Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words:
Is Blake Shelton in trouble? The man who posted seventeen Billboard #1 songs in a row and was sharing the summit with Gwen Stefani just two years ago has now scored disappointing peaks with back-to-back singles, barely reaching the Top 10 with “Minimum Wage” and then missing it entirely with the atrocious “Come Back As A Country Song.” (I expect to stand alone when I call one of Shelton’s songs junk, so suddenly having the rest of the world agree with me was a little weird…) After being a no-doubt A-lister for so long, it’s starting to look like Shelton is being cycled off the radio in favor of newer, more-interesting artists, making his single choices more critical than ever as we move on from the Body Language era.
So what do we get from Shelton’s latest single “No Body”? Unfortunately, we get a song that reeks of indecisiveness, one that feels caught between competing ideas on every level and unsure of what exactly it’s supposed to be. It’s a song that tries to be everything and winds up being nothing, and it fails to justify its existence as a result.
Let’s start with the production, which struggles to add a 90s flair to its sound due to its basic, boring arrangement. I probably overuse the phrase “guitar-and-drum mix” in my review, but that’s literally all you get here: A simple drum line with minimal punch, a couple of electric guitars, and that’s it. (The video credits a Wurlitzer, but if it’s there, you can’t hear it.) The guitar tones seem to capture that neotraditional sound, but without the other pieces that made that era stand out (fiddle, steel guitar, piano, mandolin, etc.), this sound is far more modern than retro. Worse still, the slower tempo (it feels like “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” played at half speed) and unrelenting, unchanging volume level (usually there’s some musical flourish on the chorus, or at least it’s a little louder) cause the song to feel surprisingly monotone and keep it from building any momentum or energy as it progresses. Throw in a groove that’s only kinda-sorta catchy, and you’re left with a bland, lifeless mix that just plods along from start to finish. It’s just not that fun to listen to, and that’s a big problem when an artist is facing a relevancy crisis.
Shelton seems to be caught between two approaches as well, and he ends up trying to split the difference with a performance so devoid of emotion that you want to check him for a pulse. With a song like this, there are two potential directions that you can take it: You can keep it light and make it fun/playful, or you can turn on the charm and make it sexy. Shelton, however, opts for a questionable third approach: His delivery throughout the song feels heavy and unemotional, giving us the impression that he’s really not that excited about spending time with the other person. (He also sounds more than a little off at the start of the song, like he can’t decide whether he should sing or talk-sing the lines, and his tone falters as a result.) You get the sense that Shelton’s trying to convey the depth of his feelings, but it doesn’t come through his performance, and the listener doesn’t feel much of anything as a result. He just doesn’t convince the audience to stay engaged with the track, and they’re checking their watches waiting for the song to end before it’s halfway through. Not a great outcome when your popularity is waning…
The lyrics here are stuck somewhere between Boyfriend country and the genre’s continual attempts at sex jams, as the narrator tells their partner that they wouldn’t want to do anything with “no body but yours.” I get that the writers were trying to play off of the expected “nobody but you” phrase (heck, Shelton & Stefani released a song with that exact title in 2020), but I really don’t like how it plays out—it focuses the song on the physical connection instead of the emotional one, and makes the song feel sleazier as a result. The imagery is surprisingly sparse and unsurprisingly boilerplate: Drinking, dancing, references to better songs/artists…heck, even taking off the other person’s dress feels played out these days. It’s just an incredibly weak song, one that’s overreliant on the listener to fill in its many gaps with their own experiences and overreliant on Shelton and the producer to make it feel meaningful or heartfelt. Unfortunately, both the singer and the sound fail miserably in their duties, and we’re left to clean up the mess.
The sad truth is that “No Body” is no good, and is not a great choice to break Blake Shelton’s current losing streak. The production is monotonous and bland, the writing is uninspired and unmoving, and Shelton really doesn’t sound like his heart is in the music. I get the distinct feeling that Shelton and his team are at a crossroads, staring down the potential death of his mainstream career but unsure of what move to make to try to stave it off a while longer. Personally, I’d put Shelton on the growing list of artists that need to take a step back from the Nashville grind and figure out what they really want to do, whether it be continuing to chase trends and relevance or use the creative freedom they’ve earned to say “Damn the torpedoes!” and blaze their own trail. Whatever he chooses to do, Shelton needs to do something, because simply dumping lifeless tracks like this one on the public will end well for nobody.
Rating: 4/10. Next!