Album Review – Blake Shelton’s Bringing Back The Sunshine

Based on the first two songs released from Blake Shelton’s new album Bringing Back The Sunshine, I was expecting a return to substance for the country superstar. “Neon Light” wasn’t the greatest country song in the world, but it sounded country for the most part. Then “Lonely Tonight” was released, a song I enjoy so much that it made my top ten country songs of September list. More on that song in a brief moment. Shelton has a talented voice and has proven in the past to make some pretty good music, but has also proven to make some of the worst “country” music ever (looking right at you “Boys ‘Round Here”). I was really hoping to see more of the former instead of the latter with this album and for the most part there was more of the former. But the latter shows its ugly head on this album and it isn’t pretty.

The Best Songs on the Album

Let’s start though with what Shelton got right on his new album. By far the best song on the album is his love ballad duet with the fantastic Ashley Monroe, “Lonely Tonight.” This is the second duet the duo have done together, with the first being on Monroe’s debut solo album last year. Both have great chemistry and their vocals are great, especially Monroe’s vocals despite her role in the song not being big. The song itself is about two people breaking up, but wanting to keep holding onto the relationship. The song tells a good story with the lyrics.

The album’s title track which kicks off the album is an upbeat and energetic love song. Shelton’s vocals are pretty good on this song. The electric guitar play is solid, giving the song a rock country feel to it. The lyrics on it are a little bit boring, but the song is decent and I wouldn’t mind hearing it on the radio. The other song I would classify as “good” on this album is “Anyone Else,” a song towards the end of the album. The song is about a man who was in a relationship with a woman who was never happy for him, but he was always happy for her. Basically he was in a bad relationship and he wonders why it didn’t work out. The song is actually pretty good and tells a story with some emotion behind the lyrics. These are the type of songs I would like to hear from Shelton.

The Worst Songs on the Album

(Warning: NSFW language ahead)

Okay where do I begin with the worst songs on this album? Let’s start with “Gonna” (innovative title, huh?). The song starts with the same R&B sound you hear on “Neon Light.” The best way to describe this song is it’s another version of Luke Bryan’s “Play It Again” and it even has an annoying chorus just like Bryan’s song. It’s a pop country song that the mainstream country music masses with eat right up. Surprisingly, Dallas Davidson did not write this song nor did he write a single song on this album. Strange because the worst songs on this album seem like they would be right up his alley of songwriting.

This is followed up with the song “A Girl.” Gee I wonder what this damn song is about? This is the same stuff you’ve been hearing on country radio for a while. It tries to be personal and creative, but it just isn’t. It also tries to be a romantic ballad dedicated to females, but maybe calling them “a girl” instead of a woman would be a nice start. I guess it’s a country song? I don’t know, but I do know this song is just really boring and it’s hard to pay attention to it. The same can be said for “Sangria.” I think Blake Shelton is just trying to be Barry White with this album because this is another “romantic” love ballad. Instead he just sounds like a modern-day version of “sexual miscreant” Conway Twitty (what Trigger at Saving Country Music calls him). The song is about Shelton with some girl in a motel trying to screw her. Another song with bland lyrics.The boring lyrics continue with “Just South of Heaven.” The song has a pop country beat with laundry list lyrics. There’s a banjo in the song, which is nice. I guess this song is about hanging out in the woods or somewhere in the country? We’ll go with that. The theme isn’t real clear. Again I’m bored by these clichéd lyrics.

If this isn’t enough I’m now going to discuss the worst song on the album and a bonafide candidate for Country Perspective’s Worst Country Song of 2014. That song is “Buzzin’.” This fucking song. Twerking is mentioned in the opening lyrics, so you know it’s going to be bad from the start. Does it matter what this song is about? It just fucking sucks! This is Shelton’s “Boys Round Here” for 2014. By the way Craig Wiseman who helped write that horrible song, also co-wrote this horrible song along with Kendell Marvel. To put the cherry on top of this big pile of shit is RaeLynn, who I consider the worst singer in mainstream country music. What do we have to do to make her stop singing? I’m tired of Blake Shelton trying to make RaeLynn happen. Luckily her role in this song is quite minimal and makes me wonder why she was even credited as taking part in the song.

The Rest of the Album

For those who didn’t see my review of “Neon Light” here’s the gist of that review: “This song is about a man getting over a hard breakup. He’s dealing with it by drinking and finding another woman to heal his broken heart. It’s a nice return to a theme with substance for Shelton. The song has a mixture of emotions in it, from sad to angry to vengeful to hopeful. When you’re at a bar drinking and getting over your heart being broken, these are normal feelings. It just comes up short in being a great song, instead of just decent. Some poor lyric choices and overproduced instrumentation does in another mainstream country song.”

“I Need My Girl” name drops alcohol and cigarette brands in the opening lyrics. Instead of the man wanting his vices he wants his “girl.” Shelton’s vocals are pretty good, but it’s pretty overproduced in terms of instrumentation. This song would have been much better if it was stripped down and only included an acoustic guitar because it was actually decently written. I guess “Good Country Song” is supposed to be Shelton’s peace-offering to appease traditional country fans. This song basically tells us what real country music fans already know: what good country music is supposed to be. Too bad Shelton doesn’t take his own advice with his music because he actually knows what good country sounds like. The song is decent and you’ll enjoy it if you liked the similar song from Brad Paisley called “This Is Country Music,” sans the sappy lyrics of Paisley’s song. Shelton’s name dropping of country greats like George Strait and Keith Whitley is his desperate attempt to win traditional country fans’ hearts, but this reviewer isn’t impressed. The song does sound traditional at least.

The album concludes with “Just Gettin’ Started,” a feel good party song with a modern country sound. It’s your typical generic party song with the usual lyrics you hear in these type of songs nowadays. The song is catchy and easy to remember, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was released as a single to radio. It’s an average song at best.

Overall Thoughts

I honestly expected more from Shelton on Bringing Back The Sunshine, but instead he just brings back his usual sound you heard on his last album. There’s one great song, a few decent ones, a few average songs and a handful of bad songs. There were two things I learned from this album. First don’t expect much from Shelton nowadays because he will probably disappoint you. Second and most importantly this album reinforced my thoughts that the world needs more Ashley Monroe music and less Blake Shelton music. Shelton can cry the blues all he wants about critics like me, but until he starts producing better music I’m not going to applaud his music. I’ve proven through my reviews that if you make good music regardless of my past thoughts on the artist, whether you’re Florida Georgia Line or Tyler Farr, I’ll give credit where it’s due. Unfortunately there’s not much credit due on this album outside of one song. Go buy “Lonely Tonight,” but I recommend staying away from the rest of the album.

Grade: 4/10

81 thoughts on “Album Review – Blake Shelton’s Bringing Back The Sunshine

  1. Kevin Davis October 1, 2014 / 11:27 am

    I adore Ashley Monroe, ever since her first album (with all of the record label problems), so I am very happy to see her getting the much-deserved exposure she needs. Her voice is distinctive and not merely powerful or impressive (like Underwood’s), and I much prefer the former style than the latter — and distinctive vocal styling is a mark of country music’s greatness. As for her duet here with Blake, I agree that it is a fine song — not great, but my expectations are drastically lower today. However, her duet with Blake on her own album — “You Ain’t Dolly” — is atrocious — maybe because it is one of those duets that simply cannot and should not be repeated unless you are Dolly and Porter…or maybe because of the tasteless and lame 50 Shades of Gray reference…or maybe because they both lacked the charm and joy that marks the original.

    As for Blake, he was one of my favorite vocalists back in his early days — “Austin,” “The Baby,” etc. — but I am seriously disappointed by his albums since. I realize that he is not a songwriter, and I don’t hold that against him, but he clearly has no clue about what works in a country song…or any type of song for that matter. I should probably blame his team, but he has the prestige and power to do what he wants at this point. If Tim McGraw can turn back in the right direction, then so can Blake.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott October 1, 2014 / 1:06 pm

      Yes I wasn’t impressed with the “You Ain’t Dolly” duet they did either. It just felt off and like you said the original duet is just too good to try to cover. “Lonely Tonight” is much better and really was the saving grace from keeping this album from being completely bad.

      I was a fan of Blake too back in the day, especially when I was still unaware of the independent scene in country music. My favorite song of his is “Ol Red.” The problem with Blake is two-fold: One his star power has gotten so large that it’s swelled his ego to a massive size. He thinks that he can do no wrong and anytime someone says something mean about him he sends his fans after them or whines to the media (sometimes both). And secondly he is a very stubborn person who just can’t help himself from being an asshole. This all makes for bad music. We really lost any hope of good Blake Shelton music when he joined The Voice and became a “cross-over” star.


      • Kevin Davis October 1, 2014 / 1:33 pm

        Yes, completely agree – Blake needs to re-evaluate his attitudes and actions. In fact, I don’t understand why a lot of these guys (and they are all guys) today are unable to keep themselves from morphing into douchebags, at least in interviews and online comments. Jason Aldean is the worst offender, with his endless self-importance. It is such a contrast to the old heroes they “name drop” in their songs. The maturity of these “men” is astonishingly low. I am 32 years old, and I have to go back to before I was born in order to find country men who were mature and personable. Merle Haggard is practically a philosophical genius compared to these guys today!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Acca Dacca December 17, 2014 / 7:08 pm

      Here’s the thing, though: Blake IS a songwriter, or at least he WAS. He co-wrote 4/10 of the tracks on his debut, 2/10 on The Dreamer (of which he is the only credit for the title track), 2/10 on Barn & Grill, 5/14 on Pure BS (Deluxe), etc. Sure, you’re technically right in that he isn’t prolific or gifted enough to make a living at it professionally, but he’s had enough of a hand in it to know what makes a decent song. If you compare the credits of his more recent, post-Voice crossover success, his contributions more or less disappear. Why? Because he suddenly has the pick of the litter and the suits that own his career want him to only record the surefire hit songs. Tellingly, there’s a song on his first album that he co-wrote with his idol Earl Thomas Conley. Despite his exclusion from the credits here, lately he’s been involved with Dallas Davidson and Rhett Akins. That right there is the divide between someone that started out to become an artist and the brand name and persona that they eventually became. Same goes for Jason Aldean. I’ve NEVER been a fan of his, but he even said that he moved to Nashville expressly to become a songwriter. Notice that after his debut album, he as zero co-writing credits. That’s like Kris Kristofferson getting famous and only cutting material written by someone else (in terms of aesthetic, not writing quality, obviously).

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Cobra October 1, 2014 / 5:35 pm

    I actually enjoyed “Just South of Heaven.” it was a little bit laundry list, but it seemed to actually have some effort put into it. Same with “A Girl.”

    Most other songs we definitely agree on. “Lonely Tonight” is the album’s best song by far. “Sangria” had kind of a cool vibe to it, even if the lyrics were a bit vanilla and ordinary. Not a highlight of the album, but I didn’t find it extremely offensive.

    “Buzzin'” was a trainwreck of a song and is just awful.

    Overall, I thought the album showed a good effort at least which I counted for something. I gave the album 3.5/5, so I guess I liked it slightly more than you did. I’d just like to see him try a little bit harder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott October 1, 2014 / 5:54 pm

      There was definitely some potential in some songs. “Just South of Heaven” and “Sangria” both could have been great songs if the songwriting was better and Shelton put more effort into them. Really Shelton should be one of the best in country music with his vocals and good side of his personality, but the bad side of his personality and lack of creativity hold him back. I was really hoping for more from him. He really frustrates me by just throwing away his talent at times.


  3. Acca Dacca December 17, 2014 / 6:00 pm

    Hey Josh. I just got around to listening to my copy of Bringing Back the Sunshine and I hope you’ll indulge me, should you feel the need (despite the two months it’s been since the album’s release).

    Oh, where to begin. Though I don’t like to admit it since it discredits my opinion with older country music fans, I like you only comparatively recently “woke up” (so to speak) to how bad the mainstream country genre has become, and how good the independent scene often is. I was also born in 1992, though I play coy with that information for the above reason (and if you’ve seen my arguments with certain other commenters on SCM or have faced it yourself, I’m sure you understand). Regardless, we’re mostly in agreement: Blake is easy to like and equally easy to hate. I LOVE his rendition of “Old Red” (which was also sung by George Jones before Shelton, by the way) and “The Baby” and “Austin” are both great singles. When it comes to albums, I personally think that his 2007 release Pure BS is actually solid. Given the nature of Blake’s artistic character and tendency to follow the crowd, I wouldn’t call it “great”, but I can listen to the whole thing and like most of the tracks. My personal favorite song of his is an album track from that release by the name of “Back There Again.” It’s an absolutely wrenching gut punch of a song about a man that’s leaving because he keeps breaking his lover’s heart. Tellingly, I heard this AFTER he dropped “Boys ‘Round Here” when I picked up his entire discography from a Walmart bargain bin (side note: even if I don’t think I’ll like the music, I prefer to buy it instead of stream if I can help it so I have a LOT of embarrassing music in my personal library). The song itself might be slightly atypical, but tell me that this isn’t a great track:

    Now, I hope you had time to listen to that song because knowledge of it is needed to appreciate this next part of my comment. In case it hasn’t dawned on everyone, it appears to me that Blake really has no firm idea of what he wants his career to look like. Whether this is from a lack of appreciation for the roots of country music or the fact that he spent many years as a B-lister before finally getting his break in 2010, I’m not sure. However, his sound and loyalties flow with the wind. On his first few albums (including the aforementioned Pure BS), he would always include some mock-protest songs that aligned him with the more traditionalist side of the music. I assume that since his singles and album sales generally gathered a shrug from the mainstream he grew a tad bitter about it. However, once he actually broke through and finally achieved superstar status, he backpedaled. Nowadays, he thinks that he’s the spokesperson for the genre (hence his “old farts & jackasses” comment after his big awards win) and in many ways he is, for better or worse. People that don’t care for country music know who he is because he’s a judge on The Voice. It’s fair to say that he’s a household name, even in households where country music is rare. However misbegotten or construed this “power” might be, Blake has obviously let it go to his head. This, compounded with his lack of artistic vision, are what makes him such a problem. He’s capable of making great music, we’ve all seen that. But the mistake many of his detractors are making is thinking that it rested solely on his shoulders. He just rolls with whatever comes along to get attention and his music is only a side effect of current trends. It’s no coincidence that when Pure BS dropped in 2007 that the country music genre was in a MUCH better place in terms of mainstream quality. As it has gone into the gutter, there’s Blake, being dragged along with the coach. I loved Pure BS and for a day or two it really earned Blake some of my respect back from having lost it with his current singles. However, I sat on it for a few days and came to this conclusion, and have lost it once more. I love that album, but it’s less because of Blake and more because he just happened to settle on some good songs at the time. If it were released today, it’s a cinch that it wouldn’t resemble what was put out back then. The difference with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings or any of the greats is that if they were to release their best albums today, they’d probably largely be unchanged. That’s the difference between an artist with a vision and a singer that’s a puppet.

    As for Bringing Back the Sunshine, you’re completely spot on. I don’t personally like “Neon Light” that much. It’s not as “bro” as the rest of the country on the radio at the moment, but it’s still the type of song that tries to seem “hip” to youngsters and outsiders at the expense of authenticity and quality. I’ll agree, though, that “Lonely Tonight” is pretty good. It’s along the lines of “Back There Again”, but not quite on the same level. “Good Country Song” irks me because it’s obvious pandering. Blake, you’re obviously not going to change on your own and you aren’t fooling anyone, so please stop trying. If YOU think your music is good, just make what you want. Quit trying to cover your ass with these “apologies” or “proofs” that you’re somehow more country than the rest of your singles sound. Irony: as with Jason Aldean and “1994”, 90% of Blake’s fans likely have no idea who his name-dropped idol in the song is. A tad bit of self-awareness DID creep into this album, though: Blake knows his strength is ballads and he’s mostly stuck to them. Despite his arrogance, he doesn’t really come off as the badass or hellraiser that he tries to portray in such songs as “Boys Round Here.” Notice that the majority of his singles, dating back to the beginning of his career have always been tender in nature. And then there’s “Buzzin'”, which quite honestly made me wonder whether I liked country music or not and almost single-handedly derailed my whole day. That song should have been cut from the record and left to rot in the vaults, or perhaps sent to Afghanistan. We’d have the war won fairly quickly, I assure you. I personally thought “Anyone Else” was perhaps the best song from the album. I understand your problems with it, but having known my share of people that act in the manner described here I couldn’t help but connect with it. It hit me the way a country song is supposed to, and I can’t fault it for that.

    For whatever reason, I splurged on the Walmart Deluxe Edition with three extra tracks in tow. Ironically, two of them are better than the rest of the album. “I Really Shouldn’t Drink Around You” while once again atypical, is actually an amusing story of friends that are more than friends but don’t seem to know it ( “Pain” of course continues the streak of vanilla that is this album, but it’s still more affecting and resonant than half of the other songs on the main release ( The final bonus track is “Messed Up”, which I won’t link because it’s basically “Buzzin'” Part II, but thankfully without the annoying hip hop beat or RaeLynn. If he had pulled off the stinkers, stuck in these two bonus tracks and perhaps commissioned a few more drafts to boost the intelligence level of some of the lyrics, he very well might have had a winner with this one. As it stands, you called it spot on with a 4/10.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Acca Dacca December 17, 2014 / 7:14 pm

      Thoughts, Josh? At the very least I’d like to hear what you thought about the three linked songs, particularly “Back There Again.” I want to see if you had a similar reaction to it as I did, particularly when taking in context with who the artist is and their career trajectory.


    • Josh Schott December 17, 2014 / 7:38 pm

      Hey Acca Dacca thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment. I totally understand where you’re coming from with the age thing. Personally I like to be upfront about it because even though some will discredit me based on this info, I enjoy being honest. And if the older fans don’t take me serious because of this I just ignore them (*cough* Clint *cough*). I think younger listeners such as yourself and me bring a fresher opinion to the table. While we weren’t around for the “Golden” days of country music, we do have a more open mind to different types of country music.

      As for Blake, I’m glad we are in agreement. His Pure BS album was pretty good and I enjoyed all of those singles you mentioned. I still play “Ol’ Red” occasionally because it’s just so catchy. The perfect blend of traditional sound and radio viability. I feel like I’ve heard “Back There Again,” but if I had it’s been years since I heard it. And you’re right about it. That’s a great song! It fits perfectly in his wheelhouse. Why he doesn’t do these songs as much anymore puzzles me. I think this could work just fine at radio.

      That’s the damn truth about Blake and his direction. He has none and like you said just goes with whatever his team or the mainstream is dictating. I know he didn’t want to do “Boys ‘Round Here.” He did it for the money and attention. That’s what dictates his decisions nowadays. I guarantee he has a group of “yes men.” If he followed his heart he would still put out solid music. Instead his ego has taken over his heart and brains. You would think Miranda would talk some sense into him, but I’m sure she likes the money too.

      Blake definitely went with his more tender side on this album and it blew up in his face because he wasn’t tender, but rather cheesy and fake. Ballads are his strong suit and “Lonely Tonight” is a grade A example. I mean he’s mentored two traditional artists on The Voice the past two years in Jake Worthington and Craig Wayne Boyd. You would think mentoring these two would inspire him to do better. We all know he’s a country music history buff too. I think along with his ego, his obsession with his “cool” image has caused such a downward shift in his music. The Voice made him “hip” to the mainstream, so he doesn’t want to lose it by singing traditional country music (hence the old farts and jackasses comment).

      “I Really Shouldn’t Drink Around You” is pretty solid. What a stupid choice to make it a bonus track. He should have did what Tim McGraw did and put his worst songs (other than “Lookin’ For That Girl”) in the bonus section of the album. “Pain” is pretty average, but certainly miles better than “Buzzin’.” I’ll take your word on the other bonus track. Haha!

      As Trigger said at SCM, Blake was a big loser this year. His album has bombed in sales and perhaps one of the biggest “disappointments” in country music this year. Maybe this might wake him up. He tried to do on this album what both Ronnie Dunn and Brad Paisley did with their albums too: appeal to both sides of the aisle. You can’t do this because it just confuses both sides. This wasn’t lively enough for mainstream pop fans and it wasn’t high enough in quality for traditionalists. Goes back to your point of having no direction. Blake needs to pick what he wants to be and stick with it.


      • Acca Dacca December 18, 2014 / 4:12 am

        Haha. Yeah, Clint was the exact person I had in mind when mentioning my age. I made that mistake as SCM, so now whenever I go into my fanatical tirades about Big & Rich I just seem like some idiot adolescent to the older folks that haven’t given their music a proper listen. As for the “fresher perspective”, I understand and while you’re probably right, I’m more hesitant to pat myself on the back for it. After all, part of the reason that we are more accepting of different styles is because we don’t know what “real” country music is, remember? 😛

        As for Miranda, I’m not too sure she is aware of how her hubbie’s music is affecting the mainstream country music scene. After all, most people want to support their spouse and many can’t take an outside perspective on their relationship, either, so it’s not a stretch to think Miranda might just be out of the know. Plus, with Blake’s track record for traditionalist criticism, it’s probably fairly easy for both of them to fall back on the “if they don’t like it they’re just old-school haters” and “country music has to evolve and sound more like hip hop” wagons.

        With this album, I call your observation about him being attempting to be tender to be very insightful. The last few days I’ve been pondering just what constitutes a bro-country song. After all, if you go back 10, 20 and sometimes even 30 years, lyrics from those days could be construed to fit within the confines of what we view as this plague. It occurred to me as I was exploring Jake Owen’s discography and listening to his gradual descent into the subgenre that it hit me: being a douchebag is what constitutes bro-country in a nutshell. If you act like the woman at your side is your property, like you’re the utter life of the party or that the world otherwise revolves around you in a song, chances are it’s bro-country. It’s more like hip hop and hair metal in even more ways that we originally thought. Country music has basically devolved into who has the biggest truck, hottest girl and most beer for getting hammered three hours before you’re supposed to be at work. God help us. The reason Blake’s songs don’t succeed at being tender is the perspective: he’s not trying to woo the girl, he’s basically telling her that he’s the shit and deserves her. That’s a far cry from romance right there.

        As for making better music, at this point it seems to me that Blake really does wholly believe that 2014’s crop of music is a “natural” evolution of the format. I think he’s just sensitive or otherwise insecure about it, which might also work to explain his often overcompensated ego. Mark my words, when he starts going the Brad Paisley/Alan Jackson route and begins losing his mainstream prominence, it’ll be an utter circus of half-baked ideas and terrible singles.

        I actually didn’t know whether you’d enjoy “I Probably Shouldn’t Drink Around You” or not. Blake’s arrogance is still present, though the song itself is charming and cute enough that it isn’t nearly as annoying. I was fairly surprised that it was a bonus track, as that’s typically where more mediocre material is found (such as the music that comprises the body of the standard album in this case). I agree that “Pain” is fairly average, but compared to its competition here I’d take it over the duds any day, and I assume that you would as well. I mentioned it was vanilla, but it wasn’t painful and we can be thankful for that. After all, average is always better than “worst of all time.” Eh, “Messed Up” is a turd, but I still don’t think it’s as bad as “Buzzin’.” It mainly annoys me because it’s using the FGL formula of twisting substance abuse into some kind of nirvana that everyone needs to experience. The actual music isn’t offensive, but the lyrics are irritating as hell. There’s actually a line in this song that says “don’t the world look better when it gets blurry.” I’ve only been drunk once in my life and that was enough, I don’t care to hear this type of “logic” from anyone. That’s basically saying if you can’t handle life, fall back on whatever takes the thought away if only artificially and for a moment. Horrible, horrible message. Just for craps and giggles, here’s the song: Will you hate it? Of course, I’ve given you all the ammo you need already. But given our conversation you might as well put ears to the final track and let me know what you think of it.

        I don’t know if I would characterize Blake’s album as a “bomb” myself. He sold around 100,000 his opening week, which is just 40,000 shy of Garth Brooks’ number and 50,000 more than Brad Paisley. I think 2014 is just a horrible year for music sales across the board. After all, as we’ve all noted, Blake is basically trading his music career for a full-time gig on his TV show. If you can cut an album, outsell most of your competition and still continue a streak of number 1 singles, what’s the hurt? It’s not like he’s putting forth any effort to promote the music. He just threw the assembly line in gear, selected a few songs that seemed catchy and shipped them to retailers. That sounds like a winner to me. Plus, you can’t very well wake someone up if they think everything looks better when it’s blurry, now can you? 😛

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