Blake Shelton has a lot going for him lately. He’s allegedly engaged to Gwen Stefani, he makes for fantastic television on The Voice, and he’s scored numerous successful country albums. All seems to be right in the world for Blake Shelton… except for the album reviews for If I’m Honest, if “we’re being totally honest.” Essentially, it seems, reading into critical views that Shelton’s latest album is mixed. It depends on who you ask.
One thing that has hurt Shelton’s case critically with If I’m Honest is the lack of major publication reviews, at least via Metacritic. Metacritic, a site that compiles album review ratings and creates one aggregate from major publications, has very few reviews (four are required before a “meta score” is given). Of album reviews from Rolling Stone, AllMusic, Los Angeles Times, and Entertainment Weekly, the meta score averaged to just 59 as of May 23, 2016, garnering a “mixed or average” rating. So, what do the critics like and what do they object to?
Keith Harris’ Rolling Stone review of the album doesn’t pinpoint a singular flaw, but seems to suggest the album is just what it is, favorable enough but not necessarily ‘brand new.’ Harris actually praises the song “Savior’s Shadow,” writing, “‘Savior’s Shadow,’ suggests that the good ol’ boy’s maturing into a man.” He follows up with a subtle jab at Shelton’s maturity, citing two songs that are, quote, “there to prove that he’s got a little more hell to raise before he goes to heaven.”
Stephen Thomas Erlewin’s AllMusic Review, much like Harris’, offers some praise, without crowning the album as the second coming. He states, “If I’m Honest is targeted more at the mainstream audience attracted by the show [The Voice] than country radio proper.” In other words, this is clearly a commercial album that doesn’t necessarily consider being the ‘torchbearer’ of country music itself. Interestingly, the “hell-raising” “Straight Outta Cold Beer” is mentioned once more.
Mikael Wood’s LA Times review summarizes his average sentiments best: Blake Shelton could use more truth on the too-polished ‘If I’m Honest’. Wood does praise apparent surefire winner “Straight Outta Cold Beer,” stating Shelton is “spirited enough in a handful of sly party tunes.”
Wood criticizes Shelton’s depth when it comes to relationships, writing, “Yet there’s little depth to Shelton’s musings on the end of one relationship and the beginning of another…” Where Harris of Rolling Stone praised closer “Savior’s Shadow,” Wood takes a shot writing, “At least there’s an end of his album… that’s where Shelton put ‘Savior’s Shadow’… the words aren’t much – mostly familiar images of thunder and rain, mountains and oceans.”
Jim Farber’s Entertainment Weekly review calls If I’m Honest “the most autobiographical album of Shelton’s career.” He continues on asking, “So why does it end up seeming about as weighty and true as a reality show?” Hmm, is that shade?
Other reviews, not included in Metacritic’s aggregate, offer more praise. Lauren Cowling’s review for One Country states, “All in all, it’s a solid effort from Shelton. He gave us a more intimate look into his life without straying away from what’s gotten him to the top of country music.” Chuck Daulphin, formerly skeptical of Shelton, gives him a highly favorable review on Sounds Like Nashville. “Blake Shelton, I’m gonna be honest with you. I thought you had forgotten how to be this good…Well we critics can be wrong…every now and then. And, this time, I was!” Newsday gives the album a respectable B+ rating.
Regardless of varying opinions on Blake Shelton’s latest album, if it performs like previous albums, the country singer has little to worry about. Shelton’s album has been #1 on iTunes throughout its debut week. That’s gotta be worth something, right?