Music News & Reviews

Commentary: Country music superstar Blake Shelton seems to have it all

Blake Shelton will headline at Rupp Arena this weekend.
Blake Shelton will headline at Rupp Arena this weekend. Invision/AP

What do you give the artist who seemingly has everything?

In the case of country music hitmaker Blake Shelton, your choices are more than a little limited. During the 12 years since his debut album was released, the Oklahoma-born singer has watched his career ascend with the help of more than a dozen No. 1 hits. He married Miranda Lambert to become half of country music's most prominent power couple since Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and he has been beamed into living rooms across America as a judge on NBC's popular music talent show The Voice.

So what is missing from the otherwise full celebrity saga Shelton currently stars in? How about an album that has racked up astonishingly brisk sales? Such a recording, Based on a True Story ..., entered Billboard's country charts at No. 1 and the trade magazine's all-genre Top 200 album chart at No. 3, making Shelton one of the most visible cosmopolitan country crossover acts of his generation. The fact that Based on a True Story ... has also earned heavily favorable reviews before setting up one of the year's top-grossing concert tours doesn't hurt, either.

In true crossover fashion, the album works diligently to be all things to all extensions of modern country's increasingly diverse audience. For the blue-collar crowd, there is the Merle Haggard-meets-Johnny Paycheck-inspired defiance of Sure Be Cool If You Did. For radio, there is the made-to-order sentimentalism of Mine Would Be You. Younger audiences weaned on Nashville's renewed devotion to roadhouse rock attitude can champion the sleekly rowdy Boys 'Round Here (one of Shelton's more recent chart toppers). And if your familiarity with Shelton doesn't extend beyond The Voice, there is My Eyes, which teams the singer with Gwen Sebastian, a member of one of his winning vocal teams from The Voice (Shelton's teams have taken top honors in three of the show's four seasons; a fifth season debuts Monday).

"Albums like Based on a True Story ... are what will keep him straddling worlds," wrote Jon Caramanica in The New York Times' review of the record last spring. "To a purist, Mr. Shelton is a savvy student of tradition. To a would-be outlaw, he is forever adding a wink. He is a star who is only as explicit as you want him to be."

All this leads to Shelton's current 10 Times Crazier Tour, which lands him at Rupp Arena on Saturday. This will be the singer's first Rupp outing as a headliner, although he has played there as an opening act over the past decade and popped up in a vocal cameo alongside then-fiancée Lambert in January 2010. Shelton did, however, play Lexington as a headliner later that year by opening, during pouring rain, the Spotlight Lexington festival for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

The 2013 Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year played to more than 200,000 fans during the tour's first three weekends with programs that reach back for early singles like 2001's Austin while also featuring all of his True Story hits.

That all makes for a pretty strong addition to one of country music's most complete careers, as well as suitable ammo for keeping this voice from The Voice in loud-and-proud mode for years to come.


IF YOU GO

Blake Shelton, Easton Corbin and Jana Kramer

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21

Where: Rupp Arena, 430 W. Vine St.

Tickets: $25, $39.75, $54.75. Available at (859) 233-3535, Rupparena.com and Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.

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