Blake Shelton — “God Gave Me You”
After the runaway summer hit show The Voice catapulted him into the mainstream vernacular, Blake Shelton may very well be country music’s biggest ambassador right now.
After more than a decade of persistence – and perhaps a little help from his recent nuptials with fellow fan favorite Miranda Lambert – the stars seemed to have aligned to make Shelton one in his own right.
With that new title and a bigger audience, it stands to reason that his subsequent radio singles could go two ways: Shelton could soldier on with the blunt brand of hillbilly music now nearly synonymous with the B.S. brand, or cast a wider net that would fit somewhere into the genre-blended mash-up played simultaneously on adult contemporary, pop and mainstream country radio stations.
Shelton seems to have split the difference, taking both roads in quick succession. After the twangy “Honey Bee” sent new country fans rushing to Google “Little Loretta,” the smooth-voiced singer now tries his hand at the latter on Red River Blue’s second single “God Gave Me You.”
The result is harmless enough, but symptomatic of a larger problem. Despite the humor, charisma, authenticity and charm that has fueled his career, Shelton’s biggest weakness has remained his choice of material. And while he has certainly shined on career-defining story songs such as his debut “Austin,” “Ol’ Red” and even the droll “Some Beach,” the sum of his singles have never added up to an impressive collection of work.
That trend continues with “God Gave Me You,” which trades out his recent string of good-time party songs for something a little more substantial. Borrowed from contemporary Christian artist Dave Barnes, it’s an adventurous choice reminiscent of his 2008 Michael Bubles cover “Home,” sans its lyrical elegance and subtle layers of steel guitar and string.
His honest, vibrant vocal performance is nearly canceled out by a tinny instrumental mix of anonymous background vocals and a looping drum beat that drowns emotion with commotion. While Shelton’s connection to off-puttingly pretentious lyrics such as “You’ll always be love’s great martyr/And I’ll be the flattered fool” are contextually intimate, the production seems to be gunning for a worldwide live stream.
Shelton fights an uphill battle with paint-by-numbers noise, and it’s the listener that loses on “God Gave Me You.” But the bigger war is Shelton’s consistent sacrifice of a memorable catalog for forgettably catchy singles – especially now that all eyes are on him.
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