If you want your songs to get recorded by major artists, you need to understand those artists.
Understanding what an artist has recorded before can help you predict what he or she might record in the future. So, today, I decided to dive into Blake Shelton’s album, “If I’m Honest.” Here’s what I found, track-by-track. (Note: “PUL’D” is a reference from my workbook “Cut/able: Lessons in Market-Smart Songwriting.” It means “Positive-Uptempo-Love/Depth.” “Neighborhood” and POV (“Point Of View”) are also explained in “Cut/able.” Check out the workbook HERE.)
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Artist: Blake Shelton
Album: If I’m Honest
Producer: Scott Hendricks
Label: Warner Bros. Nashville
“Straight Outta Cold Beer”
Writers: Marv Green, Ben Hayslip, Justin Wilson
PUL’D: Positive, Midtempo
Neighborhood: Bro, redneck, blue-collar
Subject: Country life pep rally
Notes: Rap-like lyrics, lots of imagery, “We’re country and that’s awesome” theme. Play off “Straight Outta Compton,” fun, clever. Drinking, Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Solo-Chorus
“She’s Got A Way With Words”
Writers: Andy Albert, Marc Beeson, Wyatt Earp
Timeframe: In-The-Moment (with some looking back)
PUL’D: Negative (but humorous), Midtempo, Love (lost love)
Neighborhood: Country boy. Lyrically pushes the envelope. Sarcastic.
Subject: Lost Love
Notes: SINGLE, Breakup, fun/funny, clever lyric, quirky, not much imagery, not a very “big” melody. Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Chorus
“Bet You Still Think About Me”
Writers: Park Chisolm, Mark Irwin
PUL’D: Want-you-back, hopeful, mid-ballad, big chorus, love/lost love
Subject: Love love
Notes: Melodic, hook in the pre-chorus, not a lot of imagery. Tells the listener (the girl) that she’s still wanted. Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Chorus.
“Every Time I Hear That Song”
Writers: Chris Lindsey, Aimee Mayo, Brad Warren, Brett Warren
Timeframe: In-The-Moment, looking back
PUL’D: Sad, Mid-power ballad, Love/lost love
Subject: Lost love, music
Notes: Big melody, falsetto. Tells the girl (listener) that she’s still wanted. Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Solo-Bridge
“Came Here To Forget”
Writers: Deric Ruttan, Craig Wiseman
PUL’D: Sad but hopeful, Mid-tempo, Love / lost love
Neighborhood: Country, Pop-country
Subject: Lost love and hooking up with someone new. Drinking.
Notes: SINGLE. Mid-groove. Kinda dark. Lots of imagery. Weed reference. Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus
Writers: Busbee, Ryan Hurd, Liz Rose
PUL’D: Positive, Midtempo, Love/Lost Love
Neighborhood: Blue collar country boy
Subject: I lost her. You lost him. Let’s hook up.
Notes: Bouncy feel-good groove, drinking, not a ton of imagery. Getting over a heartache, but not a sad feel. Feels very positive. Verse-Lift-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Lift-Chorus
“It Ain’t Easy”
Writers: Rhett Akins, Mat Dragstrem, Ben Hayslip
PUL’D: Positive, mid-groove, love
Neighborhood: Soulful country.
Subject: It ain’t easy for him to leave her place ‘cuz he’s so in love.
Notes: Telling the girl what she wants to hear. Horns. Hook-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus
“A Guy With A Girl”
Writers: Ashley Gorley, Bryan Simpson
PUL’D: Positive, Uptempo, Love
Neighborhood: Country boy. Blue collar, kinda redneck.
Subject: When I’m with you, nobody’s paying any attention to me- cuz you’re so beautiful.
Notes: SINGLE. Telling the girl what she wants to hear. Praising her. Feels good. Good imagery. Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus.
“Go Ahead And Break My Heart”
Writers: Blake Shelton, Gwen Stephani
POV: Me/You (duet)
PUL’D: Negative (but feels good), uptempo, love/lost love
Neighborhood: Pop country
Subject: We hooked up getting over other people, but it’s a temporary thing? But we’re into each other? Honestly, I’m not really sure what’s going on here.
Notes: Negative, but feels good. Messed up relationship. On-again, off-again. Good imagery. Verse-Verse-Lift-Chorus-Verse-Verse-Lift-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus.
Writers: Blake Shelton, Jessi Alexander
Timeframe: Looking back / In-The-Moment
PUL’D: Positive, Uptempo, Friendship
Neighborhood: Movie song. “Angry Birds.” Country.
Notes: Buddy song, smile-factor. Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus.
“One Night Girl”
Writers: Ashley Gorley, Dallas Davidson
PUL’D: Positive, Uptempo, Love
Neighborhood: Country boy. Bro.
Subject: It’s daybreak after the 1st date, and he’s telling her he wants to spend more time with her.
Notes: Love, not sex. New love. Big chorus. Good imagery. Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus.
“Doing It To Country Songs”
Writers: Marty Dodson, Jacob Lyda, Paul Overstreet
PUL’D: Positive, Mid-tempo, Music
Neighborhood: Country, honky tonk.
Subject: Country music and sex.
Notes: Features the Oak Ridge Boys. Storytelling. Lots of imagery. Double-meaning. Clever, fun, funny. Verse-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Solo-Chorus-Chorus-Chorus
Writers: Blake Shelton, Jessi Alexander, Jon Randall
PUL’D: Positive, Ballad, Depth
Neighborhood: Country gospel. No angel. Bluegrass.
Subject: The devil tried to break me, but God pulled me through.
Notes: Worshipful, acoustic/strings, contemplative. Verse-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Chorus.
This record feels good. The happy songs feel good. Even the heartbreak songs feel good. Not a tearjerker in the bunch. A theme that keeps popping up is curing a fresh heartache by finding someone new (“Came Here To Forget” “Every Goodbye”).
Women are lifted up on tis album. The possible exception is “She’s Got A Way With Words,” but even that comes off more funny than angry. Other songs, he wants the girl back (“Every Time I Hear That Song” “Bet You Still Think About Me”).
New relationships: “Came Here To Forget” “Every Goodbye” “It Ain’t Easy” “One Night Girl”
Established relationships: “A Guy With A Girl” “Doing It To Country Songs”
It’s all pretty light, except for “Go Ahead And Break My Heart” and “Savior’s Shadow.” The only hopeless or lost love is “She’s Got A Way With Words.” Not much sex or sexy. Lot of new love, but not much making out except for the double-meaning of “Doing It To Country Songs.”
“If I’m Honest” hits on a lot of commercial principles I advocate in Cut/able. The songwriters really hit the nail on the head with this one.
If you’re ready to take YOUR commercial songwriting to the next level, I have a great opportunity for you.
In August 2017, I’m hosting “The C4 Experience (C4X)” event. This is YOUR opportunity to really focus in on writing more commercial songs. You’ll get expert coaching and a small, supportive community. And with it being online, you can join us from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. If you want details, just CLICK HERE. Tickets are on sale now, and space is limited to only 10 songwriters!
God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,
Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.