On “Came Here To Forget,” a song off Blake Shelton’s 10th studio album, two spurned lovers meet in a bar. Bonding on rejection, they spark their own pained romance, vowing to “drink till we can’t remember what we came here to forget.” On the following song, “Every Goodbye,” two losers-in-love collide in the another watering hole, where one tells the other, “You can be my heartbreak medicine/Proof that even dark clouds have a silver lining.”
It doesn’t take a CSI detective to figure out who these songs, along with many others on Shelton’s If I’m Honest, are about. They are chronicles of his relationship with fellow Voice judge Gwen Stefani, a connection famously forged in the wake of symmetrical breakups: he from Miranda Lambert, she from Gavin Rossdale.
Should anyone miss the album’s gossipy framing, Shelton and Stefani co-wrote, and co-sing, a song titled “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” which offers a simultaneous spit-in-the-face and cri de couer to their exes.
It’s interesting that more songs on Honest express either anger about—or pining for—a vanished lover rather than celebrating the discovery of a new one. But the search for solace underscores it all, from the commitment-seeking “One Night Girl” to what could be Shelton’s first overtly religious ode, “Savior’s Shadow.”
Together, this makes for the most autobiographical album of Shelton’s career. So why does it end up seeming about as weighty and true as a reality show? For one thing, Shelton’s voice lacks the kind of emotional depth that’d bring a listener to tears. On his duet with Stefani, her ache upstages his from the first phrase. What’s more: the album’s breezy Nashville-pop tunes never strike below the surface. Small wonder the toss-off songs seem more credible. There’s everything from “Straight Outta Beer,” an ode to getting soused, to “Doing It to Country Songs,” where the object of his affection isn’t a person—but Music Row creations every bit as slick as this.