The shady side of Blake Shelton

As far as country music legends go, Blake Shelton has earned himself a spot among the greats. Since the release of his Platinum-certified debut album in 2001, the country crooner’s profile has continued to rise with a stack of No. 1 hits on the country charts, successful stints as a judge on TV singing competitions like The Voice and Nashville Star, his own restaurant chain, and the very prestigious honor of being the first country star crowned People‘s Sexiest Man Alive in 2017. 

Still, you don’t make it as far as Shelton has without stepping on some boots. Between the loud-mouth tweets that regularly land him on Fox News to his high-profile divorce from country star Miranda Lambert, the “God’s Country” singer has had his fair share of bad press. “I am who I am,” Shelton told Billboard in 2016. “Sometimes that gets mistaken for ‘Blake Shelton is an a-hole.’ I’m not. I just don’t want to be dishonest with anybody.” Just because the self-proclaimed “redneck” operates like an open book doesn’t mean he’s without his faults. From missteps to marital issues, this is the shady side of Blake Shelton.

Blake Shelton wasn't single when he fell for Miranda Lambert

Things were different for Blake Shelton when he arrived in Nashville. Not only was he rocking a mullet, but, as Country Fancast noted, he was romantically attached to high school sweetheart Kaynette Williams. Williams was Shelton’s tour manager as he found success at the beginning of his career with first big hit “Austin” in 2001. The two got hitched in 2003, with Shelton recounting his proposal to CMT that year, “I got in from hunting that morning, and asked her to marry me, and we went back out hunting.”

It was a backwoods dream come true… until they divorced in 2006. The split was hard on Shelton, who told 60 Minutes (via E!) that it was “the toughest thing that I’ve ever been through.” Still, it seems the decision was easier than he let on, as he had already met the woman who’d become his next wife: Miranda Lambert. When the two performed “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” for CMT‘s 100 Greatest Duets in 2005, their chemistry was palpable. “I was a married guy, you know,” Shelton told Behind the Music in 2011 (via Entertainment Weekly). “Looking back on that, I was falling in love with her.” Confirmation of their relationship wouldn’t come until 2007 (via Life & Style), but you can read into Williams’ divorce filing, which cited “inappropriate marital conduct” (via National Enquirer), however you’d like. Oh, and according to Billboard, Shelton ditched his mullet around the same time.

The rumor mill loved Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert’s entire relationship was in the limelight, and they were candid about the pressures of tabloid scrutiny. Shelton revealed to 60 Minutes (via E!) that they stopped doing interviews together as their marriage was the only thing “left that’s private,” and Lambert poked fun at being “married to a man who’s married to attention” on 2014’s “Priscilla.” When they did speak about their relationship, however, it was a double-edged sword.

While their 2008 tour was a success, Lambert admitted to Redbook that she was “glad we decided to keep both of our buses,” as Shelton got on her nerves. For his part, Shelton told CMT News the same year that “as miserable as we are together, it’s way more miserable when we’re apart.” After their 2011 marriage, Shelton’s trickster attitude was a continued point of contention, and he admitted to People in 2013, “I’m always pestering her … Anything I can think of to get a rise out of her is a sport for me.” As infidelity rumors swirled around two years into their marriage, Shelton divulged to People that they totally trusted each other… and had a “policy” about going through each other’s phones. “[I’ll say,] ‘Go dig through my drawers or my computer if you feel like you need to,'” Shelton said. They continued to tease tabloids in tweets, but their 2015 divorce announcement to Us Weekly revealed no one quite got the last laugh.

Blake Shelton stoked the tabloid flames

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert announced their divorce in a joint statement to Us Weekly in July 2015, stating, “This is not the future we envisioned,” however things only got shadier after their split went public. Days after their announcement — and rumors that Lambert had cheated on Shelton with another country star — Chris Young took to Twitter to clarify that he was “not a contributing factor in their divorce.” In fact, weeks later, TMZ alleged that it was “a classic case of he said/she said” and Shelton was the one who cheated on Lambert “with a famous country singer.” To make matters worse, the outlet also reported that Shelton had demanded Lambert to move her pets out from their shared ranch “the very day the judge made the divorce official.”

Despite the conflicting reports, Shelton seemingly pointed the finger at Lambert again with the release of his next album If I’m Honest in 2016. Shelton didn’t write the record’s third single, “She’s Got a Way With the Words” which recounts a woman who lies, cheats, and “puts a big F-U” in his future, though Billboard wrote that “if you want to assume it describes some of the facts of his divorce, [Shelton] won’t stop you.”

Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani got together fast

While Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert only officially called it quits in July 2015, TMZ reported that Shelton was already dating fellow The Voice judge Gwen Stefani by November. Within weeks, the new couple was flaunting their relationship all over social media, from Stefani sharing a video of the two effusively kissing for the holidays, to Shelton flirting on Twitter about her “guaranteed greatness” in the recording studio.

Though Shelton seemingly went to great lengths to keep his relationship with Lambert private, it appears to not be as big of an issue with Stefani. The two have already released a handful of duets together, including “Go Ahead and Break My Heart” on Shelton’s post-divorce LP If I’m Honest, and “You Make it Feel Like Christmas” from Stefani’s 2017 Christmas album of the same name. That said, Shelton is quick to dismiss any notion of infidelity with his The Voice co-star, telling Billboard in 2016 that before his divorce, he “never really got to know” Stefani despite working together. After revealing his split to the cast and crew, he said Stefani confided in him that she was going through a similar situation with Gavin Rossdale, her then-husband of 20 years. They exchanged numbers to continue supporting each other and grew closer, with Shelton telling the outlet, “Gwen saved my life. Who else on earth could understand going through a high-profile divorce from another musician?”

If I'm Honest spilled the tea on Blake Shelton's divorce

Following his 2015 divorce from Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton released his tenth album If I’m Honest in 2016, and had no scruples in telling Billboard that it was his “divorce record.” The title of the album alone implied that Shelton had a fair amount to say about the split, and he said the collection, which was mostly recorded “six months removed from when all this crap went down,” provides “a general idea” about what happened. “When you have a broken heart — at least, when I do — you got to get it out of your system,” Shelton explained. “You want people to sympathize with you. I was at rock bottom, in the middle of hell.” Shelton told the outlet that the album charts a “very specific time frame,” from “when it became painfully obvious that it wasn’t going to work out,” to falling for Gwen Stefani. “It’s my happy, falling-in-love-record, too,” he said. According to his site, the album’s brutal honesty scored him the then “second biggest selling debut” of his career.

In 2018, his second ex-wife struck back in her own way, releasing divorce anthem “Got My Name Changed Back” as the lead single from side-project Pistol Annies’ album Interstate Gospel. The playful video finds her hitting the DMV to ditch her ex’s surname, and Lambert called the track a celebration of “reclaiming yourself” in an interview on the group’s YouTube channel.

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert still trade barbs

Blake Shelton is happy with Gwen Stefani, and Miranda Lambert has moved on in her own right. The “Heart Like Mine” singer dated several stars after their divorce, and ultimately tied the knot with retired NYPD police officer Brendan McLoughlin in January 2019 (via People). As Us Weekly reported, she split from country musician Anderson East following rumors that she was having an affair with Evan Felkner, whose band Turnpike Troubadours was opening for her Livin’ Like Hippies tour in 2018. Following that news, Shelton vaguely tweeted, “Been taking the high road for a long time.. I almost gave up. But I can finally see something on the horizon up there!! Wait!! Could it be?! Yep!! It’s karma!!” An unnamed source reportedly told Us Weekly that the tweet was in reference to Lambert.

When performing at the 2019 Academy of Country Music Awards, Lambert got shady when she reached the part of “Little Red Wagon” where she used to sing, “I live in Oklahoma.” Instead, she crooned that she “got the hell out of Oklahoma,” a lyric change she made following her split from Shelton. Lambert’s ex happened to be in attendance that evening, making the performance all the more juicy. Life & Style reported that Shelton and Stefani allegedly “got up during the commercial break” in order to completely miss Lambert’s fiery performance. Suffice to say, there still seems to be bad blood between Lambert and Shelton.

When a tabloid goes too far, Blake Shelton goes to court

Blake Shelton is the first person to joke around and not take himself too seriously; as he told TMZ in 2012 (via Taste of Country), “How can you stand to be in this business and not drink your face off.” However, don’t go too far with the jabs. In 2015, TMZ reported Shelton’s attorneys struck back at InTouch Weekly, demanding it rescind a story that alleged Shelton had cheated on Miranda Lambert with country singer Cady Groves. However that was just the start of his legal battles with the press. Later that year, TMZ reported that Shelton was suing InTouch Weekly and its parent company Bauer Publishing Co. for defamation after it ran a cover story reporting that he was headed to rehab, and his alcohol addiction had ruined his marriage with Lambert and was threatening his gig on The Voice. By 2017, USA Today reported that Shelton and the publication’s lawyers had reached a settlement and asked the judge to toss out the case. While details are unknown, both sides reportedly paid their own litigation costs.

Despite the hurt feelings, “The More I Drink” singer continues to boast about booze, but on his own terms. Like when he took swigs from a cup that read “I drink, get over it” at a Fort Lauderdale concert in 2016, per TMZ. Or when he shamelessly champions his love for liquor with songs like 2019’s “Tequila Sheila.”

Blake Shelton loves a good Twitter fight

Blake Shelton has become one of Twitter’s favorite loud mouths since joining in 2008, amassing over 20 million followers. He attributed his “unfiltered” tweets to the reason why NBC recruited him for The Voice, telling Billboard in 2016 that “they probably … thought, ‘We need somebody that’ll shake things up.’ In country music, everybody [else] falls in line.” Fellow country singer Trace Adkins agreed, telling the outlet, “He says whatever he wants to say, and it has turned into a gold mine.”

But speaking your mind has consequences, even if you’re an eight-time Grammy nominee. In 2016, Shelton apologized for resurfaced misogynistic and homophobic tweets, writing that while “comedy has been a major part of my career,” his sense of humor can be “inappropriate and immature,” and he apologized to anyone offended. Still, the country singer loves a good troll. When a fan tweeted she didn’t like Shelton’s new music (via Billboard), he fired back, writing, “Someone who doesn’t know me at all can’t stand me! How will I live,” adding, “To any haters out there, have yourself a nice warm cup full of camel balls.” In 2020, the power of Taylor Swift’s fan base forced him to delete a tweet and apologize when he told a Swiftie to “[get] out of your mom’s basement for a while” after the fan, who didn’t tag Shelton, said they’d burn down his house if he blocked Swift’s No. 1 debut (via Country 102.5). Oops.

Blake Shelton doesn't always play fair on The Voice

The rivalry between Blake Shelton and his fellow Voice judges is no secret. In fact, the teasing, particularly between Shelton and Adam Levine, has likely been a factor in the singing competition’s success as it continues to beat American Idol in ratings (via Variety). And they didn’t always save the digs for the show: When Shelton was named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive in 2017, he said, “I can’t wait to shove this up Adam’s a*s.”

Yes, the judges may joke around, but it’s also a competition, and Shelton isn’t afraid to play dirty. During Season 12 auditions, Shelton switched it up on his fellow judges at the last minute, nabbing Enid Ortiz for his team in a move that Levine called “the dirtiest thing I’ve ever seen” (via Country Rebel). When Gwen Stefani accused him of “cheating,” Shelton bluntly replied, “Dang right.” Fellow judge Kelly Clarkson later opened up to Parade about fighting with Shelton on the show, saying, “People think they’re betraying country music when they don’t pick him … It’s a really hard thing to navigate when he’s been on there for 14 seasons.” Since Levine left in 2019, it seems Shelton has been itching for a new battle; he had no problem calling newcomer Nick Jonas “a sucky coach” (via Gold Derby) at the beginning of Season 18. Shelton’s contestant ended up winning that season (via USA Today), suggesting he hasn’t met his match just yet.

Blake Shelton's Nashville bar was ordered to turn it down

Blake Shelton may have seen a “Neon Light” at the end of a tunnel in his 2014 Gold-certified track, but the city of Nashville wanted him to turn it the hell down! In 2019, the Nashville location of Shelton’s restaurant chain Ole Red, named after his hit tune, lost a lawsuit against the city’s Metro Historic Zoning Commission, according to News Channel 5 Nashville. The bar was banned from using its signature red exterior lights, as city regulations reportedly ban the use of colored lights “outside of buildings in historic overlay districts” to “protect the character of historical areas,” a category Shelton’s honky-tonk falls into, thanks to its spot on Broadway.

The Ryman Hospitality Group, which co-owns Shelton’s Ole Red, doubled down on its original design, saying in a statement that they are “exploring and intend to pursue additional avenues” that would allow them to continue lighting the building the same way. Considering Shelton and his partners opened a new location in Orlando the next year (via Orlando Sentinel), it seems they’re not afraid of causing a little heat in the name of a good time.

Blake Shelton separates himself from bro-country

Blake Shelton has been a country music mainstay for decades, and he’s seen fads come and go (remember that mullet?!). But bro-country, a subgenre Vulture coined in 2013 as “music by and of the tatted, gym-toned, party-heart young American white dude,” forced Shelton to get a little hypocritical. After a 2014 Washington Times article lumped Shelton in the category with Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line, the “Drink On It” singer took to Twitter to slyly defend himself, writing, “Ha! I just read an article that includes me in the ‘Bro-Country’ genre,” brushing it off by listing the other subgenres he’s been called, including “pop-country,” “traditional,” and “hick-hop.” In 2016, he seemed to further separate himself from his peers at the opening of his Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit, saying, “In 2001, you didn’t show up wearing a T-shirt and a baseball cap to be on stage, and that’s just still my mentality. Clearly I’m one of the last ones standing” (via The Boot).

A look at Shelton’s discography shows that perhaps the line between him and his bro-country peers isn’t so clear. While Shelton admitted to Billboard in 2016 that his 2013 mega-hit “Boys ‘Round Here” was “a stupid song,” even his newer fare, like 2019’s “Hell Right,” has been written off by critics as bro-country. Distinctions aside, we can’t blame him for embracing the boozy truck songs, especially as No. 1s continue to stack up.

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