Is This The End For Blake Shelton?

Image from People

I may have given up tracking the Pulse of Mainstream Country Music, but I still occasionally swing by the Country Aircheck website to look for songs that should be reviewed. While looking at this week’s report, however, one statistic caught my eye: Blake Shelton’s latest single “No Body” lost nearly 400 spins and exactly 1440 points this week, a clear indication that Warner Bros. has pulled the plug and is ready to let this one go. The final tally for that track is less than impressive: A peak of #17 on Mediabase, #18 on Billboard’s airplay chart, and a rough #25 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs.

Any artist can drop a dud single now and again, but “No Body” represents a continuation of the losing streak that Shelton’s been on for fifteen months now. “No Body” is now his third consecutive disappointing single release, following 2021’s “Minimum Wage” (#9 peak) and “Come Back As A Country Boy” (#12, plus the honor of being the worst song I reviewed that year). His work as a featured artist during that time hasn’t done any better: His late addition to the Zac Brown Band’s “Out In The Middle” didn’t give the song much of a boost (it eventually peaked at #12), and his collab with Brantley Gilbert “Heaven By Then” is currently languishing in the low 40s on Mediabase four months after its release (and was the runner-up for the worst song I reviewed in 2022). While these results aren’t terrible—lots of artists would give their left vocal cord for a single to reach the Top Twenty—Shelton isn’t “lots of artists”: He’s been one of the biggest stars in country music over the past decade, a man who once took seventeen straight singles to #1. What’s going on here?

Well, there’s another number we need to factor in: 46, as in Blake Shelton’s age as of this post. Country stars seem to hang around a lot longer than their contemporaries in other genres, but Nashville is still a young man’s town, and Shelton’s contemporaries are looking a little shaky right now as well. I talked about Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney in my recent review of McGraw’s “Standing Room Only,” but Shelton’s fellow 46-year-old Luke Bryan recently fell on his face with “Up” and only made it to #15 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs, while 46-year-old Jason Aldean’s “That What Tequila Does” snapped his airplay #1 streak and only reached #19 on the HCS chart. I questioned McGraw’s current standing in the genre in my review, and with Shelton seeing similar struggles, it begs the question: Is Blake Shelton, Inc.’s radio run finally over?

There are certainly signs that the end is nigh: In discussing his decision to leave The Voice after its current season ends, he noted that doing “a little bit of nothing [next] would be nice.” He’s also using talking points like putting his family first and kicking back after a whirlwind of travel, sounding a lot like Tom Brady in the wake of his own retirement. It sounds like Shelton is fairly comfortable with his current legacy in country music, and he may well want to leave on his own terms before he gets forced out.

Now, as someone who’s said a lot of negative things about Shelton’s output over the last six-and-a-half years, you might think that I’d be welcoming the idea of Shelton finally heading for the door. Much like with the majority of songs today, however, I’m really not that moved by the idea, and it’s only partially because celebrating people’s downfalls is in poor taste. It’s also because despite the clickbait title of his post, I don’t think Shelton’s time on the Nashville A-list is over just yet, and it’s mainly because his time on The Voice is.

Shelton has been a coach on The Voice ever since the show debuted in 2011, and while it’s part of the reason Shelton became such a major figure in country music, you have to wonder if it’s been dividing his focus and left him struggling to take the pulse of the genre. Shelton seemed to hint at this in a recent interview with People magazine:

“I’m really at a crossroads right now. The country music lane is changing so rapidly, and there’s some really good stuff out there. These young kids coming up, it’s amazing to see the music that they’re making and how creative they are…I’m enjoying watching what’s happening and putting a song out once in a while. That’s another reason that I’m excited to get some time back away from The Voice and concentrate more on, ‘What kind of record do I want to make? Is it going to fit in? Do I care? Do I not care?’ I got a lot to figure out.”

Personally, I’m a little skeptical of this argument: Shelton was the biggest play-it-safe artist in Nashville for a long time, and his move to songs like “God’s Country” and “Come Back As A Country Boy” felt like a direct response to the angst and anger that have been flooding the genre lately. Still, going all in on the 90s motif for “No Body” didn’t work out at all, and there’s no doubt Shelton’s been watching as the Combs and Wallens of the world compete for the country music crown while his own star fades. A Voice-less Shelton is a Shelton that can hyper-focus on a project and bring it to market with the full force of his personality, and one that can stay more in tune with the current vibes of Music City. He may say he wants to spend more time with family, but as Brady’s waffling on the notion of retirement indicates, talk is cheap, and retirement talk is even more discounted. Finally, while “No Body” may have been meant to be a leadoff single, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time an artist has stepped back and changed their approach after a song flopped (see: Dierks Bentley after “Bourbon In Kentucky” crashed and burned).

As much as I hate to say it, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Blake Shelton just yet. I expect him to stay relevant for a while longer in country music, even if he takes a more-relaxed approach to his music. Country artists like Shelton rarely “go gentle into that good night,” instead preferring to “rage against the dying of the light” until they finally get dragged off the stage. Radio may be pushing him to go, but all it takes is one big song to rewrite that narrative, and Shelton will soon have all the time and space he needs to find such a song.

But be warned, Mr. Shelton: I don’t plan on going anywhere either (unless this whole YouTube thing really takes off), so if you’re going to keep making me review your songs, for both our sakes, they had better be good.

Song Review: Brantley Gilbert & Blake Shelton ft. Vince Gill, “Heaven By Then”

Hold on tight folks—this is going to be a weird one.

Blake Shelton is well established as one of the villains of this blog by now, but Brantley Gilbert, despite being one of the most egregious purveyors of Bro-Country, hasn’t managed to rise to that level just yet. Sure, he’s been a part of some seriously awful songs (“The Worst Country Song Of All Time,” anyone?), but his work since 2016 has been mostly mediocre, and hasn’t drawn my ire the way some of his contemporaries have. (Even with “The Worst Country Song Of All Time,” it was a joint venture between Gilbert, HARDY, and Toby Keith, causing the blame to be split between the three.) Now, however, Gilbert’s back with another threesome, this time bringing in Shelton and Vince Gill (who’s still trying to complete his goal of singing with every performer on the planet) for “Heaven By Then.” To be honest, I can’t tell what angers me more about this song: The fact that the group wants to reverse all the changes in the world and return to an idealized (and uninclusive) version of the past, or the fact that these spineless curmudgeons have such a defeatist attitude that they would literally rather die than live any other way. It’s an infuriating combination, and it adds up to one of the worst tracks I’ve heard all year.

Let’s get the big stuff out of the way first: The writing here is absolute garbage. (Did it seriously take seven people to put this drivel together? Oh, and to no one’s surprise, HARDY’s got his fingerprints on this thing too.) I can’t stand this song for two reasons:

  • The narrator here spends most of their time talking about a future world with no dirt roads, loud trucks, overt religiosity, and courteous individuals, and how they hope they never see a world like this. The writers are careful to stick to standard tropes and avoid anything that might get them canceled, but this is the sort of nostalgic “back in my day” talk that people use to claim that everything was better in the past. The implications are clear: Society is changing, certain things and certain people are losing prominence, the speakers don’t like it, and they claim that turning the clock back fifty years or so would solve all their perceived problems. Shelton has trafficked in this sort of backwards discourse before, and it’s no more appealing than it was four years ago. More perspectives are starting to be considered now, and that’s a positive development that shouldn’t be reversed.
  • However, let’s assume for a moment that the speakers aren’t trying to make a broader statement, and are just talking about how the innocuous parts of “country” life are disappearing: NASCAR, farming, fishing, etc. These are things that you could make a compelling case for preserving…except that the narrators simply roll over and wave the white flag, letting their supposedly-cherished way of life get tossed into the trash and declaring that they hope they’re “in heaven by then.” Dudes, if you haven’t noticed it yet, you’re not dead yet! You can still make a credible case for why some of this stuff can be preserved. If you’re really concerned about Earnhardt Sr. and Hank Jr. being forgotten, then tell their story! (Seriously, you can’t blame anyone for thinking “3 is just a number” given the way Austin Dillon’s career has gone.) If you don’t want hunting and fishing to disappear, then show us how great they can be! If tractors being “dinosaurs” bothers you, enlighten us on the importance of agriculture! This lack of conviction is absolutely mind-boggling, and it constitutes a major shift in attitude from both artists because it calls into question everything these two supposedly stand for. As much as I don’t like their narrow-minded worldview, I think I’m even more offended by the fact that they’re content to sit back and watch their world collapse around them. If that’s your attitude, then why are you even wasting our time with this blather?

We shouldn’t go back to the way life used to be, but we don’t have to throw away everything ties to “country” life, and listening to these gutless wonders whine about their problems while doing nothing to try and address them is irritating beyond belief.

Okay, let’s take a deep breath or two and examine the rest of the track. From the names on the marquee, you might expect the production to have a hard edge to it, but instead we get a softer, more-spacious sound, carried mostly by an acoustic guitar while everything else (electric guitars, steel guitars, dobros, keyboards, some of the percussion) is buried in the background under a mountain of echoey effects. (The drum set is an exception to this rule, but even those dial back the volume and don’t pack much of a punch.) The effects cause a small “wall of noise” problem by causing the background elements run together, but the tone here is surprisingly bright for a song that’s supposedly mourning the loss a way of life—in fact, it’s got a surprisingly spiritual feel to it, bringing to mind the sort of semi-uplifting hymn you might sing at a funeral. As undistinguished and forgettable as the sound may be, it meets the minimum job requirements by keeping the focus on the lyrics and inviting the listener to ruminate on them (although judging by my previous rant, said reflection hurts the song more than helps it). It fall squarely into the “okay” category, and it really needed to be better with saddled with such poor writing.

The vocal performances might be the biggest surprises: Gilbert’s calling card is an aggressive, country-whether-you-like-it-or-not attitude, and Shelton has gone to that same well a few times recently (“God’s Country,” “Come Back As A Country Boy”). You expect them to be fervent defenders of stereotypically-rural life, but here they both take a step back and deliver their lines in a measured tone with a hint of sadness, as if they’re saluting a sinking ship (but not raising a hand to bail it out). There are no technical issues here, but both men feel incredibly out of character here, and taking such a passive stance hurts their credibility and makes their characters less sympathetic. They claim to be country standard-bearers, but would just lie down in a grave if it were swept out the door? It’s such a massive contradiction that the audience isn’t sure what to make of the whole deal. (As for Gill, I really don’t understand what he’s doing here: His harmony work is recognizable but doesn’t actually add anything to the song, and his iconic guitar is nowhere to be found.) Both Gilbert and Shelton are stuck in an awkward position all the way around here, and don’t appear to have any story that’s worth selling.

“Heaven By Then” is such a bizarre and confusing song that I feel like I’ve spent half this review arguing against myself (“Wait, so you don’t like their vision, yet you don’t like that they aren’t pursuing that vision?”). However, the one thing that me, myself, and I agree on is that this is a really bad song with a terrible premise that puts everything else in a precarious position: Brantley Gilbert and Blake Shelton argue that they’d rather be dead than try to revive their celebrated way of life, and the producer throws something at the wall that lets the two artists fend for themselves. It’s a bad look for Gilbert, Shelton, Vince Gill, and everyone else involved, and its only saving grace is that my reaction to is was just slightly less visceral than my reaction to Bailey Zimmerman’s “Fall In Love.” If this country turning into “somewhere country don’t fit in” means we get less drivel like this on the airwaves, then I might actually be in favor of it.

Rating: 2/10. Get that garbage outta here!

Song Review: Blake Shelton, “No Body”

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!

Song Review: Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy”

The moment I saw the flames on the single cover, I had a feeling this review was going to be rough.

Remember when Blake Shelton was “the safest artist in country music?” Unfortunately, over the last few years Shelton has been not-so-quietly making a play for Jason Aldean‘s title as the angriest artist in country music, which came to a head in 2019 with his back-to-back atrocious singles “God’s Country” and “Hell Right.” The backlash to the latter track scared Team Shelton back to his bland roots with a pair of Gwen Stefani duets and the forgettable “Minimum Wage,” but he’s going back to this well of grievances with his latest single “Come Back As A Country Boy.” Instead of being the lightweight-but-heartfelt homage to rural life that I expected, this piece of junk is an over-the-top exclusionary track along the lines of “Old School’s In” and “The Worst Country Of All Time,” and its horrible execution weighs it down so much that it may be one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard.

The production is reminiscent of “God’s Country” in the worst possible way: It’s got an ominous, almost apocalyptic vibe dominated by growling guitars that take the mix to a very dark place. After an unsettling opening featuring a choppy string section, creepy synth tones, and a wolf howl (you know, the sort of thing you might start a Halloween movie with), we’re left with a mix filled with minor chords and defined by dark-toned electric guitars and a punchy drum set (there’s a steel guitar here that adds a few stabs here and there, and while it’s a nice touch, it’s tone is noticeably different and clashes a bit with the rest of the arrangement). That fire on the single cover turns out to suit the song’s mood rather well, because scorched earth and bleak, barren landscapes are exactly what this mix bring to mind (which isn’t exactly great marketing for the “country boy” lifestyle). There’s a deep, visceral anger to this sound that is neither justified nor necessary, and it makes the song come across as overly dramatic while also pushing the listener away rather than drawing them into the subject matter. A song like this could easily be set up as pleasant, reverent or even whimsical, but instead this mix snarls at the user and warns them to keep their distance, which I am more than happy to do.

Shelton is a talented, charismatic singer who is capable of great performances, so why why why does he insist on coming across as a grumpy old man telling people to get off of his lawn? While there aren’t any technical issues to speak of (and at least he’s not screaming at us this time like he was on “God’s Country”), there’s still an edge to his delivery that makes it feel needlessly aggressive towards the audience. We get it bruh, you’re all about that country lifestyle—why do you have to get up all in our faces about it? There’s simply no reason to sound this PO’d here, yet Shelton draws a hard line with his words that puts the listener on the defensive instead of inviting them to find common ground. This divisive attitude turns my stomach and turns the audience off, and I can’t fathom why Shelton chose to take such a bleak and angry approach to the subject when there were so many other options available. (Okay, actually I can; more on that later).

The lyrics here are best summed up as hot, flaming garbage, and they fail hard for three reasons:

  • At its core, this is just another “I’m so country!” song, with the narrator going as far as to proclaim that they would never want to live any other way. This means that we’re which means we’re getting slapped across the face with all the same tired tropes: The beer, the trucks, the dogs, the boots, the fishing, the hunting, the Hank Jr. reference…is this really all that “country” has to offer? (Also, that “money has trouble making” line is about as weak an attempt at wit as I’ve seen in a while.)
  • The narrator is the poster child for the exclusionary, “us vs. them” attitude that’s becoming increasing prevalent in this genre, to the extreme that they declare that they would rather be dead than be anything but “country.” (They even claim that they “don’t wanna be born into money,” which I do not believe for a second.) They’re basically declaring that anyone who doesn’t fit this narrow definition of “country” should be scorned and would be better off dead, and I absolutely hate this closed-minded line of thinking. Seriously, what is so bad about other ways of life? Should someone stick a gun in their mouth because they don’t like drinking or fishing? I don’t think so, and insinuating that “non-country” lives aren’t worth living is beyond infuriating.
  • So let’s say you can overlook the first two points and are curious about this whole “country” lifestyle. Here’s what the song offers you:

My back is always breaking, my dogs are always barking
My money has trouble making and my truck has trouble starting
I’m up before the sun, either hauling hay or hunting
My work ain’t ever done, but son, I wouldn’t trade it for nothing

That sounds like a terrible way to live! Personally, I prefer my trucks to be reliable, my back to remain in one piece, and my work to eventually finish while not forcing me to wake up at 4 AM every day. The writing paints country living as a endless cycle of pain and misfortune, which isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of fun. If you’re trying to convince people that “there ain’t no better life,” you’re doing it wrong.

In other words, the people responsible for this drivel (oh, HARDY was a co-writer? Quelle surprise!) need to have their pens taken away until they complete a few more English classes.

Let’s not mince words here: “Come Back As A Country Boy” is one of the worst songs I’ve ever had the misfortune of reviewing. The production is overly dark and ominous, Blake Shelton is unnecessarily angry and aggressive, and the writing torpedoes its own argument that the “country” lifestyle is superior to all others by making “country” sound as unappealing as possible. It all begs the question: Why on Earth would anyone let a song this bad get out into the marketplace?

Back when I reviewed “God’s Country,” I mentioned that “there’s no money in the middle anymore…so you might as well play to your base and project as much defiance and swagger as you can as you declare that your way of life is superior to all others.” That reality has only wedged deeper into our society since 2019, and it’s threatening to split us apart entirely. As dangerous as such an attitude is, pandering to it has proven to be good for business, and thus we have artists like Shelton taking a hard line and stoking the crowd in order to fatten their wallets.

If Shelton is looking make a statement, I think it’s time I made one of my own. Mr. Shelton, there’s someone I’d like you to meet. His name is Michael Ray.


Song Review: Blake Shelton, “Minimum Wage”

Can you call a song “Minimum Wage” if it isn’t even worth that?

I’m on record calling Shelton “the safest artist in country music,” but over the last year he’s also become the most predictable artist in the genre as well, releasing back-to-back kinda-sorta romantic duets with Gwen Stefani (“Nobody But You” and “Happy Anywhere”). However, both songs ended up topping the charts in 2020, so it’s no surprise that he’s going to this well for the third consecutive single (albeit minus Stefani this time) with his latest release “Minimum Wage.” The song has already caught some flak on Twitter for coming across as “tone deaf” in the middle of an economic downturn stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, but I would argue that the song’s real problem is that it’s about as poorly-constructed as a love song could possibly be, and sends a lot of conflicting signals to the listener. For a guy who’s been giving us nothing but love songs lately, you would think he would know better than to drop something like this.

Let’s start with the production, which comes across as far too serious and pointed for the subject matter. The song is primarily piano-driven and backed by an overly-busy percussion line (electric guitars are used mostly in a background/supporting role, which the exception of a tolerable bridge solo), but what really stands out about the mix is its tone and tempo: The piano is dark and dour, and the complex kitchen-sink approach to the percussion makes what is really a midtempo track feel a lot faster than it is. As a result, this song doesn’t have the happy, sentimental feel you would expect from a love song (in truth, the sound seems too clean and sterile for the job). Instead, the mix has an aggressive edge to it, making it feel inexplicably argumentative and attitude-laden, as if it’s daring the listener to question the narrator’s life choices. It makes the song feel like it’s trying to send a message to the doubters in the audience rather than to the narrator’s partner, despite the fact that it directly addresses the narrator’s partner in the lyrics. It drains all of the love out of what is ostensibly a love song, which is the worst-case scenario for such a track.

Speaking of aggressive: Can we all agree that ‘Angry Blake Shelton’ is not a good luck for this guy, and to leave those sorts to songs to artists who can actually handle them, like Jason Aldean or Eric Church? Shelton handles the range and flow demands of the track well, but he loses his vocal tone when he tries to talk-sing (case in point: the “dive bar stage” ending of the song’s second line). The bigger issue, however, is that instead of infusing his delivery with heartfelt emotion and passion, Shelton’s tone is forceful and almost without feeling, emphasizing emphasis over feeling. He doesn’t sound like someone in love, he sounds like someone trying to make a point and win an argument, and much like the production he sounds like he’s trying to convince a skeptical listener of his happiness rather than expressing his affection for his partner. (It also doesn’t help that while Shelton’s first marriage to Kaynette Williams was between “high school sweethearts” and thus likely began pre-fame, he is best known today for his high-profile, power-couple relationships with Miranda Lambert and Stefani, which makes such a rags-to-“riches” song feel a little awkward coming from him, and is probably why it struck some people as tone-deaf.) Shelton has proved on songs like “I’ll Name The Dogs” that he can absolutely sell a love song, which makes his refusal to do so here a surprise, and the track suffers because of it.

And then we get to the writing, in which the narrator declares that despite not have any material wealth, their partner’s love “can make a man feel rich on minimum wage.” The whole “love > money” trope is nothing new in country music, but it’s rarely done this poorly. For one thing, the imagery used to make a point ranges from the blandly generic (apartment feels like a mansion, truck feels like a Cadillac, etc.) to the inexplicably bizarre (what exactly does a million-dollar bill taste like? And why does it matter that the six-pack is on a carpet?). The first verse sets up the story well and even has some decent lines, but the second verse ends up contradicting itself: The narrator claims that “keeping up with the Jones’, it just ain’t my style”…right after they wish for an endless tab and a giant yacht. So which is it: Money or love? Finally, the chorus is not only generic as mentioned earlier, but the ending gets super repetitive and wears out its welcome quickly. These aren’t dealbreakers by themselves, but given that the song gets no support from Shleton or the producer, they simply aren’t able to stand by themselves.

“Minimum Wage” isn’t that far off from a decent song: A couple more drafts in the writers’ room and a better gameplan in the vocal booth and producer’s chair could have made this at least slightly tolerable. It got none of this treatment, however, and what we’re left with is an awkward, off-putting mess that targets the wrong audience and fails to draw in listeners. It’s easily the weakest of Blake Shelton’s current love-song triumvirate, and simply doesn’t justify its existence in a world that already has his previous two songs (not to mention John Anderson’s “Money In The Bank”). Shelton remains a major star and isn’t in danger of irrelevance just yet, but when stuff like this, he isn’t getting back in my good graces just yet.

Rating: 5/10. Time is money, and this song isn’t worth either.

Song Review: Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani, “Happy Anywhere”

Well, at least this sounds like a love song for a change.

Regular readers of the blog know that Blake Shelton has become somewhat of a punching bag around here: I declared his two 2019 singles “God’s Country” and “Hell Right” to be two of the worst songs of the year, and his early-2020 collaboration with romantic partner Gwen Stefani “Nobody But You” drew nothing but a “meh” from me. Despite my ambivalence, Shelton and Stefani topped Billboard’s airplay chart in early May and are still draining spins from Mediabase long after going recurrent, so Shelton’s crew apparently figured “why mess with a good thing?” This brings us to “Happy Anywhere,” the second straight Shelton single to showcase Stefani (try saying that three times fast) and the leadoff single to whatever project he commits to next (Fully Loaded: God’s Country was more of a compilation, and he’s on record saying he’s doesn’t really want to make more records). So…can you simply ignore Shelton’s new single, or should you actively try to keep your distance? For once, I don’t think either is necessary: “Happy Anywhere” is pretty much “Nobody But You, Part 2,” but the framing is much better this time around, making it a passable love song that isn’t going to leave much of an impression when it’s over.

The production is the biggest and most-noticeable upgrade from “Nobody But You,” whose heavier, darker, and more-synthetic arrangement made it feel like the exact opposite of a love song. In contrast, “Happy Anywhere” actually feels happy, creating a lighter, brighter atmosphere that brings far more fun and optimism to the table. The key is in the arrangement: The electric guitars are pushed deep into the background, melody-carrying duties are given to an acoustic guitar, the support roles are filled by plentiful steel guitar and a decidedly non-token banjo, and the drums are played with a lighter touch so as not to weigh the song down. The result is a more-traditional mix similar to “I’ll Name The Dogs,” featuring a lot of warmth and texture and letting the narrator’s joy at being with their partner shine through. This is a much better approach to backing a love song than than the “darkness = depth” tactic that’s dominated the genre lately, and it’s a sound I wouldn’t mind hearing more of in the future, whether from Shelton or anyone else.

Despite my incessant whining, there’s a reason Shelton has hung around this long: He’s got a smooth delivery, easy charm, and enough charisma and personality to connect with his audience. (Why he continually chooses to misuse or not use them is beyond me…) There’s an earnestness to his performance that lets him slide easily into the narrator’s shoes and share his feelings with audience, and his technical skills remain as solid as ever. Interestingly enough, his chemistry with Stefani is also much improved here, despite the fact that she’s stuck in the same low-harmony role and mostly sounds the same as she did as “Nobody But You” (there don’t seem to be any vocal effects/filters applied here, so it’s likely a case of addition by subtraction on that front). All in all, I’d say contented Shelton is the best version of him: He gets in trouble when he starts drawing lines and making incendiary statements, and is most convincing when he keeps on the sunny side of life.

The lyrics here are probably the weakest part of the song simply because they’re the most-generic of the components. The story of a partner making someone want to settle down is an old trope in country music, and this song doesn’t deviate from the usual formula: The narrator was a rolling stone, but the other person’s beauty has eclipsed all the sights the narrator might see in the world, making them proclaim that “I could be happy anywhere with you.” Everything from the sights (“city lights, southern stars,” “northern lights,” the Telluride sky) to the turns of phrase (rolling stones, winding roads, the lack of grass growing under the narrator’s feet) is cliché at best, and the second verse person/scene comparisons are heavily reminiscent of Chase Rice’s “Eyes On You” (although this song is much less clumsily-constructed than Rice’s). The best I can say about it is that the writing avoids leaning too far into the sappiness of the topic, and leaves enough hooks for Shelton to work his magic and elevate the track to something that’s moderately listenable.

I wouldn’t call “Happy Anywhere” a good song, but it’s a decent song with a bit of emotional attachment to it, which is the best thing I’ve said about a Blake Shelton track in almost three years. It not only marks an improvement over “Nobody But You,” but generates a lot of questions over Shelton’s future direction: Is this sort of production an outlier, or a harbinger of things to come? Will “Happy Shelton” stick around, or will he go back to grousing about “Old Town Road” and shouting at us what “country” really means?  Will Gwen Stefani become a regular contributor to Shelton’s songs? There are a lot of unanswered questions here, but the fact that we’re even asking them is a good indication that Shelton did something right for a change.

Rating: 6/10. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s worth a few spins to see what you think.

Song Review: Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani, “Nobody But You”

This song is ultimately and utterly forgettable…which qualifies as the nicest thing I’ve said about a Blake Shelton song in over a year.

Just as their are acts that I can’t help but put on a pedestal every time I hear them (Midland, anyone?), there are certain artists that I rip to shreds every time they pop up on my radar. The honorary president of this group is Blake Shelton, who I haven’t given a score above a five since September of 2017 (not counting his feature on Garth Brooks’s “Dive Bar”), and whose last two singles “God’s Country” and “Hell Right” were prevented only by HARDY’s ineptitude from being my worst two country songs of 2019 (as it was, they were second- and third-worst).

Now, I know darn well that Shelton doesn’t give a flying you-know-what about what I think, and I was admittedly in the minority when it came to “God’s Country.” The backlash to “Hell Right,” however, was a lot more universal, and the song ended up limping to a stunning #18 peak on Billboard’s airplay chart. (I would have lost a lot of money betting that “Hell Right” would have a longer shelf life than “Dive Bar.”) It was a decisive upset by quality over celebrity on the order of Titans vs. Ravens, and given how quickly this genre can kick an artist to the curb, this showing probably frayed a few nerves over at the Team Blake headquarters. The response was a predictable one: After taking some unexpected risks with his last two singles, the safest artist in country music scurried back to the safe side, teaming up with girlfriend (and occasional Voice opponent) Gwen Stefani to release “Nobody But You” as the third single from his recent Fully Loaded: God’s Country album. The song is a trend-friendly, paint-by-numbers statement of devotion, and while it’s not as sleazy as other Boyfriend country tracks, it’s a far cry from being interesting or meaningful either.

It blows my mind just how simple the production is for this track. It’s basically a spacious electric guitar playing the exact same riff through the same I-vi-IV chord progression over and over (even during the chorus, although it gets pushed into the background by other guitars) with a mixture of real and synthetic percussion keeping time. (The song teases with a few random notes of what sounds like a steel guitar, but they’re few, far-between, and hard to distinguish from the rest of the background noise.) The minor chords gives the narrator’s plea a sense of urgency (they’ve got to marry this person now before someone else moves in), but the constant oscillation between the major and minor chords keeps the song from generating a consistent atmosphere, and the listener isn’t sure whether to feel upbeat or downcast when the song ends. On the whole, this is an inoffensive-but-bland mix that doesn’t take a stand in either direction, and it simply passes in one ear and out the other.

I rarely say anything good about Shelton, but I’ll do it here: He (along with Stefani to some degree) is pretty much the only thing standing between this song and the gutter. We’ll talk about the writing in a bit more detail next, but on paper these lyrics are just as pushy and self-centered as what you’ll find in “Kinfolks” and “10,000 Hours.” Yet this song doesn’t feel nearly as cheap or slimy as those, primarily for two reasons:

  • Shelton, frankly, is twice as talented and charismatic and Dan, Shay, Bieber, and Sam Hunt put together, and he brings enough earnestness and believability to the table to make the narrator’s claims feel more like a long-term commitment than a throwaway pickup line that isn’t worth the paper it’s not printed on.
  • Stefani and Shelton do not have terribly good vocal chemistry (her harmony vocals make him sound more robotic than anything else, especially when she has to drop into her lower registry), but her mere presence ties the song to the couple’s real-life relationship, which carries more weight and makes the song more believable than if Shelton had been paired with a different artist.

Couple this with Shelton’s solid technical skills (good range, smooth flow, great tone, and enough power to get the job done) and you’ve got an artist that can elevate even a song that has no business being elevated. He’s not in Brett Young‘s league, but he’s certainly better than the average country act in 2020.

The lyrics are the sort of grumble-worthy stuff that you would expect from a Boyfriend country track: The narrator has met another person that they just have to be with, and their relationships options are officially limited to “nobody but you.” As I mentioned before, it’s the sort of my-way-or-the-highway attitude that burns a hole in my soul, chock full of lines that range from generic:

I don’t wanna live without you
I don’t wanna even breathe
I don’t wanna dream about you
Wanna wake with you next to me

To subtly aggressive:

Wanna say it now, wanna make it clear
For only you and God to hear
When you love someone, they say you set ’em free
But that ain’t gonna work for me

News flash, bro: It doesn’t matter if it ain’t gonna work for you; relationships are a two-way street in which the other person has just as much of a say as you.

Beyond the annoying narrator, there’s not a lot to say here: The song is light on detail (what exactly were “all the wasted days” wasted on?), light on wit (it’s about as straightforward and predictable as it can get), and light on anything that can grab and keep the audience’s interest. The only reason the song doesn’t irritate me more is because I lost interest in listening halfway through it.

“Nobody But You” is just another Boyfriend country song, which means it’s so uninspired and frustrating that it takes everything Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani have to elevate it the level of forgettability. Its sterile, cookie-cutter sound and outright lazy lyrics. It’s a weaker, watered-down version of “I’ll Name The Dogs,” and even though Shelton and Stefani make this a better song than your standard Boyfriend country fare, it’s still one of the weaker songs on the radio right now.

Given Shelton’s recent releases, I suppose I should be happy that this song constitutes a step in the right direction. However, for an artist that’s as capable as Shelton is, it’s too small a step for my liking.

Rating: 5/10. It’s not really worth your time.

Song Review: Blake Shelton ft. Trace Adkins, “Hell Right”

“Hell Right?” More like “Hell No.”

By now, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever like a Blake Shelton song again. While I stand by my review proclaiming his last single “God’s Country” as one of the worst songs I’ve heard all year, I was in the minority on this issue, as the song became a massive hit that even cracked the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. After getting that kind of reward for that level of awfulness, I was more than a little nervous about what was coming when Shelton announced his latest single “Hell Right,” a collaboration with Trace Adkins and the second of Shelton’s apparent post-album singles. It would be hard to sink lower than “God’s Country,” but would this song really be much better? The answer is a flat “Nope”: The track is a leftover Bro-Country party anthem with a few of the rougher edges sanded off, and unlike the song’s “girl from a small town,” I’d rather listen to “Old Town Road” than this junk.

The only difference between this production and that of a song like Florida Georgia Line’s “Smooth” is that Shelton left out the drum machine and the dobro. Otherwise, this mix is exactly the same: A slow, swampy tempo, an amplified acoustic guitar for the verses, a wall of noise on the chorus (Shelton’s song uses electric guitars, while FGL’s just turned their mics up), a not-terribly-prominent drum set (which is left underwater for half the opening verse, and includes a clap track on the bridge that at least sounds like actual clapping), and even the same unnecessary cricket-chirp clip at the beginning. I called FGL’s mix “languid” and “lethargic,” and the same adjectives apple here: There’s no energy and only the slightest hint of a groove present, and the darker instrument tones, the basic verse chord constuction, and the reliance on minor chords in the chorus really don’t get the listener in a partying state of mind. (The effects on the “all my rowdy friends” line needs to be called out as well—it sounds so robotic that I’m convinced they brought in Optimus Prime for the backing vocals.) There’s nothing fun or interesting about this sound, and it leaves the audience begging for the next song to wash this one out of their ears.

Blake Shelton is one of the most charismatic and earnest performers in country music, but only when he wants to be (which apparently isn’t now). Instead of putting his strong singing voice to use, he brings back his toneless, half-talking cadence from “Boys ‘Round Here” and delivers the verses with all the emotion and passion of someone reading the evening news. The choruses are better when Shelton gets back to his conventional delivery, but he runs into another problem: His lack of vocal chemistry with Adkins, which makes the pair’s shared lines sound a bit off. (They sounded fine together on “Hillbilly Bone” back in the day, so I’m not sure what went wrong this time around.) Because of this, Adkins really doesn’t add much to the song, and outside of a few conversational bits, he could have been left out entirely. Overall, I found Shelton more irritating than endearing on this track, and I wish he’d stick to material that played to his strengths.

And then *sigh* we have the lyrics:

Hell right, hell right
Everybody’s throwin’ down on a Friday night
Somewhere in America
There’s a bottle to burn and a fire to light
And you ain’t done nothin’ if you did it half way
If you gonna raise hell, then you better damn raise
Hell right, hell right, hell right…

I just labeled Jon Langston’s “Now You Know” as “the most generic, paint-by-numbers ‘I’m so country!’ track” I’d heard in a while, and now Shelton has claimed that title for “let’s party!” tracks. There’s a small shred of story here, it’s not a terribly novel or compelling one: Guys get off work, drink themselves into a stupor because that’s the way to have fun, and then go back to work hungover. (I doubt this is what Easton Corbin meant when he said story songs were missing from the genre.) The “hell right” wordplay only barely qualifies as such, and beyond that, it’s everything you would expect: throwing down on a Friday night with alcohol, bonfires, hay bales, small-town girls and Hank Jr. references. (Also, if you’re going to throw shade at “Old Town Road,” you should at least sing a song that’s better. This song is not.) In other words, this is a generic, poorly-constructed song that feels way out of place this far from the Bro-Country era, and deserves a spot in the dustbin of history right next to that terrible trend.

Despite it’s name, “Hell Right” does absolutely nothing right: The production is boring and lifeless, the writing is lazy and bland, and Blake Shelton comes across as tone-deaf and annoying. We put up with far too many songs of this ilk back in the Bro-Country era, and I’m not about to start putting up with them now. (I would still rank it above “God’s Country,” but only by a micrometer or two.) Deciding to stop making albums was a good first step for Shelton; now I just wish he’d embrace the tactic completely and stop making music altogether.

Rating: 3/10. Get that garbage out of here.

Song Review: Garth Brooks ft. Blake Shelton, “Dive Bar”

(As usual, Garth Brooks makes it darn near impossible to hear his music, so no YouTube video exists. If you’re interested, The Musical Divide provides instructions on how to listen to this track at the end of his review.)

I’m usually a sucker for old-school barroom tracks, so why does this one feel so underwhelming?

No one defies gravity quite like Garth Brooks, but outside of his 2017 No. 1 “Ask Me How I Know,” gravity seems to be winning: Brooks has stuck a few songs into the teens over the last decade of so (including 2018’s No. 11 single “All Day Long”), but otherwise he seems to be getting the standard older artist treatment (i.e., “ignore them until they go away”). Brooks, however, is not a man without tricks or connections, and apparently he’s decided that if he can drag a honkytonk party track to No. 11 all by himself, he can scale that mountain easily with a little help from his friends. Enter Blake Shelton, one of the biggest stars in the genre today (even if I can’t stand anything he does anymore), who jumps in as a duet partner on Brooks’s latest single “Dive Bar.” Star power, however, is no substitute for substance, and while this song could be described as “All Night Long, Part 2,” this one feels a lot more superficial and one-sided than its predecessor, and while it might find more chart success, I doubt this one will be have any more of an impact in the long run.

The production here has all the pieces you’d expect from a barroom celebration: Electric guitars, steel guitars, real drums, and a saloon-era piano (strangely, there’s no fiddle here). When held up to its predecessors, however, something seems to be missing: The guitars and drums here are too sterile and lack the punch and texture of those in “All Night Long,” and its chord structure and relentlessly positive atmosphere don’t give the space to the problems that actually drove the narrator here like George Strait’s “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar” or Jon Pardi’s “Heartache Medication” do (and thus the sound doesn’t mesh well with the writing at all). Yes, it’s trying to be bright and happy and over-the-top on purpose to flush away the narrator’s bad vibes for a while, but it makes the whole song feel less believable as a result, and the listener is left wondering why a person who seems to be this happy is drinking away their sorrows in the first place. To its credit, the arrangement does do a decent job capturing a rowdy feel of a dive bar with a 90s neotraditional feel to it, but its just-below-line-dancing tempo doesn’t seem to generate any energy or build and momentum as it goes along. In the end, it comes across as a hollow excuse to get wasted, never giving the audience a sense of what the narrator is trying to escape or a reason to pay attention and find out.

Brooks and Shelton are incredibly talented performers, and at the very least they both sound like they’re engaged and having fun here. The song plays a couple of nasty tricks on them on the verses, starting really low and using a rapid-fire cadence that makes them spit out the words without a lot of time to put any feeling behind them, but both artists actually handle the challenge surprisingly well and don’t lose any vocal tone (those their enunciation takes a bit of a hit, making it hard to tell what they’re saying the first few times through). Much like the production, however, both men seem so upbeat and raucous as they sing that I don’t completely buy what they’re selling: They tell me they’ve got troubles, but they sure don’t sound like it, so what the heck are they doing in this bar? Additionally, tossing Shelton in as a featured artists adds absolutely zero to the track: Both artists sound surprisingly similar, and the song isn’t written as a duet, so either singer could have done the entire thing by themselves with no loss of feeling or quality. (This makes Shelton’s feature feel more like a blatant attempt at chart manipulation rather than an attempt to improve the song as a whole.) Overall, it’s not a bad performance, but it’s not good either, and feels like a waste of the talent they had on hand.

The lyrics here boil down to a narrator declaring that he and others like him have lots of problems, so they’re all going to the closest “dive bar” to drink them away for a weekend. What differentiates this song from its competition is that the dive bar plays next to no role in the story: Unlike the sights, sounds, and behaviors that give the settings of  “All Night Long” and “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar” some actual character, the location here is anonymous, bland, and nothing more than a place to get drunk. (The “dive” hook also feel tossed-in and superficial, as the water metaphor is only referenced in one other place, and it’s right before the song ends.) Instead, we get ten different ways to say the same thing about the “barstool believers” that inhabit the bar, and a few vague mentioned of the problems everyone has (bad decisions, broken hearts, “memories we all need to drown”). While the sound establishes the atmosphere while neglecting the problems of the protagonist, the writing focuses exclusively on the protagonist’s problems and completely ignores the bar itself, establishing no chemistry or cohesion between the two and leaving the audience completely confused as to how to feel about the song. The whole thing boils down to yet another “drink for the sake of drinking” track, because it’s the only thing that all parties involved can agree on.

I tend to overrate these sorts of tracks and underestimate their ephemerality, but “Dive Bar” feels weak even by those standards. The writing and production take completely different roads to get the same location and fail to meet up in the end, and neither Brooks and Shelton are able to truly capture the dichotomy of the song.  Everyone just seems to throw up their hands and start drinking until they don’t care anymore, which is pretty much the only message this song has. Its throwback arrangement and lack of sleaziness keep the song from stumbling into the gutter, but much like Sheryl Crow’s “Prove You Wrong,” this one should have been much better given the people involved.

Rating: 6/10. It’s tolerable, but there are much better options out there if you want a true barroom stomper.

Song Review: Blake Shelton, “God’s Country”

To quote Tim McGraw: “I don’t know why you gotta be angry all the time.”

I’ll be honest: I want to like Blake Shelton. I was a big fan of his early-career work, and I still consider him one of the more talented artists taking up space in Nashville. Time and again, however, I’m left disappointed by his safe, underwhelming single choices, and after the mailed-in performance he turned in on “Turnin’ Me On,” radio seems to be tiring of his schtick too, as the song stalled at #10 on Billboard’s airplay chart and became his worst-charting official release since 2007. After the song fell back to Earth in November, Shelton and his team quietly closed the book on his Texoma Shore album and hibernated through the winter, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce on an unsuspecting public in the spring. That moment has apparently arrived, as Shelton has landed back on the charts with a huge splash with “God’s Country,” the presumed leadoff single for his next project, and…ugh. Not only is this yet another safe play by being a thinly-veiled “I’m so country!” song, it’s delivered in the most angry and aggressive way possible, giving it the rank odor of an “us vs. them” song. It’s a ugly combination of Jason Aldean’s “They Don’t Know” and HARDY’s “REDNECKER,” and all the holy references in the world can’t keep this thing out of hell.

Things go off the rails from the word go, as the production makes the song sound more like a harbinger of the Apocalypse than as a celebration of “God’s Country.” The track opens with a pair of dark, ominous guitars, a “foreboding dobro,” and a deep-throated church bell, and brings in a simple, soulless drum machine to keep time (oh, and Grady Smith’s favorite clap track appears on the chorus, although at least the claps sounds less synthetic than usual). Saying this song is drowning in minor chords is the understatement of the year, as you’re hard pressed to even find the major chords in this unending vi-I-ii-iv loop tossed on top of a slower, methodical tempo. In other words, this song is dark AF, bringing to main unsettling images of barren landscapes and stormy skiesrather than the calm, sunswept plains that are normally associated with holy ground. The lyrics don’t justify this kind of fire-and-brimstone tone at all, and it’s both unsettling and off-putting to the listener. Frankly, if this is “God’s Country,” I’d rather take my chances chilling with the heathens, thank you very much.

For his part, Shelton overcorrects for his lifeless performance on “Turnin’ Me On” in the worst possible way you can imagine. “Verse Shelton” is tolerable enough despite its slight edge, and showcases his solid range, smooth flow, and easy, effortless delivery. Then the chorus starts…and Shelton suddenly starts screaming at the audience with such force and aggressiveness that you can practically feel the veins bulging out of his neck. (So much for that “easy, effortless delivery.”) It’s a jarring transition that draws a hard line between those who inhabit “God’s Country” and those who don’t, and it’s completely unnecessary. Instead of being inclusive and welcoming the audience into the narrator’s paradise, Shelton’s snarling tone immediately puts the listener on the defensive and gives them the strong sense that he’s accusing them of blasphemy. Even if the stereotypical country fan is a God-fearing churchgoer, this angry, divisive approach is the worst direction Shelton could have taken the song in, as he’s basically declaring that you’re either with him or against him in this “debate.” Take a guess which side I’m on.

And then we get to the lyrics, and…tell me, do these scream “dark and foreboding” to you?

Right outside of this one church town
There’s a gold dirt road to a whole lot of nothing
Got a deed to the land but it ain’t my ground
This is God’s country
We pray for rain and thank Him when it’s fallin’
‘Cause it brings a grain and a little bit of money
We put it back in the plate, I guess that’s why they call it
God’s country

Because to me, this sound like every rural-pandering track I’ve heard in the last few years. The narrator tosses out every agricultural and religious reference they can lay their tongue to, admits that the place may not look like much to outsiders, and declares that “God’s country” will now and forever be their home and favorite place. Sure, the writing is bland and uninteresting, but outside of the clever Charlie Daniels riff (“the Devil went down to Georgia, but he didn’t stick around”) there is absolutely no posturing or aggression inherent in the words. Let me say that again: There is no reason for this song to feel this freaking angry. Warm up the production, ditch the minor chords, and most importantly dial back Shelton’s attitude a notch or ten, and suddenly you have yourself a lighthearted invitation to celebrate all things rural and holy. Instead, Shelton and his producer made a conscious decision to deliver this message with a scowl and a megaphone, and the result is an absolute tire fire of a track.

Keep in mind that Blake Shelton remains one of the most cautious artists in the business, so he didn’t make the decision to go ALL-CAPS angry on “God’s Country” on a whim. The truth is that there’s no money in the middle anymore (heck, Craig Campbell took all the advice I gave in the previous paragraph for “Outskirts Of Heaven,” and only got a lousy #24 peak for it), so you might as well play to your base and project as much defiance and swagger as you can as you declare that your way of life is superior to all others. I’ve got news for you, Mr. Shelton: Your sound is dark and unsettling, your rage vocals are over-the-top and unnecessary, and your picture of “God’s Country” is bleak, depressing, and above all unwelcoming. I don’t want to live in your pious paradise anymore than I want to live in the backwards, nostalgic fantasyland you talked up on “I Lived It,” and if it weren’t for the aggravating idiocy of “REDNECKER,” this would be the worst song I’ve heard all year.

Rating: 3/10. Yuck.