If it’s Tuesday, it must be time to put down the beers and head to Wal-mart. That’s the life Blake Shelton thinks his fans are living. “My fans aren’t necessarily looking for music on the internet. I wouldn’t know how to stream music if you put a gun to my head. We’re more the kind that sit around watching John Wayne movies, drinkin’ beer and then when the album comes out, we go down to Wal-mart and buy it,” he told me last week.
And the album’s out today (Aug. 10). All About Tonight has six songs that Shelton can rave about without sounding too full of himself because he didn’t write them. Like “Draggin’ the River,” a song about young love and the girl’s dad who doesn’t understand it. Fiancée Miranda Lambert joins him on that one. Shelton told me she wanted to cut that one herself, and he said, “Bullshit you will. You already did that once with ‘The House That Built Me.'” Then she suggested it would work as a duet.
But Lambert did give him one song for the album. She wrote “Suffocating” with Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, and it showcases the power of Shelton’s haunting vocals. Then there’s “Got a Little Country” with rapid-fire singing about Louis Vuitton, Manolo Blahniks and gin and tonics, which Shelton told me was kind of inspired by country star Jerry Reed. And when I asked Shelton if that was him on the lightning-fast guitar picking, he said, “I wish. I can’t even think that fast, much less play like that.”
But his favorite track on the album? “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?” Do you pour a little something on the rocks? Sink to your nose in a bubble bath? Do you break things when you get mad? Paint your toes because you bite your nails? He likes it because of the vivid picture it paints. I like it because I like guys who ask all the right questions.
Is it possible to take one song and see it two completely different ways? After seeing a new video for Lady Antebellum’s “I Run to You,” I have to say, absolutely. I thought the first one was so neat, with its pay-it-forward theme playing out in the coffee shop. But this new one shifts gears to be more about the band’s performance and less about the story. That’s just how director Christopher Sims intended it. “It’s set on a rooftop in Nashville, like an artists’ loft might look, because I wanted the band to be observers. They’re looking down at the world from over the edge,” he told me.
Then there’s the backwards-running girl. “It’s like she’s running back to him. And as it gets closer to the end, she’s running past couples who are kissing, which is what she’s trying to get back to. It’s very heartfelt.” (Side note about the reverse motion: Because Sims was filming the girl running forward, the happy couples had to do their thing in reverse. See if you can tell that their kisses were really unkisses.)
And what about the pensive rooftop guy? “He’s up there, taking it all in, as if it’s the morning after a big fight,” Sims said. Once the girl makes it back to the guy, there’s no more backwards motion. That’s because she’s right where she wants to be.
Lady Antebellum‘s Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood haven’t ever played across the pond. But that hasn’t stopped fans all over Europe from loving their country-pop sound. And theNew York Times is reporting that this has made the band and its label “guardedly optimistic” about success over there. (Their Need You Now album opened at No. 8 on the sales chart.)
But to reach Shania Twain-like status in other countries, they may need to start touring over there. That’s the opinion of the editor of Maverick, a British country music magazine. Their schedule here is pretty jam-packed, though, with their Tim McGraw dates and then their own headlining tour. So the decision isn’t an easy one. If you are a country music sensation in one country, should you try to share the love? Or does that compromise your ability to make the most of your fame here at home?
I also can’t stop wondering why so many American country artists try for touring and chart success in Europe, but with the exception of Keith Urban, how many country artists from other parts of the world try to cross over and succeed here? Maybe there are hundreds and I just don’t know about them. One artist I’ve heard of, Richard Palmer, has a quintessential Nashville voice. But he plays in the UK, not in America. Should more artists like Palmer try to tour here? I just think maybe if Nashville is going to try to export some country music, we should try to import some as well.