Happy New Year, the celebrities are already back on their bullshit. For his performance on NBC’s 2021 New Year’s Eve Celebration program, The Voice personality and sometimes country music star Blake Shelton decided to debut a new song titled “Minimum Wage,” which features an imaginatively tone-deaf chorus of “Girl, your love can make a man feel rich on minimum wage / Girl, your love is money.” What a relatable thing for a multi-millionaire, currently engaged to another multi-millionaire, his co-worker Gwen Stefani, to say!
As Page Six points out, people were pissed that Shelton was using minimum wage as a metaphor for his obnoxious love at a time when unemployment benefits are in limbo and unemployment claims have skyrocketed, millions of Americans are dependent on an unsatisfactory covid relief package, and as many as 40 million Americans face homelessness, all of which depends on the future of a federal eviction moratorium. Shit is bleak, and now is not the time to be joking about feeling rich on love, when money could not be more precarious and financially stability a pipe dream—especially when you’re a country music artist whose career is loosely founded on the image of the everyman laborer, of being “relatable” to the American public.
“I love his music but the timing for Minimum Wage isn’t great. With so many people out of work and struggling the song feels a little tone deaf. I’d like to hear songs that are more personal. Wish he wrote more of his own stuff because he’s an incredible song writer,” one fan wrote about the song on Twitter. “The irony of listening to a millionaire Blake Shelton singing about ‘love on minimum wage’ at the end of 2020 might be lost on its target audience,” another criticized.
The whole situation reminds me of comedian Bo Burnham’s parody of contemporary, commercial country in his Netflix special Bo Burnham: Make Happy. He ad-libs a country radio hit by naming stereotypically Southern things, like “A dirt road, a cold beer / A blue jeans, a red pickup / A rural noun, simple adjective / No shoes, no shirt,” in the first verse of his “Country Song,” before revealing that the ridiculously wealthy white men who write and perform these songs don’t live those simple lives anymore. “Fuck your ears I’m pandering / I write songs for the people who do / Jobs in the towns that I’d never move to / Legalize gerry-mandering / Tolerate my pandering,” he sings in the chorus.
On real country radio, of course, the Blake Sheltons of the world don’t make their pandering so explicit. On “Minimum Wage,” at least, he’s made transparent just how out of touch he is, and it is refreshing to see his listeners criticize it, too.
Shelton has yet to comment publicly, and I doubt he will. 2021, what else ya got?