“My existence is a glorified story of the truth.” Kid Rock actually says that in the third track on his latest album Rebel Soul, a song called “Catt Boogie”.
I don’t know what that means, really — it’s one of those #humblebrag-style boasts that tend to go over so well in southern-fried rock ‘n roll, which is what Kid Rock is trafficking in these days. It’s just one of those things people say that nobody should think too hard about, which is sort of the entire intent of Kid Rock’s music. Don’t parse it, don’t analyze it, just let it drift along, maybe tap your foot a little, and hope he doesn’t start screaming like he used to.
He still does start screaming every so often, and that’s when it’s easiest to actively tune him out, rather than letting him worm his way into your earholes. “Celebrate” has him giving his raspiest “I REALLY MEAN THIS” voice while he’s tossing out ridiculous come-ons like “I wanna celebrate / Babe, you know it can’t wait”. He takes the screamy business even further with the truly and utterly ridiculous, misogynist “Cucci Galore”, which gratuitously samples Flavor Flav’s most famous catchphrase and builds an entire song around the ridiculous chanting of “My name is Cucci, Cucci Galore” and screaming “DON’T YOU WANNA GO DOWN” with all the exclamation points he can muster. In a way, I’m glad it’s here, because “Cucci Galore” justifies every opinion I held about the guy and his music before I started listening to Rebel Soul.
Still, Songs like the rolling “Let’s Ride”, the appealingly down-home “God Save Rock n Roll”, and “Redneck Paradise”, which sounds pretty much exactly the way you’d expect a song called “Redneck Paradise” to sound, are not terrible things. Chances are you won’t remember them tomorrow, but chances are just as good that if you’re listening to Kid Rock you won’t remember anything tomorrow anyway. His balladry is perfectly on-point as well, a talent he’s been milking since that tune he did with Sheryl Crow blew up — “The Mirror” even apes that huge hit’s affinity for autotune while featuring an appropriately explosive final minute, while “Cocaine and Gin” sounds like lonely last call.
If you’re in the sort of bar that fits Kid Rock songs in between Foghat and Thin Lizzy, you’ll probably like Rebel Soul just fine, honestly. The Kid Rock songs won’t sound out of place, but they will give you a chance to talk to the people you came in with.
Kid Rock is an identity crisis. He’s a product of Detroit who wraps himself in the Confederate flag. He cut his teeth on hip-hop but eventually settled on Skynyrd as his primary point of reference. He is 41 years old, he still manages to sell a shit-ton of albums (almost 150,000 for this one in its first week), and that’s because he is whatever he thinks he wants us to be, and an awful lot of us are just fine with that.
If none of that puts you off too much, you might actually enjoy Rebel Soul. He’s had enough time to study his inspiration that he can put out an album that sounds utterly unoriginal and yet is entirely identifiable as Kid Rock. Debate the artistic merit all you like, but on his terms, I can only imagine that that’s how you define success.