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A 'story' not worth telling

Blake Shelton's new record disappoints

As a die-hard country music fan, I can’t even begin to explain how disappointed I am with Blake Shelton’s latest album, ‘Based on a True Story.’

Just kidding. I can and will explain why you should not be rushing out to buy Shelton’s eighth studio album. To begin with, I find the album’s title to be painfully ironic — after suffering through one bland, over-produced track after another, I can’t help but question what kind of story this album is based on. Where are the aspects of truth and authenticity that usually anchor a good country album?

Shelton has recently become a household name and crossover pop culture figure through his role as a judge on NBC’s popular singing competition show, ‘The Voice.’ When he first appeared in this role, I thought it was excellent that a mainstream, ‘American Idol’-esque TV show was finally acknowledging and embracing country music’s expanding scope and popularity. It also helped that Shelton has a great on-camera personality and is very entertaining to watch.

But after hearing his latest album, I’ve realized Shelton is stretching himself too thin and his music is suffering as a result. Maybe it’s simply the time commitment of filming a TV show, or maybe it’s the cultural and social influence of being in the Hollywood spotlight — either way, he has clearly lost touch with his country roots.

Shelton’s 2011 album Red River Blue was full of moving country love songs like “Honey Bee,” “God Gave Me You” and “Over.” Unfortunately, on this album, “Mine Would Be You,” a hidden gem buried down at number nine in the tracklist, is the closest Shelton comes to a memorable, moving song. Maybe Shelton should spend more time with his wife, country star Miranda Lambert, and get his romantic fires burning again, because his older songs like “God Gave Me You” not only let out his rich voice, but also conveyed more authentic emotion.

To save country fans the time and trouble of listening to it themselves, here’s a quick delineation of the lackluster songs found in ‘Based on a True Story’ — “Do You Remember,” “Country on the Radio,” “My Eyes,” “Doin’ What She Likes,” and “Ten Times Crazier” are completely unmemorable. “Sure Be Cool If You Did” is the album’s lead single and is currently getting radio play time simply because Blake Shelton’s name is attached to it, but I doubt listeners will get attached to this song. “I Still Got a Finger” and “Boys Round Here” feel like Shelton trying to put some country-boy swagger back in his image, but both fall flat. “Small Town Big Time” is the low point of the album, as it is absolutely ruined by unnecessary auto-tuning of Shelton’s vocals.

Disappointment from this album aside, country fans shouldn’t despair — I’m sure Miranda will get Blake back on track soon enough. In the meantime, we can all look forward to Brad Paisley’s new album ‘Wheelhouse,’ which is set for released in early April.