Blake Shelton Responds to 'Minimum Wage' Song Criticism
By Paige Gawley
Christopher Polk/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Blake Shelton isn't putting any stock into what critics of his new song think.
In an interview with CMT, the 44-year-old singer responded to people who took offense to his new track, "Minimum Wage." His critics claim the track shows Shelton, a millionaire, romanticizing money troubles amid the coronavirus pandemic that's drastically raised unemployment and closed businesses.
"A mega millionaire romanticizing minimum wage is peak 2020," one person wrote on Twitter. "Blake Shelton can go f**k himself."
"Blake Shelton singing 'your love could make a man feel rich on minimum wage' just cements the fact that rich people have absolutely no f**king clue," another person tweeted, with a third social media user calling the song "tone deaf."
The criticism, Shelton said, didn't surprise him in the least.
"I just feel like these days, there are people out there who don’t want to know the truth. They just want to hear what they want to hear, and they want to pick a fight," he said. "No matter what your intention is, no matter what the truth is, they want it to be something that they can be upset about so that they can get on social media and try to grab a headline."
While Shelton initially thought he "missed something" offensive in the song, the more he thought about it, he realized that the backlash "was really not real."
"Whatever this backlash is, is just four or five people that probably don’t know anything about country music," he said. "They clearly hadn’t heard the song or read the lyrics. If they had, they couldn’t feel this way about the song."
In the song, Shelton sings, "Girl, lookin' at you lookin' at me that way / Can make a man feel rich on minimum wage / Girl, your love is money, your love is money / Yeah, your love can make a man feel rich on minimum wage."
"It’s literally a love song about how if times are tight and you ain’t got much money -- as long as you have love and you’re happy -- at the end of the day, that’s all any of us can really hope for," Shelton continued. "You got it if you got that. That’s all that matters. And if that’s offensive to you, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree."
"... I have to say, if we have to start thinking like this, then I guess that’ll be where I have to bow out. Because that’s one of the longest-standing traditions in country music is lyrics about love," he said. "And if you’ve got love, then that’s all that matters. There won’t be much left to play or write about on country radio if this is something that we have to think twice about."
Shelton, who is currently engaged to Gwen Stefani, said he made "some of the best memories" when he was struggling for money at the start of his career. It was a time, he said, when "if I was making minimum wage back then, it was barely minimum wage."
"I just related to the lyrics so much, you know? Just like probably 95 percent of artists out there, I struggled for so long to get by. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade those times for anything," he said. "Those days when the big struggle was, 'Man, do I pay my rent or my electric bill, or do I just say screw it and go buy some beer?' You had to decide because you didn’t have enough to go around."
"But those really were some of the best days of my life that I still think about all the time," he added. "And I think about all the jobs and things that I did over the years, just so I could play music for free somewhere."
Despite addressing the critics now, Shelton doesn't think those who take issue with the song "even deserve a response."
"That’s why I didn’t come out initially and say anything, because they’re not entitled to a response from me," Shelton said. "This is absolutely ridiculous. I looked after the first day when those headlines were popping up, and then for the next week after that, I didn’t see any more. It was hard to find anything negative."
"If it was something negative about me, it had to do with 'I hate Blake Shelton' because of some other reason," he continued. "Most people were saying, 'I don’t get what’s so offensive about this song.'"
Shelton also expressed his appreciation for fellow country singer Ronnie Dunn, who came to his support online.
In his post, Dunn, of the duo Brooks & Dunn, wrote that the backlash to Shelton's song was "yet another of those misguided social issues (cultural scams) that are concocted to further divide this country."
"I'm putting my money on the common sense of the common man to call bulls**t on the forces at work to keep this country divided," Dunn added in part. "... Read the full lyrics to Blake's song. Hell, I wish I'd written it."
"That made me so happy that Ronnie Dunn came up and spoke out about how he puts his money on the common sense of the common hard-working people out there," Shelton said. "And I do, too."
Shelton added that the backlash to "Minimum Wage" will not change the music he puts out.
"I’m going to put out the records that resonate with me and my life and not look back," he said. "As country artists and as an industry, we have to stay focused here and know that what’s right is right. And I believe this song is a great message and I’m proud of it."