It’s hard – and some would wager, impossible – to talk about Kid Rock as an artist without somehow stumbling upon the word “ridiculous.” To try to take him seriously as a musician is almost as challenging as trying to take Sarah Palin seriously as a politician. But both are equally entertaining public figures, and in Kid’s new album, Born Free, he shows that he is managing to maintain his pure entertainment value well into his thirties.
Having strayed far from his dreams of simply wanting to be a “cowboy, baby,” Kid Rock has tackled so many genres of music that it’s hard to even provide a comprehensive list of them all. From his underground hip-hop-influenced debut, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, to his infamous mainstream effort, Devil Without A Cause – featuring the well known singles “Bawitdaba” and “Cowboy” – and of course his more recent foray into the world of pure country with the single “All Summer Long” off of his album Rock N Roll Jesus, Rock has never been sure which musical world would be most likely to bring him success.
But with his most recent album, Rock seems to have found his niche with country music. Almost everything about this album – including appearances by Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, and Zac Brown – makes an effort to scream country, despite Rock’s self-labeling of the album to Billboard.biz as “very organic blues-based rock and roll.”
Casting himself as a true man of the people, Kid Rock’s easy follow-up to Rock N Roll Jesus is entirely enjoyable, despite its efforts to be a little more politically conscious than it can handle responsibly. But tracks such as the unlikely “Care,” featuring Martina McBride and T.I., manage to gracefully send a message encouraging basic consideration of our nation’s confusing political state, even if simple consideration and caring is all that one is able to put forth.
Kid Rock succeeds in being only slightly convincing in his concern for our nation’s political situation, and is more effective in the tracks on which he gives his country-loving audience exactly what they want, and can relate to. In tracks like “God Bless Saturday” and “For The First Time (In A Long Time),” both of which appeal to the “everyman” in every man, and are sweetly satisfying tunes.
At first glance, this album seems similar to Kid Rock’s older country-influenced albums, with cover art featuring Rock in cowboy boots and jeans, his feet propped up, in the middle of a cornfield. And as the album opener, the title track “Born Free” tries to set the tone for a completely country-based album. But despite itself, the album is still confused about its genre, and appearances by Bob Seger and T.I. do nothing to set us straight in terms of its musical classification.
As a complete collection of songs, Born Free is an album with pop potential, hints of rock and hip-hop influence, and a whole lot of country twang. The unfortunate addition of clich? and boring tracks such as “Rock Bottom Blues” and “When It Rains” takes down the album’s potential for universal enjoyment, but when listened to in pieces, Kid Rock’s Born Free gives a semi-satisfying tour of the different sides of one always-amusing artist.
2.5 out of 5 stars