’s Born Free
is a laid-back, nostalgic affair. Displaying less of the rap and rock elements of his earlier albums, Born Free
leans more toward pop and country for a celebration of family, true love and traditional values. Twelve years after launching onto the scene as the bad-boy pimp of Devil Without a Cause
, Rock has mellowed into a good ol’ boy who just wants to kick up his feet and enjoy himself. Though less dynamic than his last record, the triple-platinum Rock N Roll Jesus
, Born Free
is such a thoroughly pleasurable listening experience fans probably won’t mind.
A Man of the People
In crafting Born Free
with producer Rick Rubin
, Kid Rock seems to have taken the temperature of the country and (whether intentionally or not) come up with an album that espouses a conservative, everyman quality. On occasion, the album’s populist tone can feel achingly forced -- as if he’s running for office rather than trying to make a hit album -- but its weaker moments are buttressed by some of the most melodically assured songs of his career. Even if one wanted to be cynical and accuse Rock of pandering to his blue-collar audience’s recession-era worries, Born Free
still works as expertly constructed pop-meets-country music.
Kid Rock, of course, has gone country before, so Born Free
’s country tunes aren’t that much of a surprise. But what is new is that he’s found a way to write songs in that genre that really mesh with his style. As he did on his Cocky
hit “Picture,” Rock teams up with Sheryl Crow
on “Collide,” a breezy romantic ballad that’s sturdy and sentimental in equal amounts. And in a potentially bizarre collaboration that ends up succeeding, Rock recruits country singer Martina McBride
and rapper T.I.
for “Care,” a stab at political consciousness that might be a bit iffy lyrically -- caring about the world’s problems isn’t quite the same as getting involved in a more meaningful way -- but is musically irresistible, especially when McBride and Rock’s voices come together on the cheery chorus.
If there’s a model for what Rock has tried to achieve on Born Free
, oddly enough it’s Leave This Town
’s 2009 sophomore release. Like Leave This Town
, Born Free
seeks to be comforting at all times. Even when Rock turns up the volume somewhat for the living-for-the-weekend rocker “God Bless Saturday,” the song generates a feel-good vibe that’s meant to be enjoyed by a group of friends listening and singing along together. The album is suffused with a sense of community, a feeling that Rock and his audience are all dealing with the same problems: crappy jobs, heartache, getting older. You could argue that Rock’s attempts to cast himself as the common man are a bit specious -- he is coming off a triple-platinum album, after all -- but after years of reveling in his boisterous, cocky persona, he’s quite effective singing in a more vulnerable, empathetic tone on Born Free
'Born Free' – Bottom Line
There are a couple outright duds on Born Free
, but the majority of the album is so engaging and musically inviting that the occasional weak track hardly matters. No longer aspiring to be the world’s Rock N Roll Jesus
, he now just wants to be one of the guys, and this new persona fits him quite well. When he sings on the album’s closing song, “For the First Time (In a Long Time),” about finally finding contentment it feels genuine. He may not be as colorful as he used to be, but if he’s determined to make mainstream records that reach for the largest audience possible, the way he’s gone about doing that is pretty successful.
'Born Free' – Best Tracks:
“For the First Time (In a Long Time)”
“God Bless Saturday”
Release date – November 16, 2010
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