Blake Shelton remains one of the best song interpreters in modern country. Like his peers Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley and ex-wife Miranda Lambert, Shelton's sound and image bridge the narrow gap between the pop-friendly "hat acts" of the 1990s and our current situation, making his songs appealing to different generations of country music fans.
Unlike the auto-tuned scourges of modern Nashville, the man can really sing. With the right material, he becomes the sort of emotive storyteller that's long captured country fans' imaginations. In fact, with a rougher image and a more consistent "Kiss My Country Ass" attitude, he might be as well-received as Eric Church and other famous singers better received by traditionalists.
Consider the following top 10 to be Blake Shelton songs for country music fans who perhaps overlook the "Asphalt Cowboy" singer's longstanding credibility as a genuine talent with an ear for great songs.
10. "Honey Bee"
Such sweet sentimentality might be a bad starting point for toughening up Shelton's image. Still, this song exemplifies pop-friendly country that honors the genre's history of classic story-songs.
9. "Some Beach"
Fans of modern country love the beach. Blame it on Jimmy Buffett if you must, but this topic does wonders for the careers of more than just Kenny Chesney. Shelton furthers tropical escapism for weekend warriors wanting more than a backyard barbecue.
8. "Ol' Red"
Sometimes, a good song needs the right singer. Shelton deserves a little old school cred for making a prison and dog-centric hit out of something the great George Jones and Kenny Rogers could only turn into album filler.
7. "Hillbilly Bone" (Feat. Trace Adkins)
With the help of true talent and proud patriot Trace Adkins, Shelton captured some of the bravado and excitement of Montgomery Gentry with the infectiously fun title track of his 2010 album.
6. "Goodbye Time"
As a song interpreter, Shelton added his own vocal touch to this song, originally recorded by his pop-accessible country forefather, Conway Twitty. It serves as a reminder that Shelton, or at least someone in his support team, honors contemporary history.
5. "God Gave Me You"
So many great country music talents, from Red Foley to Carrie Underwood, injected statements of faith into some of their best material. Shelton's presumed testimony adds credibility and fire to this and another spiritual tune, "Savior's Shadow."
4. "Go Ahead and Break My Heart" feat. Gwen Stefani
This might be a tough sell for haters of celebrity culture, although its a really good love ballad. Stefani's contributions sound more "country" than many of the pop and R&B copycats she indirectly inspired. Plus, it should be noted that Shelton still knocks out great songs consistently.
3. "Lonely Tonight" (Feat. Ashley Monroe)
Shelton and Pistol Annies member Ashley Monroe retell the old story of a debatable yet irresistible one night stand. Both talented vocalists bring out each others' best with a song that's pop enough for Shelton's fans and traditional enough for Monroe's.
2. "The Baby"
This gut-wrenching song about losing a loved one would be adored by Shelton's harshest detractors if Vince Gill had recorded it years prior. That said, Shelton might be the only one other than Gill in contemporary country who could do this heartbreaking song justice.
Shelton's early years, back when he was a wide-eyed Oklahoma native navigating a changing country music landscape, gave fans this tale of a demoralizing round of phone tag. The talk of old school answering machines and the touch-tone phone in the music video date this one a little, but it remains the singer's finest recording.