"Boys 'Round Here"
Country heavyweight Blake Shelton spends a fair bit of time in Los Angeles these days as one of the judges of NBC's singing competition The Voice. But it only takes about 45 seconds or so listening to his spring 2013 hit "Boys 'Round Here" to put allay any anxiety that California might somehow be compromising his country credentials.
I think it's safe to say that Blake Shelton (who lives with his country superstar wife, Miranda Lambert, in Tishomingo, Okla.) is very much still in touch with his rural roots. How do I know? Let me count the ways his new song drawlingly celebrates the "good ol' boy" way of life:
1) It boasts a honky-tonk.
3) A truck.
4) Dirt roads.
5) Cold beer.
6) Chewing tobacco.
7) A pretty young thing.
8) A blanket to lie down on with said pretty young thing, preferably somewhere down those dirt roads away from all those pesky city lights.
9) A shout-out to the Man Upstairs.
But don't just take my word for it. Here are Blake's:
"Well, the boys 'round here don't listen to The Beatles/Run ol' Bocephus [Hank Williams, Jr.] through a jukebox needle/At a honky-tonk where their boots stomp/ … What they call work, diggin' in the dirt/Gotta get it in the ground before the rain come down."
Told ya. And when the work is done, "Yeah, the boys 'round here/Drinking that ice cold beer/Talkin' 'bout girls, talkin' 'bout trucks/Runnin' them red-dirt roads out, kicking up dust."
Then comes that supplication: "Sending up a prayer to the Man Upstairs." And we're right back down in the dirt with a litany of earthy—and earthly—pursuits: "Backwoods legit, don't take no s‑‑‑ [or "lip" on the edited version]/Chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit." (There's a "d‑‑n" a line or two later.)
As for the aforementioned girls, Blake's not quite done talking about them yet. "Yeah, the girls 'round here, they all deserve a whistle," he leers, "Shakin' that sugar, sweet as Dixie crystal." And it's not long before several show up … in the form of country crooners Pistol Annies, a trio composed of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. "Let me hear you say/Ooh, let's ride/Ooh, let's ride/Down to the riverside," they coo suggestively.
And let's just say once they get there, the boys and girls 'round this song aren't just goin' fishin'. "Hey now, girl, hop inside," Blake continues. "Me and you gonna take a little ride to the river/Let's ride (that's right)/Lay a blanket on the ground/Kissing and crickets is the only sound/We out of town/Have you ever got down with a/Red, red, red, red, red, red, red, redneck?/Girl, you gotta get down."
Lest anyone miss the sensual insinuations here, the video features the Pistol Annies vamping in coquettish outfits and striking their best come-hither poses. Elsewhere, there's a lot of what you'd expect (big trucks and bigger beers) right alongside a comedic bit you might not: three rappers show up at the shindig and are greeted with suspicion … and then a big country hug from Blake.
Listeners, of course, are supposed to uncritically embrace Blake's smiling vision of the country good life too. It is, after all, a "redneck" lifestyle that's already been given the genre's stamp of approval in hundreds, perhaps thousands of country songs just like it.
But just because the beer drinkin', tobacco chewin', down-by-the-riverside kissin' story Shelton tells here is a familiar one doesn't mean it's truly as good as the good ol' boys in this song might want to believe.