Blake Shelton Has Chance at Redemption in 2016

Blake Shelton Wikimedia
Photo Credit: Kevin W. Kelly, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, no changes

Celebrity. Judge on The Voice. Spokesperson for Gildan. Cross-over artist. Miranda’s now former husband. These are the most common monikers I’ve seen thrown at Blake Shelton over the past few years. His stature has risen to new heights and continues to grow his fan base. Along with Adam Levine, he’s the face of The Voice. Over the course of 2015 it was all about his big divorce with Miranda Lambert. It was all about the fallout afterwards and his dating of fellow judge on The Voice and pop artist Gwen Stefani. I’m sure you’ve seen his underwear commercial at some point. All of these different monikers and yet the most important is notably missing. What happened to Blake Shelton, country artist?

It’s pretty easy to sit back and take pot shots at this notion. His head got too big. Ever since he has joined The Voice it’s easy to point to the fact that his music has gone down hill and taken a more pop turn. Perhaps more pressure to look cool? He sold out to popular trends with terrible songs like “Boys ‘Round Here” and “Sure Be Cool If You Did.” He had guest appearances on albums by Christina Aguilera and Shakira. Who can forget his “old farts and jackasses” quote? It was disrespectful and over the line and he knew it as soon as he said it. And of course he attempted to cover an iconic song like “Footloose.” To put it politely, it was laughably bad.

All of this has made Blake Shelton forget what he is at his core and that’s a country artist. Once upon time Blake was only just a country artist who focused on putting out country music. Not just country music, but pretty good country music. It all started with “Austin,” his debut single that went on to achieve Platinum status. Then there’s “‘Ol Red,” considered the traditional song of Blake’s catalog. I always laugh at this because up until about 2009/2010 Shelton consistently put out sensible and country rooted singles. Go check out songs like “Goodbye Time” (a Conway Twitty cover), “Nobody but Me” and “She Wouldn’t Be Gone.” You never heard a song from him and wondered if it should qualify as country. The next couple of years got increasingly pop country, but it wasn’t until 2013 when Blake started “crossing over” into other genres with aforementioned sellout songs above.

For the majority of his career, Blake Shelton has put out passable music. Of course it’s all about what you’ve done lately and it doesn’t exactly put the best taste in your mouth. Shelton hasn’t been near the worst offenders in the genre as of late, as the likes of Sam Hunt and Old Dominion are hell-bent on taking it to new lows never seen before. But he has clearly not been up to full potential. His last album, the 2014 release Bringing Back The Sunshine, felt like it never got off the ground. It was mediocre and came off as safe. This is arguably worse than putting out a terrible album because at least people remember those. The only thing people will remember from Bringing Back The Sunshine is Shelton’s decent duet with the talented Ashley Monroe, “Lonely Tonight.” Preceding it was “Neon Light,” a song that was pulled out of the oven ten minutes before it was ready. The third single “Sangria” was the definition of toothless and “Gonna” was forgettable pop music. This has all added up to paltry album sales for Bringing Back The Sunshine, which as of this moment has only sold 437,100 units. His 2013 album Based On A True Story has sold 1.46 million units and his 2011 album Red River Blue has sold 1.24 million units.

Throw in all of the tabloids chasing him down constantly and things have never been more chaotic for Blake. He has no critical buzz, sales are down and his divorce took a hit on his image. It’s why now more than ever Shelton needs to focus on his music because in my mind it all sets up for redemption. The country artist in Blake should be able to harness the emotions from all of this and create compelling music. More than anything it should be a return to his roots to demonstrate maturity and respect. Blake Shelton is a 39-year-old man. He should not be chasing trends with the Sam Hunts of the world. He should be putting out some of the best music of his career and becoming the elder statesman of a genre that badly needs one in the mainstream realm. And it’s not like he would lose any radio appeal. Tim McGraw has been proving that with his single choices in recent years. There’s no reason Blake Shelton can’t follow his lead.

One encouraging sign of this possibly happening is apparently Shelton was quite eager to get the lead single out from his new upcoming album. According to 92.5 WBEE assistant program director Billy Kidd, he wanted to release it right now, but his label ultimately pushed it back to March. I haven’t seen this type of enthusiasm out of Shelton in a while in regards to releasing new music. Even more encouraging is what he told Country Countdown USA:

“I found some people in my life that have changed my life forever. Some has been bad and some that’s been pretty good. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, and that’s put all I’ve gone through and put it into music, and I never felt more connected to a record before. When people hear this record, they may not know what happened to me, but they’re gonna know how I felt about it. And that’s exciting for me, to just lay it out there for people.”

We won’t know of course if this record is truly good until we hear it (which might come out as soon as May). But Blake appears pretty focused and excited about it. It’s a sign that he still cares about his music and that’s something you never want to see an artist lack. Everything is setting up perfectly for Blake Shelton to make 2016 his year of redemption. Despite all of the ill will you might hold towards the man, at the end of the day he’s still got a lot of talent. All it can take is one good record to wipe past woes and blues away. Ultimately an artist is judged by his art. And if he focuses on his art again, people will stop thinking of Blake Shelton as a celebrity or a television judge. They’ll think of him as a country artist.

5 thoughts on “Blake Shelton Has Chance at Redemption in 2016

  1. Raymond February 8, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    I’m definitely curious to see what music direction Blake Shelton takes his music. I wanna be excited but Blake has let me down before. Now I think Blake after his divorce who knows he might make some strong music.

    Anyway I also am still very curious about how Miranda Lambert’s music output will be. She has the new song “Sweet By And By”, she performed a gorgeous cover of “Desperado”, there’s her Opry performance of “Storms Never Last”, then there’s the video that’s getting a lot of attention a song called “Scars” it’s only a live performance but it is also great. If those songs indicate Miranda Lambert future album count me in as excited.

    Now my biggest fear is that Blake Shelton will try and do the opposite of Miranda’s music if what has surfaced so far is any indication.

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  2. Kevin Davis February 8, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    “All it can take is one good record to wipe past woes and blues away.”

    Agreed. I am ready and willing to absolve Blake of his recent string of rushed and uninspiring singles. His early catalog remains among my all-time favorites, and in fact Blake’s voice in particular was an early influence in my coming to country music in a passionate way. (I was a freshman/sophomore in college when Austin, Ol’ Red, and The Baby were on the radio.) He still has a chance to reclaim his career and reclaim his legacy. The choice he has to make is whether he is willing to trade short-term popularity for an enduring legacy. Of course, those options should not be mutually exclusive and perhaps Blake could help refashion the radio market, if he so chooses to take the risk.

    On a side note, I actually like his remake of “Footloose.” Heck, I even liked the remake of the movie, though that may have more to do with Julianne Hough than the quality of the movie per se. 😉

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  3. Cobra February 8, 2016 / 2:37 pm

    I still think “Pure BS” is one of the best albums he put out, and do you know when that came out? Right after his first divorce. So yes, all of this could be a source of inspiration for getting back to being a respectable artist again.

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  4. Lisa February 8, 2016 / 3:16 pm

    First off EVERY album Blake talks about being the best he can do & he is so excited look to video clip on youtube. His attitude is take me as I am or you suck especially on social media. If he was so worried about his “music image” he would be in the studio not hosting the Kid Choice Awards/TheVoice. Or how about having a tour w/ more than 15 dates/year or PLAY The Opry when you promised to in 2010 upon induction? Blake is almost 40 but he seems to want to act/sing like a twenty something. He got so much flak about being “Hollywood” he brought in The Oak Ridge boys to “show” how country he is. He makes $13 million/year on the TV show so he never has to worry about sales. Radio played him before he had sales so they will keep playing him now b/c the soccer mom’s love him, so no worries. Blake has never been looked on as an artist more so a good vocalist but who knows.

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  5. Andy February 8, 2016 / 9:37 pm

    “Blake has never been looked on as an artist more so a good vocalist”

    Singing is as much as an art as writing lyrics.Blake is not just another country vocalist.
    Blake has the best crystal clear, steady and strong male VOICE in any genre not just good old country.
    Even though he deserves it he wont be getting male vocalist awards every year anymore because of her.

    Author doesnt desersrve a response for that disgusting “critic”.But go check footlose video people, 20 million views and 99.9 positive. That almost never happens for anybody on youtube. Whatever. You are just a hater.

    Blake can outsell everybody Kenny Keith you name it. He was miserable last year. So no he didn’t promote his album l, didn’t put much effort to his music videos and rejected HUGE touring opportunities. He still has the best voice he just lost will to sing for a while. He will come back but wont be singing same formula songs from 1990s.

    So, don’t cry about that.

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