Blake Shelton is back on the radio waves with the lead single to his upcoming album Bringing Back The Sunshine titled "Neon Light". Blake has never been one to be subtle, as he notedly called fans of traditional country "old farts and jackasses" a few years back. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Blake claimed that "Neon Light" mixed some elements of other musical genres' influences, but the heart and soul of it was still country. I rolled my eyes at that comment. Then I listened to the song and I'll be darned, he wasn't kidding. "Neon Light" isn't traditional country, but it isn't a bad effort in the shoddy mess that is mainstream country radio.
The lyrics tell the tried and true story of the man who loses his love and finds solace in a bar somewhere. It used to be a country cliche, but anytime anything other than tailgates and bonfires are mentioned, it feels like it is going against the grain. Brooks and Dunn used to give us song after song about this topic, and Blake is bringing it back. That's a good thing. Country music could use a little humility and heartache on the radio again. Of course, it isn't all doom and gloom, but it mixes that hint of regret with some resentment. It certainly places a heavy emphasis on drinking, as required if you want your country song to chart, but it isn't as obnoxious as some of its contemporaries on the radio.
Musically this song is hit and miss. The quirky guitar riff in the intro is a nice foundation to build a fun country ditty on. The chorus has a very catchy melody that is easily to sing along to, but still has a country feel to it rather than a pop feel. But, the goofy drum machine drives me crazy. The beat is pure pop, and really feels out of place in this otherwise very country song. This is the "experimentation" Blake is talking about. Except when you are doing something that about 80% of your fellow artists in mainstream country are adding to their songs, it isn't "experimenting", its "trend-chasing". But hey, if he thinks he's being edgy by following a trend that we will look back on and shake our heads at someday, more power to him I guess. Also, the pseudo-rap third verse is simply pandering to the young pop crowd, and it doesn't fit in this song at all. More trend-chasing that Blake thinks is revolutionary I'm sure. But, I digress.
This song is far from perfect. But, it isn't bad either. Blake has had some woefully forgettable music on the radio lately, and Based On A True Story..., while selling well and winning some recognition, was easily his weakest album to date as far as variety and substance goes. Hopefully, Bringing Back The Sunshine is a step in the right direction. So far, it looks far more promising than the last record. "Neon Light" is a decent song. Not perfect, not terrible. Sadly, that's something to be excited about on country radio these days. I can get behind this one. Baby steps Blake, we will pull you back to real country in no time!