If two is a coincidence and three is a trend, Blake Shelton just confirmed the newest trend in country music: revenge sex.
Shelton’s new single “Came Here To Forget” is a disappointingly vapid song about two people who, in order to get back at and over their exes, totally do it. It’s got the usual “your love is an intoxicant” line (please, quit being lazy and find a better metaphor) and the general, feigned sincerity you’d expect a writer to illicit in order to come off as heartbroken instead of just horny.
Shelton joins his pal Luke Bryan in dishing out a song that involves forgetting an ex (and apparently your sense of self-worth) by boozing up and getting down with a stranger. The Bryan/Karen Fairchild duet “Home Alone Tonight” went number one recently, despite the mind-numbingly dumb premise that either of the happily married singers would “snap a payback picture” and hook up like two fake ID-clad college freshmen.
In between those songs, Dierks Bentley released the only slightly more forgivable revenge sex anthem “Somewhere On A Beach,” which at least kind of feels like a sequel to “Drunk On A Plane” in that it makes the sex a secondary fixture to the circumstance, instead of the end goal. (And hey, the music is slightly more interesting and the video is pretty funny).
So, here you have three of biggest male acts in country all releasing revenge sex songs within a few months of each other. Which means prepare to hear several more songs in the coming year about the exact same thing. Heck, one of them is probably being written right now.
Country trends come and go. Sometimes they’re big — like, “bro country and drum tracks” big. Sometimes they’re small. Like using the word “gypsy” as if it’s not a racial slur (seriously, stop that) and name-dropping artists who sound nothing like the song they’re mentioned in (Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama etc.).
There’s no way to know for sure if thematic trends are calculated or just accidentally on purpose. One the one hand, you’ve got the 25-year industry insider who swore he was in the room when executives decided that “country rap” was going to be a thing — and then next year Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” took off.
On the other hand, you’ve got the less conspiracy theory-inclined who just watch out for what the market is responding to and then saturate it. Remember when Jerrod Niemann, Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line all had remixes with rappers (Pitbull, Ludacris, Nelly and Jason Derulo, respectively)?
And then there are the writers who swear that sometimes song titles are just “in the air,” and that leads to similarly themed songs from time to time. It could happen. But country is well known for chasing trends.
At every songwriter panel in Nashville you’ll get a question from an aspiring writer who wants to know how a hit writer knew to pick a certain trendy topic. The answer is usually that he or she didn’t — they just wrote a lot of songs, pitched a lot of songs, and the ones that stuck, stuck.
But that doesn’t stop all of the other fledgling writers from chasing trends like “revenge sex” in country songs once they get a whiff of the success. Most writers in town who are fortunate enough to be getting the big cuts are aware of what their friends are doing.
It’s kind of like how choker necklaces and puka shells became inexplicably popular in the early 2000s. When three of the most popular kids in school show up wearing them, you better believe others are going to follow. When your whole group is doing it, it feels pretty normal.
Perhaps one of the bigger problems is that these are the offerings we’re getting when artists respond to the call for country music that is “deeper.” All of them know very well where they sit in the country music landscape and what they could offer to deepen it, if they choose to do so.
Blake Shelton publicly went through one of the toughest experiences anyone can in his very public divorce with Miranda Lambert. You’d think somebody who started with sincere songs like “Austin” would turn to music as an emotional outlet to really express himself. Or at least not have the very first new song be an over-produced, sample-laden ditty about revenge sex.
Did Chris Stapleton teach you nothing?
So if we’re not going to get much help from the males at the top of the genre, we can only hope the females and the up-and-comers will have something more substantial to say, or at least, the decency to be more original.