With his new single "Neon Light," Blake Shelton is renewing his vows to country music. But he's doing it his own way.
"The song, the melody, the chorus is so George Jones or George Strait. It really is," the reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year tells Rolling Stone Country. "Of course, I’m always going to have the haters and critics out there that say it's not. But then, kiss my ass! I know more about those records than a lot of people."
Shelton has always had a healthy respect for traditional country, but he's not adverse to filtering it through a modern prism. "Neon Light" boasts a classic-sounding melody, but then it quickly veers off into a funky back-porch groove, heavy on the snare and electric guitar picking. Kind of what you'd get if an old-timey string quartet had a baby with a funk-blues band.
"We do include elements in our music today that sonically make them different," Shelton explains. "But the heart of country music is still alive, and still there."
The entertainer's 11th studio album, Bringing Back the Sunshine, is produced by longtime collaborator Scott Hendricks, and hits stores September 30th — one week after Shelton returns for his seventh season as a coach on the popular NBC series The Voice.
Although his appeal may be mainstream, you won't find Shelton pandering to pop radio in the hopes of a crossover hit.
"I had the good fortune, or misfortune, that if I open my mouth, there's not much I can do about it. I'm country, and I'm stuck with it," he admits in his Oklahoma drawl.
That musical self-awareness seems to be working. Shelton has notched a whopping 17 Number One country singles, five of them off last year's album Based on a True Story…. In addition, 12 of those chart-toppers have been consecutive — a record for any country artist.
"I've never had goals or aspirations of crossing over into rock, or pop, or any of those things," he says. "It's fun to collaborate sometimes, because somebody may be a friend…but to make it a goal to cross over? There would be nothing about that that came from my heart. It would have to be just something I did that was played on country radio, and somehow bled over into another genre."