To Blake Shelton: Be My Yellow Jacket
“Honey Bee” is the chart-topping lead single from Blake Shelton’s new album. The melody is pleasant; the chorus has that repetitive, sing-song quality that makes for easy listening and quick recall. The subject is innocuous – a lighthearted promise of love and commitment suited to a summer song and romance.
And yet I can’t help but feel that the song and the singer are somewhat incongruous. I can imagine an infatuated youth crooning ”You be my sunny day, I’ll be your shade tree. You be my honeysuckle, I’ll be your honeybee”, but it’s hard to imagine that 35 year old Blake Shelton would choose to express his affection in those saccharine terms. In fact, the mental image is disturbing. A 6′ 5″ solidly built honeybee would wipe out honeysuckle faster than the biblical locusts destroyed the crops of Egypt.
For me, the song would be better suited to an adolescent singer. I can imagine, for example, this year’s American Idol winner with a credible version of the song. I seem to be alone, however, in this opinion. “Honey Bee” is a clear commercial success, currently ranked among the top 10 tunes on country radio. Still, I expected more from the reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year. I expected a love song with some lyrical depth, approached from the perspective and with the insight of an adult.
I think that it must be difficult for singers to find songs that match both their persona and talent level. Reba McEntire, for example, had a 2010 hit song “Turn on the Radio”. This was another well written song, delivered with Ms. McEntire’s signature tone and clarity, but somehow not quite a fit. One line in particular “Try to call, twitter me, text until your fingers bleed” just didn’t jibe with the queen of country music’s elegance.
I have to believe that singers who are also songwriters have a major advantage here, and conversely songwriters who write for others are at a disadvantage in crafting lyrics that are a good fit. Both the Shelton and McEntire songs were written by professional songwriters.
Charming as the song may be, I don’t really want Mr. Shelton to be my Honey Bee. I’d rather he was my yellow jacket. Honeybees are shortlived. They sting once and die. The yellow jacket, on the other hand, has staying power. A honeybee look-a-like, yellow jackets survive that first sting and keep coming back for more.
I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to the remaining songs on Mr. Shelton’s new album “Red River Blue”. I hope and expect that there will be songs with more lyrical depth and that are more representative of the breadth of his talent. I hope there will be songs that stay with me.
Be my yellow jacket, not my honeybee.
Look for more in-depth discussion of songwriting on THN in the next few weeks….
Here is Blake Shelton with a live performance of “Honey Bee”.