Blake Shelton veered toward the somnolent on the quite pleasing Bringing Back the Sunshine so it's not entirely surprising its 2016 sequel, If I'm Honest, is a bit crisper and livelier. Some of this brightening in attitude may be due to him lightening his load following a much-publicized 2015 divorce from singer Miranda Lambert -- certainly the title suggests it's time for the singer to get down to what's real -- but the electronic sheen and good times also feel like a reaction to Shelton sliding too deeply into softness. If If I'm Honest is indeed a divorce album, it's a Back in the High Life, not a Blood on the Tracks: Shelton is seizing the day, embracing his new lease on life with renewed vigor and a new love, who just happens to stop by to sing "Go Ahead and Break My Heart.
Blake Shelton's tenth studio album is his first since divorcing country music queen Miranda Lambert and subsequently taking up with his fellow coach from The Voice, Gwen Stefani, who duets here on the simmering "Go Ahead and Break My Heart. " It can be tempting to hear Shelton's new breakup songs – the bitterly comic "She's Got a Way with Words," the coolly regretful "Bet You Still Think About Me" – as targeted toward Lambert, or to imagine Stefani as the someone new he flirts with tipsily on the first single, "Came Here to Forget. " Shelton's warmly confident delivery makes those romantic twists and turns sound both lived in but universal, and the reverent finale, "Savior's Shadow," suggests that the good ol' boy's maturing into a man.
If we’re being honest — as Blake Shelton asserts he’s doing on his latest album — the dimpled country star is a little hard to resist. Maybe it’s the twinkle in his eye as he exchanges coy barbs with bromance partner and co-judge Adam Levine on The Voice. Or maybe it’s the bashful sweetness he exudes whenever in the presence of current flame Gwen Stefani.
In 2011, the president of Blake Shelton’s record label told me he’d hurried production of Shelton’s album “Red River Blue” to capitalize on the country singer’s rising profile as a coach on “The Voice. ” Five years later, you get the sense that Shelton and his team did the same thing with his new record, “If I’m Honest. ” The singer’s first effort since his divorce from Miranda Lambert and subsequent hookup with his former “Voice” costar Gwen Stefani, “If I’m Honest” arrives at a moment of peak pop-culture exposure for Shelton — and a mere two months after Stefani’s “This Is What the Truth Feels Like,” on which she surveyed the wreckage of her own failed marriage to rocker Gavin Rossdale.