For most of my life, country music was always somewhere in the distance looking like a practically untouched piece of land in my personal world of music. The closest I had ever gotten to the country music genre was either my watching of the last few seasons of American Idol, to stare dreamily at Keith Urban, or my belting out of the latest sassy Carrie Underwood single. Whenever I wanted to listen to new music, whether it be a new artist or a completely different genre of music, I have always tap danced around country…until now.
When given the opportunity to review a country album, Blake Shelton’s latest one to be exact, I didn’t agree immediately, but instead pondered about it for a day or so. Shelton has been on the country music scene for over 15 years, has won over 80 awards out of the hundred and something he has been nominated for, and has brought talent and laughter to millions of living rooms since NBC’s The Voice began in 2011. Then I realized, why wouldn’t I jump into listening to what has made him successful and beloved? Why wouldn’t I find out what makes him qualified to be a coach on The Voice? He seems to have found to his musical niche, so why not discover what it is all about?
Texoma Shore was released Nov. 3 of this year and it is Shelton’s eleventh full length studio album consisting of, quite appropriately, 11 tracks. Of course, I couldn’t jump into his music this late in the game. So it was not until after some schooling on his earlier work that I began to listen to Texoma Shore; of which I haven’t stopped listening to since then. The album opens with the lead single that was released from this album, and let me tell you, it is adorable. “I’ll Name The Dogs” doesn’t sound as cute as it is, but it comes from a line in the strikingly catchy chorus: “Sing you a song out there with the crickets and the frogs / You name the babies and I’ll name the dogs.” I highly recommend watching the music video for this great song, since it brings an even more emotional tone to the already sentimental country pop song.
Personally, I found that there was an evident dip in the album when the fifth track rolled around. I understand that a musician with as much achievement and as strong of a fanbase like Shelton’s might feel as though they can write silly songs and get away with it, but “Money” is downright ridiculous. Shelton writes about this lower class lifestyle, ironically, and how this one girl’s kiss and his relationship with her makes him feel “filthy rich.” I can understand the meaning of it, which is clever and sweet, but the monotonous talking/rapping fading into a more musical chorus is just too far off the beaten path.
“Beside You Babe” seems to be directed toward him and his very-much-in-media relationship with another famed performer, Gwen Stefani. It’s romantic, like most of the album, but has a more intimate vibe radiating off of it; as though he wrote it specifically for someone. Despite the fact that it is truly a lovely song that will most definitely be used in at least 500 weddings over the next few years, the synthesizer in the background is quite a negative distraction. I am all for creativity when it comes to both lyrics and instruments, but the buzzing throughout the song is a bit distasteful. It is a poor choice for such an instrumentally heavy genre and an instrumentally talented artist like Shelton.
What is the “Texoma Shore,” anyway? I asked myself this after my third rotation of the album, wondering where the connection was to the songs — none of which are the namesake of the album — to the the title. What I found out was that Lake Texoma is a lake that falls between Oklahoma and Texas, something that people who have been up in the northeast all of their life (i.e. myself) did not know. It is also where Shelton has a lake house at and where he wrote this album; the album of which seems to not be the most original, but is lyrically and vocally extraordinary if you were to really listen to. His lead single stays the most memorable of the 11 songs, making it a good choice for the new album’s promotion and an even better setup for the album as a whole. I wasn’t really a country music fan before delving into this review, but I have to admit, this album is “Turnin’ Me On.”