Blake Shelton is All Mullet, Little 90s on “No Body”

Everybody wants to be 90s country these days, but nobody wants to hire a steel guitarist.

Yes, 90s country is now the hot new trend, and since country music is a copycat business—especially on Music Row and the mainstream—90s inspired country songs are all over the place, allegedly. If one thing is clicking, you can be rest assured many of the other major label artists will be following suit shortly. Usually this results in some adverse trend sweeping through the industry like a contagion, like the adoption of click tracks, or middle aged white dudes tractor rapping about trying to pick up chicks in the club to launch viral Tik-Toks. Where are these people’s dignity?

But now that 90s country is the hot thing, the end result should be more country songs that actually sounds like country, at least hypothetically. This trend has become so infused within the mainstream country scene, even pixie stick-snorting glitter princess Kelsea Ballerini is out there calling her new music “90s-inspired,” and Texas music’s favorite bad boy Koe Wetzel is promising a 90s country record in the future … if he can stay out of the slammer and side step being me too’d of course.

So now here comes Blake Shelton with a photoshopped mullet, releasing what he’s marketing as a 90s-style country single called “No Body.” But unlike some of these other artists professing their proficiency with 90s country, ol’ Blake Shelton was actually around and playing music at the tail end of the era. When his debut single “Austin” was hitting #1 in 2001, Blake was still rocking the “party in the back” hairdoo un-ironically. Furthermore, if Blake Shelton of all people is jumping on this 90s trend, who knows how far up major label rosters it could go.

For Blake Shelton’s anti-fans (and there are quite a few), the fact that he’s releasing any new music is disheartening on its own. Back in March, Blake was pondering retirement. After all, at this point he’s known way more as being that guy on The Voice than a country star. But Mr. Stefani is not one to sit on the sidelines when some hot trend is roiling country. Remember in 2013 when he was rapping about doing the dougie? But Blake Shelton’s new song “No Body” feels more like what Kelsea Ballerini was claiming as opposed to what he was angling for—“90s-INSPIRED” as opposed to 90s country.

What is it that is missing from today’s country that makes everyone so nostalgic for country music from the 90s? Musically, it’s the presence of fiddle and steel guitar, even if it’s infused with a bit of rock influence. Lyrically, it’s the presence of story and melody, which in the modern era has been mostly replaced by rhythm and lists. Sure, “No Body” may veer a bit more towards a 90s-sounding approach, but it’s ultimately addled by a lack of traditional instrumentation, melody, or anything meaningful in the lyrics. It’s no “Austin” or “Ol’ Red.”

The tone of the guitars does feel a bit outdated in a favorable manner, and there are little lyrical call-outs to the 90’s embedded in the words. But Blake Shelton’s vocal delivery sounds so “one note” in the verses, it doesn’t really remind you of Garth bottoming out at the start of phrases, or Ronnie Dunn belting out “My Maria.”

Most of all, “No Body” just feels like a dud of a song, with nothing special about either the music, the words, or the performance that in any way would compel folks to listen to it 30 years from now, or ever feel nostalgia for it. Ultimately, the marketeers behind Blake Shelton did a good job of getting our attention with the mullet bit, but the book didn’t fit the cover.

Sure, “No Body” is not bad compared to much of what’s on country radio today. But when you veer into making 90s country, you have to compete with the catalogs of the heavy hitters of the era. And unfortunately for ol’ Blake Shelton, this one won’t be remembered for years to come.

No bad, just blah. If you want true 90s nostalgia done anew, go listen to Ronnie Dunn’s new record.

6/10

© 2022 Saving Country Music
8+