Blake Shelton is an artist who will always hold a special place for in my heart; he performed at the first ever country concert I went to, back in July 2002: Ty England, Blake Shelton and Lonestar at the Fort Sill Polo Field (Oklahoma). This was just a year after I had moved to Oklahoma, and Shelton’s debut single, Austin, had spent five weeks as the number one country single. He was a hugely influential artist in my life, as he was one of the first country stars that I had ever heard. Since first hearing Shelton, now over a decade ago, I have watched his career unfold and become one of the country music’s reining superstars.
Since Austin’s 2001 release, Shelton has managed to maintain a strong foothold in the country charts. His success in the years that followed was relatively consistent, not too many number one hits in those early years, but by 2004, Shelton had three albums certified Gold. He won the CMA Horizon award in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he first won Male Vocalist of the year (and he has won it twice since). Shelton took time to build his reputation, for fans to learn his sound with songs like The Baby, Old Red and Some Beach, and it certainly paid off.
Pure BS was the first album that Blake Shelton received a production credit. This was his chance to put his own slant on the songs. The first two singles did well, but Home, the country-pop crossover hit, was the albums first number one, and Shelton’s fourth. This marked a tipping point in Shelton’s career: over the next two years he released two more albums, Startin’ Fires and Hillbilly Bone, and each spawned a number one hit, She Wouldn’t Be Gone, and Hillbilly Bone.
After Hillbilly Bone, Shelton’s career exploded into superstardom, as the number one hits and awards flooded in. It seems that Shelton having more creative control has done wonders for his career. He is notorious for his sense of humour, and it comes through in his music, which, although it is decidedly country, it has a distinctive modern edge. All of his singles since Hillbilly Bone have gone to number one, all seven of them, and his current single, Boys Round Here, sits comfortably at number two in the charts.
Shelton hails from Ada, Oklahoma, 120 miles east of where I first saw the man himself play, and just under 80 miles from Moore, where the recent tornado hit. In UK terms that sounds like a long way, but to Blake Shelton, Oklahoma is home. Immediately after the devastating tornado, it seems Shelton got straight to work on the Healing in the Heartland benefit concert. The event took place on Wednesday the 29th of may, a mere 9 days after the tornado struck. He pulled together an impressive roster of stars including his wife Miranda Lambert, The Pistol Annies, Vince Gill, Darius Rucker, and even Usher made an appearance to show his support. The concert was held in Oklahoma City, and tickets for the event, all proceeds of which go to United Way a charity supporting areas most affected by the tornado, sold out in 30 seconds, raising a staggering six million dollars for the charity.
Oklahoma feels just as much of a home to me as anywhere else that I have ever lived. Shelton is clearly proud of his roots, and feels the same affection for the state as I do. His speedy and selfless response to the disaster has clearly touched many people, and will continue to aid many long after the show itself has ended. Shelton has utilised his superstardom for good, and shows qualities that we would expect from a star, and potential role model. He has also shown country music’s strong sense of community and camaraderie at its best, giving back to the people who have supported them.