Review Summary: Kid Rock does not give a damn what you think.
Kid Rock does not give a damn what you think. Kid Rock is rich as hell, selling over twenty million albums since the commercial explosion of his fourth album, Devil without a Cause. Kid Rock also survived his own brand of commercialized-nu metal when the tired genre basically died out with the new millennium, as he adopted a good-ole-boy southern rock that was heavily influenced by the genre’s pioneers: Lynard Skynard, The Allman Brothers Band, and, most of all, fellow Michigan-native Bob Segar. His next album, Cocky, had more country rock influences than it did from Rage Against the Machine, but still contained rap-rock radio biscuits such as “You Never Met A MotherF**ker Quite Like Me”, which completely sucked, on top of the equally great title. It wasn’t until Rock’s seventh self-titled album in which he finally came out on his own with fifteen home-cooked country tracks, resulting in his best album yet. Than Rock began to adapt the true rock n roll life: getting drunk with fellow pop star James Blunt, just name a quick example, and taking time out of his busy schedule filled with strippers and whores to marry Pamela Anderson along the way. But this is a different year. Pam Anderson has already left Rock and married a different dude, and James Blunt is by no means the pop star he was a year ago (funny how crappy pop stars die out quickly). For Kid Rock, born Robert James Ritchie, the only medicine to get over all of this heartbreak doesn’t even need a prescription: he’d rather make Rock N Roll Jesus.
Rock N Roll Jesus, Kid Rock’s seventh album, may just be his most introspective album yet, nearly perfectly blending the hard rock-rap of his Nineties years with the twangy southern rock of his recent albums. But you wouldn’t know that from the first track: Rock N Roll Jesus begins with the title track, which is a no-holds barred, AC/DC influenced rocker that features a broken-up classic metal riff built to move mountains, a funky, fuzzed-out guitar soloing spontaneously in the background, trumpets blaring, female backing vocals, and a solo that you could easily imagine Angus Young pull off, dancing around in his schoolboy uniform. Kid Rock wants to bring back classic rock, and he’s not f**king around with it: he even sings “It’s a rock revival/don’t need a suit/you don’t need a bible/get your ass up and dance”. Rock slows things down for the next few songs, which begins as a mistake, but eventually works out for him in the end. “Amen”, with its gospel piano and church choir, is a clichéd Midwestern gospel-country song, and matches Linkin Park’s “Hands Held High” as the worst song that simply says “amen” in the chorus. “All Summer Long” is a definite improvement, being Rock’s Lynard Skynard tribute (it borrows guitar riffs and a piano breakdown from “Sweet Home Alabama”), but the hyper-descriptive lyrics sound so close to the real thing that Skynard should call their lawyers as soon as possible. The best of these slower songs is “Roll On”, a Stones-like track that is perfect in its simplicity: it features nothing more than an acoustic guitar, a soft, bouncy piano, and rampant saxophone solos. The lyrics are some of the best Rock has ever produced; heartfelt little bastards that conjure up memories of a faraway place, one easier and less dependant of worthless technology, where mom makes apple pie everyday for dessert and the only woman you’ve ever loved is the pretty girl next door that constantly cleans her tractor.
Too bad the next song ruins it. “So Hott”, on top of featuring some of the purely ***tiest lyrics ever written by man, it also consists of the thinnest and the most inexcusably bland guitar riffs used today. Hell, Nickelback wouldn’t even want this song on their album. Instead of conjuring the feelings of pure classic rock that the first song did, “So Hott” feels like a miserable radio biscuit. “Sugar” is a much better example of badass rock done right: it begins nonchalantly with a bluesy acoustic intro, than roars into Rock somewhat screaming the instantly memorable chorus: “Who’s gonna give me some sugar tonight!? Sugar tonight? Sugar TONIGHT!” Sure, it’s corny as hell, but it’s also kickass, and from it you can tell that Kid Rock doesn’t take himself nor the song too seriously, and if you disagree, well, f**k you. Remember the first line of this review: Kid Rock does not give a damn.
Rock knows when to slow it down, and slow it down he does for the next track. “When You Love a Woman” is, somewhat surprisingly, a romantic ballad, with nothing more than stale country rock with gospel influences. I forgot all about this simple clunker until I started writing this review, as it’s nothing special and sounds exactly the same as the slower songs before it. “New Orleans” is a vast improvement. It’s a spicy Cajun track, heavily jazz-influenced with simply jaw-dropping trumpet solos. Yes, trumpet solos on a Kid Rock song. Who knew? The song begins with Rock’s voice, which seems quieter than its usual roar, than slowly layers as the song progresses: drums add, then trumpets, guitars, jazzy pianos, saxophones, and back-up singers, all leading up to spicy guitar, harmonica, and saxophone solos, with handclaps thrown in near the end for good measure. It’s one of the few songs on Rock N Roll Jesus that’s completely different from anything he’s ever done before, and for that reason alone, it’s the surefire highlight of the album.
“Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” mixes Rock’s warped versions of country and rock in one song. The country verses are more Johnny Cash than Garth Brooks, with Rock singing in a low rumble that suggests that he’s seen it all before, and whatever you say in just ***. Than the song explodes into an AC/DC chorus, which is somewhat unfortunate: I’d rather prefer the outlaw, tough guy styled country than another ***ty faux-metal chorus. “Blue Jeans and a Rosary” isn’t much better, as it sounds like it belongs on a Rascal Flatts record than a Kid Rock one. It simple tries two hard to appease today’s saddened state of country fans: it has a tired mix of violins, slide guitars, stories of misunderstood hicks, blah, blah, blah. It’s boring, and it doesn’t fit with KICKASS songs like “Sugar”.
But Rock N Roll Jesus nearly redeems itself with the simply hilarious “Half Your Age”. An obvious shot at ex-wife Pamela Anderson, the song is a rousing tribute to classic country stars such as Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. But the lyrics are the star here: from the hook, “She’s twice your age/and twice as hot” to “I found someone new/treats me better/she don’t bitch about things we don’t got”, Kid Rock treats his estranged marriage with a cocky smile and a tip of the hat, knowing he came out as the victor after all. But Rock N Roll Jesus finally ends this sermon with “Lowlife (Living the Highlife)”. And, if the confusing and captivating song title leaves you completely lost for a meaning, the song is about Rock not shying from what he is at heart: a lowlife. The song itself is a rather simple, but very exuberant blues tune, yet again the lyrics steal the spotlight: hilarious gems such as “I make black music for the white man/I keep cocaine on my nightstand” to “I got kids I’ve never seen/their momma’s only seventeen” easily make the song, and maybe even the album.
When you dub yourself the “Rock N Roll Jesus”, you’re not being a shy motherf**ker. Kid Rock serves up plenty of attitude mixed with enough heartfelt emotion to satisfy consumers of many types. Sure, the country songs are repetitive, and “So Hott” is an easy contender for the award of worst song ever, but you gotta remember the first line of this f**kin’ review: Kid Rock does not give a damn.