Okay, so Blake Shelton didn’t make a whole album about screwing on tailgates or hooking up in clubs. IN that respect, this is indeed a more mature, grown-up effort–well, for the most part, but we’ll get to the exceptions later. And in that sense, it’s better and arguably more mature than the material being released by his counterparts. So it’s his best album in a few years, right? Maybe not back to vintage, country, pre-Voice Shelton, but still better?
Not even close–in fact, as mostly a Shelton apologist who has found songs to love even on his more recent efforts, let me make this clear; what we have here in Texoma Shore is Blake Shelton’s worst, laziest, most underwhelming album to date.
The problem? It’s literally the same song for most of this; he’s happy, in love with Gwen Stefani, and bent on expressing that in the most generic, boring, cookie-cutter ways possible. “I’ll Name the Dogs” is probably the only interesting song of this bunch; indeed, it had many hopeful for this new record, and it’s quite a good song, but it’s also pretty much a rip-off of “Honeybee.” Still, that could be excused, especially if there were more originality on the other songs. I could go into more detail, but literally, I’ve explained over half the album with my description of generic/boring love songs. I’m not against love songs certainly, and I’m happy that Blake and Gwen are happy, but these are uninspired, forgettable versions of the same thing, some of which have been done better by Shelton himself. Take “Why Me,” for example. Wouldn’t you rather hear “God Gave me You?” There’s more than one way to make a bad album, and although this is more mature than say, “Body Like a Back Road,” I can’t excuse the laziness that went into this project. It seemed like his last album, If I’m Honest, was every generic breakup sentiment rolled into a record without really saying anything at all, and this one is the same thing, only now it’s every generic sentiment of newfound love. Come on Blake, you can go deeper than the surface.
And let’s not assume this album has no “Body Like a Back Road” moments either. Seriously, Blake, what the fuck is this song “Money?” This is maybe even worse than Backroad” in the sense that that song is at least somewhat catchy, I suppose. This is literally some misogynistic bullshit about being white trash and saying that this girl is money, complete with Blake being the worst example of a rapper in the history of ever. Say what you want about “Boys Round Here,” but at least that song has a melody you can remember. This is not even good at being terrible, and frankly, singlehandedly takes this album down from generic and bland to bad. And there’s also the incredibly stupid “AT the House,” which is essentially every party/hookup song ever, except that instead of being on a tailgate or in a bar, they decide to keep it at home. No self-respecting country singer should ever utter the line, “go ahead and get your freak on,” but we do find that here, thereby making this just embarrassing.
But give credit where credit is due, and this album is not without some, if few, redeeming qualities. As I said before, “I’ll Name the Dogs” isn’t bad at all for what it is, even considering it’s a rip-off. “Got the T-Shirt” is a pretty good breakup song using some nice metaphors to tell the story; Blake also delivers this quite convincingly, and the melody is good too. This one is easily the highlight of the whole thing and probably the only one I’ll return to. “Turnin’ me On” isn’t bad either, and Blake has always had a knack for these types of songs–think “Sangria,” “Lay Low,” “Who Are You When I’m Not Lookin’.” There are some cringe-worthy lyrics sprinkled in here, but the atmospheric production it’s going for is interesting, and as I say, Shelton can pull these songs off well.
“I Lived It,” the album closer, is the other one we’re all supposed to appreciate, but I’ll take the unpopular stance of not liking this song at all. I separate it from the generic crap found on the rest of the record because it’s more country-sounding and depicts examples from small-town living, presumably from his childhood in Oklahoma. I think a lot of people might like this, but for me, it fails in the context of the album because the chorus talks all about how growing up like that made him the person he is today. Okay, so if that’s true, why are you lending your voice to shit like “Money” and singing lines like “go ahead and get your freak on?” It’s like the moment where he admits he’s capable of more, and his past albums have proven that, so why not deliver?
Blake Shelton has been quite a polarizing character with traditional country fans over the past several years, especially since his stint on The Voice. He’s definitely released some bad singles, but I would argue that even on the albums where he turned further and further away from his country roots, there were always some great songs buried in there. This? Well, “Got the T-Shirt” is the best, but even that’s just pretty good. The other brighter spots are decent. There’s nothing to blow you away like a “Lonely Tonight” from his previous records. This is a disappointing, underwhelming effort from Blake Shelton, and even if it’s more mature than the stuff being put out by most of the mainstream, it represents Shelton setting the bar even lower for himself. And that’s a shame because he can make so much better music.