At a recent news conference for "The Voice," Blake Shelton confessed, "I can't be a nice person," before proceeding to zing fellow coach Adam Levine.
That's not exactly true, though. On his new album, "Bringing Back the Sunshine" (Warner Bros.), Shelton rolls through a wide range of emotions -- even some sweet ones.
He's at his best playing the good ol' country boy, that same mix of charming and aggravating that makes him fun to watch on "The Voice," a combination that drives the first single, "Neon Light." He's also good at playing desperate, which livens up the pretty standard love ballad "I Need My Girl," as he sings about needing her "90 miles per hour down the interstate, headlights shining in my driveway." And the risk he takes on the hip-hop-influenced "Buzzin' " -- where he sort of raps about struggling through work before hitting a sweet Kenny Chesney-esque chorus -- pays off.
Funny how Shelton pulls off the drinkin'-and-smokin' anthem, but runs into trouble on the sweet stuff. He handles the lovely ballad "Lonely Tonight" well, paired nicely with Ashley Monroe, but it's the Pistol Annies' edge that keeps it from getting too mushy. Unfortunately, "A Girl" falls right into that mush, while the moody "Sangria," which feels like mid-'80s Phil Collins mixed with a clumsy chorus of "Your lips taste like sangria" seems destined to be mocked by Levine.
Shelton sounds stretched a little too thin on "Bringing Back the Sunshine," unable to hone some of the material to his own particular, not-nice, winning style.
"Bringing Back the Sunshine"
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THE GRADE B
BOTTOM LINE Country that gets a little too comfy.