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Blake Shelton responds to critics who called 'Minimum Wage' song 'tone deaf'

The country star's latest single has sparked controversy during the pandemic, when unemployment has climbed to new highs.
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Shelton released his latest single, "Minimum Wage," on Jan. 15.NBC
/ Source: TODAY

Blake Shelton is addressing the criticism he has been receiving over the lyrics of his new single, “Minimum Wage.”

In the song, Shelton sings about how love can make you feel rich even when you’re poor, with lyrics including, “Girl lookin’ at you, looking at me that way/ Could make a man feel rich on minimum wage.”

The tune sparked some controversy after the country star performed it on New Year’s Eve, with some people on Twitter saying the lyrics were “tone deaf” during a time of record unemployment and economic struggle in the U.S., especially considering that Shelton himself definitely earns a lot more than minimum wage.

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One Twitter user asked in a tweet on Dec. 31, 2020, "Does anyone else find Blake Shelton’s 'Minimum Wage' song to be incredibly tone deaf to our country’s current state?"

In a follow-up tweet on Jan. 2, the same user added in part, "When I heard it for the first time on NYE, it just rubbed me the wrong way."

“A mega millionaire romanticizing minimum wage is peak 2020,” another person tweeted.

Others defended the song on Twitter.

“So happy you decided to put this song out. we know you always have good intentions,” one person wrote. “Don’t let the haters bring you down.”

“Blake, I love ‘Minimum Wage,’” another person tweeted. “I got to hear it early, before you performed it on New Year’s Eve. I thought, ‘It’s an instant hit.’ I don’t get the naysayers. They must be very unhappy.”

Two weeks after his New Year's Eve performance, Shelton is now speaking out about the controversy. He called the backlash over the lyrics “absolutely ridiculous" and says the song resonated with him because it reminded him of the times he struggled to make ends meet early in his career.

“Just like probably 95 percent of artists out there, I struggled for so long to get by,” the Grammy-nominated singer said in a recent interview with CMT. “But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade those times for anything. Those days when the big struggle was, ‘Man, do I pay my rent or my electric bill, or do I just say screw it and go buy some beer?’ You had to decide because you didn’t have enough to go around.

"But those really were some of the best days of my life that I still think about all the time. And I think about all the jobs and things that I did over the years, just so I could play music for free somewhere.”

He added that he thinks the controversy over the song was overblown on social media.

“No matter what your intention is, no matter what the truth is, they want it to be something that they can be upset about so that they can get on social media and try to grab a headline,” he said. “Whatever this backlash is is just four or five people that probably don’t know anything about country music. They clearly hadn’t heard the song or read the lyrics. If they had, they couldn’t feel this way about the song."

He also explained that for him, "Minimum Wage" is about how love is more important than how much money you have.

“It’s literally a love song about how if times are tight and you ain’t got much money — as long as you have love and you’re happy — at the end of the day, that’s all any of us can really hope for,” he said. “You got it if you got that. That’s all that matters. And if that’s offensive to you, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

Shelton added that he wants to continue making music that reflects his own memories and experiences.

“So I’m going to put out the records that resonate with me and my life and not look back,” he said. “As country artists and as an industry, we have to stay focused here and know that what’s right is right. And I believe this song is a great message and I’m proud of it.”