June 14, 2021 Blake Shelton – Body Language (Album Review)
Certain pop culture figureheads are just known—by Country fans in Texas, by Pop fans in Japan, by Metalheads in Estonia, and, most astoundingly, by your grandmother Bernice. Blake Shelton is one of these oddities: a much-beloved and well-known TV personality who happens to be, first and foremost, a singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Returning to his first love, he delivered the heartfelt Body Language on May 21, 2021 thanks to Warner Brothers Nashville.
Oklahoma born, Nashville superstar Shelton burst onto the Country music scene back in 2001 with his eponymous debut. Over the next sixteen years, the congenial crooner would go on to make a proud name for himself in music, releasing nine additional albums—including 2008’s Startin’ Fires, 2013’s Based on a True Story…, and 2016’s If I’m Honest. A personality-and-a-half who just so happens to be an eight-time Grammy Award nominee, member of the Grand Ole Opry, and winner of more accolades than one mere review could count, Shelton’s hard work and dedication to his craft have allowed him to take his success to bold new heights.
For his eleventh full-length studio album, we see Shelton continuing to collaborate with long-time friend and accomplice Scott Hendricks (Brooks & Dunn, Faith Hill). Continuing to appreciate and show gratitude for its creator’s happiness, the 12-song collection sees Shelton straddling the fence between his present gleeful state (“Happy Anywhere”) and frank reminiscences of the past (“Now I Don’t”). It’s par for the course from this singer-songwriter: love, loss, lust, and a beer or two.
In this, Body Language doesn’t differ in any great way from 2017’s Texoma Shore, in fact, one could easily say that the one flows perfectly into the other. As always, there’s a familiar comfort in Shelton’s voice as the album’s first lyrics are sung on “Minimum Wage.” A reminder that love trumps money, it is quick to note that the finer things in life can still be found at the local Waffle House. An obvious choice for single/video, it’s the catchy, feel-good content that we expect from the laidback Okie—a perfect representation of the simple yet sincere material to follow.
While it would be easy to deem the record ‘wholesome,’ the singer-songwriter toys with a sensual sway on the enticing “Body Language,” a track that features his The Voice proteges, The Swon Brothers. Still it seems a somewhat odd choice for the titular offering but, hey, Shelton was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2017, right? Someone that would gladly give him their vote, a little ray of sunshine named Gwen Stefani, blesses the banjo-led “Happy Anywhere” with her vibrant voice. A sweet little bop about being stilettos over curtain bangs in love, it’s chock full of that brand of infectious joy that emanates from the couple whenever they grace our TV screens.
From here on out, the tracks are a blend of the light-hearted—like the catchy but simple “Monday Mornin’ Missin’ You” and its kissin’-cousin “Whatcha Doin’ Tomorrow,” sweet toe-tapper “The Girl Can’t Help It,” and the summery vibes of “Neon Time”—and the serious. Representing the latter, “Now I Don’t” offers listeners a straightforward goodbye with universal relatability. As the track explores coming to terms with a lost relationship that was never meant to be, it provides an exceptionally candid moment for Shelton, who kindly but firmly makes it clear that his sorrows have been washed away by time and there will be no going back.
Meanwhile, he gives his storytelling skills a flex on “The Flow,” which offers advice for surviving life with the least amount of bruises, all as it paves the way for the album’s grand finale, “Bible Verses.” Acoustic guitar and Shelton’s intimate vocals introduce the ballad which grows in texture, building itself into a moving look at interpretation and finding grace in the pages of the Good Book.
But you didn’t think Shelton would release a collection without a drinking song, right? Rewinding the record, you will find that necessary addition: “Makin’ It Up As You Go.” But this time around there’s a more refined approach that elevates the concept, offering a catchy moment that reminds us that it’s okay to let go and let Cuervo. And once you’ve had a few shots, let us steer you towards the wacky “Corn.” Did we need an homage to those ears of gold? No, but much as buddy Luke Bryan loves to toss endless catfishing references into his music, we suppose Shelton is allowed to cherish his corny side.
All of this said, Body Language is a succinct record: straight to the point and without any frills; an echo of its creator. Picking up where its 2017 predecessor left off, this collection once again takes fans through vignettes of love and loss, all as it casually occupies a stool at the dive bar to deliver some alcohol-fueled wisdom. It’s not rocket science by any means, but there’s a beautiful sincerity to Shelton’s stories—one might even compare Body Language to a maize of the heart. (Insert gong noise here.) For this, Cryptic Rock gives Body Language 4.5 of 5 stars.