of course.  That’s not exactly a compliment – country songs are so simplistic and shallow because country people really are that simplistic and shallow.

“I Still Got a Finger” is one of the few instances where the feisty Blake Shelton of old – before he became famous outside of country music circles – makes an appearance.  Still, it has the feel of being forced, as if it was made to highlight Shelton’s smartass, uncensored Twitter personality without being too rude for a large audience.

“Grandaddy’s Gun,” written by Atkins, Davidson, and Bobby Pinson, is one of the highlights of True Story.  Without pushing one side of the gun control debate like an Aaron Lewis or Charlie Daniels would do, Shelton sings about the sentimental value of an old battered shotgun and demonstrates that he is still an outstanding country singer when he wants to be.  He does the same on “Mine Would Be You” from the dependable Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Deric Ruttan.

Shelton infamously said in his “old farts and jackasses” interview that kids don’t want to listen to their grandpa’s music and that country music has to evolve in order to survive.  If that’s true, then this is the evolution of country music. It’s slick and mainstream-friendly, with Top 40 appeal.  It features pop songs about how wonderful country living is. It’s occasionally raucous, but not enough to offend a focus group. It has some traditional country elements, but those are on album tracks that can easily be skipped over or not downloaded. If you happen to remember the great Blake Shelton songs like “Ol’ Red” and “Austin,” you’re clearly too old for this new country music.

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16 Comments

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16 Responses to Album Review: Blake Shelton, Based On a True Story…

  1. Tom PNo Gravatar

    Very well written review. It frustrates me when people listen to newer country lyrics and assume that country people and fans are as shallow as these lyrics suggest. I am not that old but I do remember when country songs were filled with great common sense. I don’t know why, but my hope is not gone. I just have a feeling that a change is comming to country music and hopefully for the better. I honestly can’t remember when I have last turned on a current country radio station and made it past 3 songs, but I hope one day I can again.

  2. I only listened to this album once. Overall I found it pretty blah, and I thought “Boys ‘Round Here” was unbelievably stupid. At any rate, it definitely looks like the “old” Blake Shelton will not be returning anytime soon. Very good review, Sam.

  3. TomNo Gravatar

    …oh dear, another not so good blake shelton album. then again, why breakin’ the habit of a lifetime in todays 99 cts. download-world. it wouldn’t make sense for him, would it?

    of course, this it not entirely blake shelton’s fault. his label knows by now: his albums are dogs and his six-pack eps watery like bud light. therefore, it pays to jump on the next best song and make that a hit and eventually take a batch of those, tucker them together and call the result a “greatest hits” album. he certainly can live with and from it.

  4. bobNo Gravatar

    Since you described the awful “Boys round here” as “country rap”, I googled TK’s “I wanna talk about me”, a song I liked written by Bobby Braddock. The wiki article I read said that the song was originally slated for Blake Shelton but his label thought it was too risky of a debut single. I guess nothing is too risky for BS now.

  5. DevinNo Gravatar

    Definitely a letdown of an album. I didn’t have high hopes, really. But still. From the artist that I considered my favorite for so long, I always expect a little more.

    Boys ‘Round Here is just whatever. Most every album has a song like that. I’m not bothered by it like others, and find it catchy, in a trashy, tasteless way.

    I was gradually getting really excited as I heard the first verse of Country on the Radio. I almost tricked myself into thinking it was going to be a really self aware song that addressed the current song-writing trends. But nope. Should have known. The fact that it was used as a premise for ANOTHER country list song was just deflating.

    Mine Would Be You and Granddaddy’s Gun were good, as mentioned. And Still Got a Finger really was the only hint of the old BS attitude that seemed to be present on past albums (even Red River Blue, which was pretty bland, had more attitude and personality).

    Beyond that? I can’t really remember any of the other songs. I’ve listened to the album probably 10 times, and I can almost guarantee I could only name about 7 or 8 of the tracks.

    I just want the old Blake back. I want him to stop doing The Voice. I want people to go back to being overly sensitive to the things he says on twitter. Whatever it takes to get him back to making the type of country music he made earlier in his career. It probably won’t happen, but a kid can dream.

  6. He needs Bobby Braddock back, but I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon, since his high success came after he switched to Scott Hendericks. Unfortunately, that’s when I started liking his music less and less.

  7. IgnatiusNo Gravatar

    Good review. It’s a thoroughly mediocre album. I don’t hate it, but I sure don’t love it. Mine Would Be You, Granddaddy’s Gun, and Ten Times Crazier were the only songs I added to my collection for repeat plays.

    I don’t hate Boys Round Here as much as some do. To be honest, I think it’s funny. It’s catchy and I smile when I hear it, so I guess it’s effective enough. But yeah, it’s pretty tasteless and worlds below Blake’s potential.

  8. Motown MikeNo Gravatar

    @LeAnn

    YES, Bobby Braddock needs to get back to Team BS real soon. His best material was easily when he was with Bobby.

    After having read this review and a great one it is Sam, I went and listened to the album starting with the bonus tracks. When the first track “Frame of Mine” ended I felt like I wanted to cry. Why? Because I knew what was going to come on the rest of the album and that it was only going to get worse, and it did. Other than that track, “I Found Someone” and “Granddaddy’s Gun”, everything else was of poor quality and no interest to me.

    We’ve got to start a Twitter account about this serious problem. #BringBackBraddock

  9. KarlyNo Gravatar

    I loved Blake’s early material; it’s a shame he’s become a parody of himself.

    There’s nothing I hate more than bland country music with over-the-top stereotypes of trucks, hot girls, tobacco, and country living. That’s the sort of thing that causes people to stereotype country music in the first place.

    It’s laughable to me that Blake believes he will move country music forward with the kinda crap he’s releasing now; he’s helping it decline, not improve.

    “Boys Round Here” is probably the worst single he’s ever released, and everything since “Nobody But Me” has been mindless radio fodder.

    I think Blake has one of the better voices in country music among the males, but his material has taken a huge nosedive since he became a “superstar.”

    Oh, Blake. So much potential.

    Oh, Blake.

  10. DylanNo Gravatar

    I agree that this is a pretty poor album. However, everyone should take a listen to the two bonus tracks…they are actually pretty good and not like the rest of the album at all.

  11. VickiNo Gravatar

    Have you noticed the “MEN” of country music are all singing about muddy, trucks, rednecks, south, beer etc I am truly sick of it. Then you have great songwriters like Miranda, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe etc even Carrie and EVEN Taylor with the pop sound. These girls can creatively write (some better than others) AND it’s GOBS better than another stupid truck, south, beer song.

  12. I’ve only heard “Boys ‘Round Here,” but the review of this album does not surprise me. It’s precisely what I would have expected from Shelton after the OFAJ comment.

    Not that that justifies it, mind you…

  13. lisaNo Gravatar

    LOVE THIS CD. BOYS AROUND HERE IS FUN SONG. THIS CD IS SO GOOD,I LOVE ALL THE SONG

  14. CountryKnightNo Gravatar

    Shelton is a star and Josh Turner’s latest single doesn’t even chart. Country music has gone to the dogs.

  15. Motown MikeNo Gravatar

    What are the odds that Blake released “Frame of Mine” as a single? Less than 10,000 to 1?

  16. JJ JonesNo Gravatar

    One of the worst country albums I have ever heard. Burn it.