Blake Shelton recently dropped his seventh full-length studio album, Based on a True Story…, a collection jam-packed with redneck laundry lists and infectious melodies, dipped in his Southern charm. The 36-year-old singer performed one of his favorite tracks from the new record in a live session last week, a song titled "Country on the Radio," pointing out the faults of the mainstream. Many songs, particularly from the genre's leading men, often chronicle small-town life in worn-out cliches and tired images of cold beer, pickup trucks and scantily-clad women.
Perhaps, that's the point.
Blake himself often deep dives into such thematic material, including on his current radio offering "Boys 'Round Here." Featuring his wife Miranda Lambert's outlaw trio Pistol Annies, the boisterous, anthemic track is a prime example of what Shelton wags his finger at on "Country on the Radio."
"Yea the boys 'round here, drinking that ice cold beer, talkin' 'bout girls, talkin' 'bout trucks, tunnin' them red dirt roads out, kicking up dust," he bellows on the chorus. "The boys 'round here, sending up a prayer to the man upstairs, backwoods legit, don't take no sh**, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit."
Serving as an autobiographical album, he says he's "either been in those situations before or I’m going through ‘em right now." In an interview with Rolling Stone, he explains of "Boys," "To me that is the best way to put into a song my personality and the kind of people that I hang out with. That is, the guys back in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, and in every town around this country…"
As someone from a small town myself, I get it. There is a certain mentality that permeates that lifestyle. There are cowboy hat-wearing rednecks that work on farms and fix cars during the work week and then party on the weekend. There's plenty of booze, dirt roads, pickup trucks, girls, sweet tea and homemade pie. There's really no way of escaping it. The laundry list type songs are celebrated in that culture. As I observed over the years, small-town Country listeners would rather enjoy a nonsensical song like "She Cranks My Tractor" by Dustin Lynch than something with a little more grit, like Ashely Monroe's "Like a Rose."
Now, that's not to discredit Blake and his current album, because, honestly, it's quite good. A day doesn't go by that I don't have "Sure Be Cool If You Did" or "Boys Round Here" stuck in my head. However, as the CMA Male Vocalist of the Year — someone he says is "one of those people now that gets to decide if [Country] moves forward and if it moves on" — all eyes are on him as he makes his next move, even if he continues not to branch out and explore fresher themes, rather than steep even further in all those typical Country-isms.
"You ever wonder why country songs say the same old thing?" he asks on the tune's opening line. "Country on the Radio," as it turns out, is just another reason to sing about booze, dirt roads, pickup trucks, girls, sweet tea and homemade pie.
Check out Blake's recent performance of "Country on the Radio" at a live recording session at the Electric Lady Studios in New York.
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