Album Review: “Startin’ Fires” by Blake Shelton
Blake Shelton has secured himself as the genre’s leading neo-traditionalist. After a long haul to the peak of his career, Shelton has finally managed to secure his own sound, his own image and even his own celebrity girlfriend. Every one of these aspects is addressed in this project as Blake continues his rise to country perfection with his fifth project.
Startin’ Fires is less negative than Blake’s previous project, Pure BS, for the simple reason that there are so many transformations that have taken place in his life sense that project. However Blake does continue the growth and maturity of his last project. Pure BS was based off of emotions stirred by his divorce and his difficulty to secure his place in the genre. This project is more a “traditional Blake Shelton” feel in the sense that it contains more romatic and uptempo songs which tend to show themselves off as Blake’s forte.
One of Shelton’s brightest talents is his ability to instill a sense of love and longing in his love songs that comes off as so believable it’s actually quite intriguing. While his sense of torture and hurt were very well presented in Pure BS, the tracks offered here are almost portrayed as anti-heartbreak counterparts to Shelton’s last project. Take “This Is Gonna Take All Night” for example. The subject matter surrounds the increasing attraction and longing that Blake feels for his significant other and offers a warning of his oncoming desire. The albums namesake “Good At Startin’ Fires” take a different direction focusing on a woman who can attract any man, but is only devoted to her one and only. The most notable departure Blake takes from heartbreak, however, is his incorporating his girlfriend Miranda Lambert in the closing track, an interesting “campfire type” song that seems to address the relationship the two actually have. Every love song on this album contains the same sincerity as the heartbreak songs of Pure BS.
Of course that’s not to say Blake doesn’t share a little remaining remorse for his setbacks. He offers “100 Miles” as a unique heartbreak song addressing his characters understanding that he has made mistakes and even though he won’t turn around he knows it’s only a matter of time before he loses control and breaks down. Also the first single “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” addresses possible regret that could still remain even after a man has moved on from a breakup. Blake also brings in a little bit of Pure BS, showing just how significant the work was for him, by including the magnificently written and produced “I Don’t Care” which offers heartbreak in a breakup and brings a twist to the end that is not only really surprising but offers an interesting look at how regret can really get to a person.
What is really nice about this project is that it brings back the “hillbilly boy” persona that has helped Blake become such a big member of the country music community. However this album was approached with a lot more artistry and maturity, making for an interesting mix of great music and a great personality. The opening track “Green” allows Shelton to take a crack at pop culture a little and address fake cowboys and the “posers”. He explains the concept of true farm life and how he “was green before green was a thing”. He comes from another direction, but with the same concept of hillbilly pride, with “Country Strong” as he addresses people who are truly country in their lifestyles. But don’t think that just because Blake is focusing on a fun topic doesn’t mean he can’t bring in some sentiment. “Home Sweet Home” shines as one of the album’s best track and takes the same concept in a much more direct expression of pride in where one came from and who they are.
When Blake approached his Pure BS with a sense of heartache and a little regret it became clear that not only was he transformed as a person, but also as an artist. Many believed that after he got over things that change wouldn’t continue to last, however this album proves that he still has his new sense of maturity and sentiment intact but also retains his sense of humor and his fun personality that helped him get this far. This combination makes for a great peice of work and while Blake still has quite a few hurdles to jump before he can compete with the likes of others like Brad Paisley who have been in his position, this album will help keep him on the right track.