The Summer Set Cover Blake Shelton for Billboard

The Summer Set Cover Blake Shelton for Billboard
Emo pop and pop country aren't separated by much distance when it comes to thematic material, though skinny-jeaned balladeers tend to sing about trucks less. So when I read that the fresh-faced Scottsdale quintet The Summer Set was taking on country star Blake Shelton's "Honey Bee" for Billboard's Mashup Mondays, I was intrigued.

I don't have strong feelings about the band or Shelton. Neither represent their genres in my personal record collection (I'll do Get Up Kids or Promise Ring if I'm feeling emo, Mickey Newbury or Kris Kristofferson if I'm feeling country), but "Honey Bee" is sort of hard to actively hate. What's to dislike about it? The song is genetically engineered to be inoffensive (a lot like The Summer Set, and you know, I guess it's not all that unreasonable to hate something because of how little there is to hate about it).

Billboard readers had a chance to vote for what song Summer Set would perform, with "Honey Bee" beating out potential covers of Kenny Chesney's "Somewhere With You" and Counting Crows' "Mr. Jones."

The results? Well, mixed is the best way to describe them.

The band goes it acoustic, and the results aren't a total wreck. They swap out the ripping guitar solo (easily the most rocking segment of the original tune) in favor of a nice harmonica bit courtesy of singer Brian Dales. The arrangement isn't anything crazy, just standard electric bass, some guitars, and a percussion box(?), with the band playing the song in a no-nonsense, straightforward fashion.

"We're all closet country addicts," guitarist John Gomez jokes in the video. 

Dales' voice is the song's weak link. I didn't expect his nasally croon to match Shelton's throaty, "American Everyman" one, but the song just isn't suited for Dales' vocals, not to mention how awkward he sounds singing the lyrics "I'll be your Conway Twitty." The 2:59 mark is particularly brutal, though the band jokes about attempting three part harmonies in the post performance video.

The band fares better on their own tune, "Someone Like You," with a distinct lack of aggression that proves the band's perfectly at home cranking out contemporary pop. Maybe I'm just a weirdo -- but I think the band would have been far more at home covering that Counting Crows jam, but what say do I have? I didn't vote.

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