Honestly, Blake? We’re not mad. We’re just disappointed.
Shelton’s hosting/performing gig on Saturday Night Live this week is a lesson in coulda-woulda-shoulda: He could’ve brought a bit of country to the concrete jungle, and he could’ve downplayed the differences between the big city and the small-town sensibilities embraced by his music and persona. Despite some great comedic moments, an epic fake music video in “Wishin’ Boot,” and perfectly respectable renditions of “Boys ‘Round Here” and “Neon Light,” he stayed straight in the confines of assumption and delivered exactly the kind of episode we’d anticipate from someone who may as well be dubbed Music Row’s Hollywood ambassador. He did what pop-country stars are expected to do by those who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the genre: He banked on the easy jokes and became a cartoon of himself that grew more ridiculous with every punchline, and he threw a pall over his performance (and country music on the whole) in the process.
He gave the haters what they wanted — and that’s a problem, as Shelton’s hokey routine set his songs up to fail.
Shelton is a strong performer with an exceptional voice and stage presence for days. His charm jumps off the TV screen when he’s pushing country talent to the forefront on The Voice. He provides a bit of gallantry when his colleagues tip their cowboy hats and warble about trucks and beers and other stereotypical nouns that pepper the lyrics of popular country tunes (even though his biggest hit to date, “Boys ‘Round Here,” is basically the bro-iest country anthem that ever did bro). He’s insanely likable, in spite of embracing his status as a walking, whiskey-swillin’ country character, and he was a perfect fit for the latest person to try their hand at both hosting and performing their music on the storied late-night program.
Instead of using SNL as an opportunity to break through to a new audience — a/k/a not the CMT-watching set — “Neon Light” and “Boys ‘Round Here” delivered Shelton at his Grand Ole Opry best. Flawless vocals, exceptional harmonies, and a tight band were all par for the course, especially on “Neon Light,” but how a person can sit through “Boys ‘Round Here” without cringing at the mimed praying and dougie jokes after an entire episode that poked relentless fun at Shelton’s (proud!) redneck tendencies is beyond me.
And hey, SNL‘s typical viewer isn’t Shelton’s typical audience, and maybe these songs were intended to satisfy his tried-and-true fan base instead of a new crowd. Maybe these jokes feel a little less pointed to those who are used to them. Still, Shelton’s turn in Studio 8H could’ve been more than a lesson in How to Keep Pop Country Stereotypes Going, and it’s a shame that he couldn’t get out of his own way in that regard.
As for the internet? Shelton fans raved, country haters crowed, and a lot of people had no idea who the hell he was. (Kelly Clarkson approved, though.)
The original American Idol thought he was hilarious.
— Kelly Clarkson (@kelly_clarkson) January 25, 2015
So did CMT.
— CMT (@CMT) January 25, 2015
But is that a GOOD thing, though?
— PZ (@pzpower) January 25, 2015
I’m sure the whole “Say a prayer to the man upstairs” thing balanced things out for your pops.
Why is this Blake Shelton SNL so inappropriate and the only one my dad is watching all of
— jaclyn (@lilplouto) January 25, 2015
— Tracy Shipman (@Tracy_Shipman) January 25, 2015
Can’t tell if these are happy or sad tears but either way #feelingz
— Cowboys Mama (@cowboysmama42) January 25, 2015
But who IS Blake Shelton, really? (Hint: Not Vince Vaughn. Or Chris Pratt.)
— DjBizonee (@DJBizonee) January 25, 2015
I’m immensely comfortable with the fact I’ve no idea who this Blake Shelton guy is. #SNL
— Healy Chen (@chenhealy) January 25, 2015
Blake Shelton and Vince Vaughn are the same person, right? #SNL
— Stephanie Simons (@SimonsStephanie) January 25, 2015
— Aaron Draven (@AaronDraven) January 25, 2015
@blakeshelton on SNL saw that still picture of u in the old flowered blazer n don’t do it again besides ur 2 sexy 2B that covered up ok.
— Valerie Villalobos (@oopsydaisy67) January 25, 2015
Idk there are probably actually like, maybe 200, but still, NBC, you could’ve made Oklahoma’s night!
As an Oklahoman living in NYC, @nbcsnl should have invited the 100 other Oklahomans in NYC to the SNL Blake Shelton after party tonight
— Megan (@MegStewOU) January 25, 2015
And finally: If that ain’t the Chevy calling the Chevy a Chevy.
“How bout’ like a truck that don’t know which way is up.” – Blake Shelton pitching an SNL sketch
— Jake Levy (@mycousinscousin) January 25, 2015