Since going platinum eleven times over with Devil Without A Cause, Kid Rock has adopted the not-so-variegated guises of the Bullgod, Rock & Roll Jesus, the early morning stoned pimp and Detroit’s favorite son. With a style that’s equal parts rock and roll history lesson and multi-genre mash up, Kid Rock’s live shows tend to be a veritable jukebox of country, classic rock, metal, southern rock, hip-hop and rap. He covers enough ground that his presence on stage with Phish, Hank Williams Jr., Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sheryl Crow and Reverend Run (of DMC fame) fail to even raise a quizzical eyebrow over the propriety of his appearance. Over the course of a career that has lasted longer than many might have suspected, Rock has cultivated a populist rocker-of-the-people persona that has found just as many detractors as fans. Regardless of your personal opinion of the scruffy Michigander, it would be disingenuous to ever call Kid Rock boring . . . until now. Once a red state redneck rebel at the center of tabloid headline quality brouhahas involving Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee and sex tape scandals that involved Creed’s Scott Stapp, he’s now more likely to found gladhanding the likes of Mitt Romney then waving his middle finger at the nearest authority figure.
As any artist gets older, it’s no crime for their musical output to reflect their changing worldview. Bruce Springsteen’s career wouldn’t have lasted to the present day if he hadn’t moved on from wistfully documenting the Jersey shore and anthemically wooing women to run off with him. Rock surely hasn’t turned his back on those that share his love for the boisterous pursuit of the American Dream and eloquent, if not profane, reprisals towards those who could be best deemed haters. It’s a mindset and a philosophy that has gained him fans across all strata of society. His spirit may be still be willing but with Rebel Soul, his latest album, he’s simply become uninteresting and starting that dangerous slide into self-parody.
In being one of the first to places genres in a blender and hit puree, Rock has always been one to embrace disparate styles. Unfortunately, his view of current trends has led him into the arms of the Autotune. While the voice flattening device added an interesting dimension to the studio version of God Only Knows, it seems forced in its use on Detroit, Michigan, which, though not overused, distracts rather than adds. On his ode to his hometown, Rock employs his road-tested songwriting trick of simply name checking bands that he likes. On American Badass and Forever, it was defiant and demanded that his tastes be recognized; on Detroit, Michigan, it comes across as a joyless roll call of bands that draw inspiration from the Motor City. Where Rock’s crassness on songs like Sugar and So Hott gave them a cheeky irreverence, if not earthy wit, now on songs like Cucci Galore, he sounds like he’s become amused with his own bawdy-bada.