Written by Minsu Kim. 10 November 2014.
Have you ever heard a country song verse that goes, “r-r-r-r-r-redneck!” on a country radio station? It is from a song called “Boys ‘Round Here” from Blake Shelton’s album Based on a True Story (2013). If you know Blake Shelton pretty well or if you are interested in country music industry, I am sure you have heard that he had allegedly mentioned that the old country music needed to evolve. In one of articles on USA Today about Based on a True Story, Jerry Shriver noted that the album puts Shelton’s message “into a fuller and highly entertaining context.”
In addition, Blake Shelton wanted his album to be more appealing to the young country music fans, who are the actual buyers of country albums these days. While some of the songs in the album are on a more serious note and more of a country rock, “Boys ‘Round Here,” the first track on Based on a True Story, is a fun song that anyone could easily listen and “jam” to. It is a perfect representation of the message that Shelton wanted to deliver to both old and young country listeners, and he does it cleverly through combining the traditional country sound and the modern sounds of other genres. For example, the traditional country factors of the song include- Shelton’s “twang,” which is the heavy Southern accent that Shelton is very well known for, the theme of the song, and the string guitar sound. On the other hand, more modern factors of the song include: Shelton “rapping” through the verses, the synthesizer sound, loud drums and base guitars.
The song has the verse-chorus-bridge form, just like the majority of the mainstream country songs these days. Both verses and chorus start with Shelton yelling out “Well the boys ‘round here,” followed by the listing of what country boys typically do. Lyrics-wise, the song could be classified as “bro-country,” (to know more about bro-country, click here) which means the lyrics focus on country boys drinking cold beer, talking about country girls and 4 wheel-drive trucks, and just kicking back with “bros” in small towns. The song talks about having fun with country boys drinking beer and most of the popular modern country singers such as Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line or Brad Paisley sing these “bro-country” songs. It almost seems like a country music staple now.
Anyone can also notice that Shelton is abbreviating and slurring certain words, (definitely not speaking standard, correct English,) and it is his tactic to show either his Southern-ness or modern-ness of the song, though the chorus parts are pronounced clearly. During the last chorus, Shelton claims, “I’m one of them boys ‘round here!” It appears that Shelton wanted to build up for the argument (by listing out the “country” activities) and to finally prove himself as a country boy in the end, and to stick to the generic theme of country music at the same time. Shelton might have also hoped to show that since he is one of the “boys ‘round here,” he has a right to decide what country people want to listen to.
As mentioned before, Shelton’s lyrics are pretty much just like any other country songs you can hear on the radio these days. Sound-wise? Not so much. The sounds used in this song are very unique and pretty distinct from any other traditional or even modern country song. There is one repeated unique verse that goes “red-red-red-red-redneck!” which is a synthesizer sound mixed with Shelton’s “twang.” During second verse, Shelton points out how country boys feel about “how to do the dougie,” which is a concept that only young people would understand. (To know more about what a “dougie” is, click here.) Shelton also flies through the lyrics rather quickly during the verses, which make the listeners think that he might be trying to rap. RaeLynn, which was a contestant of The Voice, a competition-based singing show where Shelton is one of the judges, is a background voice yelling a word or two here and there throughout the song. Those are the main factors that Shelton used to attract the young crowd to listen to his song.
Pistol Annies, featuring Miranda Lambert, who is Shelton’s wife and also a country superstar, sing during the bridge stage of the song. They slow down the song and bring it to the end before Shelton wraps it up with the chorus, so it gives the song a nice break in between. Having Pistol Annies in the song shows that Shelton wanted as many people as possible to listen to this song, or at least give it a chance, and make the song diverse and fun by incorporating a variety of sounds and singers. As Melissa Maerz described in the album review article, ““Boys ‘Round Here” is silly but fun blast-it-from-your-truck sing-along where he makes like Jerry Reed, talking through his rules for how to be Southern (rule No. 204: Never, ever do the Dougie).”
Overall, “Boys ‘Round Here” became very popular right after it came out (and still is), but also inevitably received a lot of criticism. As one example, Shriver said in his article, ““Boys ‘Round Here” opens with a snippet of buzzing synthesizer, then a stuttering “R-r-r-redneck” vocal leads into sections of acoustic guitars, girl-group “ooh ooh ooh’s,” strutting rock and a hilarious rap of “chew tobacca’ chew tobacca’ chew tobacca’ Spit!” It’s irresistible.” While Shriver is being sarcastic and is making fun of Blake, he understand the message that Shelton was trying to get across through the song, and it seems like Shriver reluctantly admits the song is fun (or has fun sounds/noises), though he may not be the biggest fan of this song.
|0:00||Introduction||Drum, guitar, synthesizer||Simple guitar and drum sounds, making the listeners focus on Blake Shelton’s voice|
|0:31||Verse 1||“Boys ‘round here don’t listen to the..”||RaeLynn, a background singer, yells random words like, “That’s right!” Instrument uses are same as Intro, and Shelton tried to “rap” with his “twang.”|
|0:53||Chorus||“Yeah the boys ‘round here…”||More instruments are involved; base guitar, fuller drums. Shelton now starts to pronounce each words clearly and emphasizes certain words such as beer, girls, trucks, etc.|
|1:27||Verse 2||“Where the boys round here keeping…”||Similarly to verse 1, Shelton tries to rap and RaeLynn is still a background singer/yeller. But the instruments are getting even louder and Shelton sings louder and with more energy and confidence now.|
|1:50||Chorus||“For the boys round here…”||(Notice that each verse/chorus starts with “a word the boys round here…”)
Almost equivalent to the first chorus
|2:13||Bridge||“Woo, let’s…”||Pistol Annies start off the bridge, slowing down the whole song. They sing softly, with humming voice, and Shelton starts signing later with slower/softer tone that before. Synthesizer sound of “R-r-r-r-r-redneck!” gets repeated.
Loud instruments die out and it’s just simple sounds like Intro.
|2:58||Chorus||“With the boys round here…”||Now the full instruments come back in and the song is back in full force for one last time.|
|3:41||Outro||“You’re all I…”||Pistol Annies’ voice gets louder than Shelton, and Shelton’s tone is even quieter than the bridge in general, while he shouts random words until the song/instruments start fading out.|
Maerz, Melissa. “Based On a True Story (2013) – Blake Shelton.” Entertainment Weekly. N.p., 27 Mar. 2013. Web.
Shriver, Jerry. “Blake Shelton’s ‘Story’ Is the Truth.” USA TODAY. 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.