With nine albums under his belt, Blake Shelton has a canon of rollicking redneck anthems and twangy party-starters. But in the past year he and Miranda Lambert split, and he began dating Gwen Stefani, who addressed their romance in This Is What the Truth Feels Like.
On his personal new set If I’m Honest, there are recriminations and – you know you want it, be honest – “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” a melting, melodic duet with Stefani.
Below, the most revealing lyrics on the album – some of which the Nashville star opened up about himself.
Says Shelton of the record: “As a country artist, I’m supposed to sing about things I’ve experienced, and the album is basically a timeline of the last 12 months of my life and pretty much how it went from the downs back to the up.
“I just felt like I was in an awesome spot because of the fact that I get to make records as a recording artist to share my story with everybody.”
”She’s Got a Way with Words”
“When you put two and two together, you figure out love’s got four letters She put the ‘her’ in ‘hurt’ / She put the ‘why’ in ‘try’ … She put the ‘ex’ in ‘sex’ … She put a big F-U in my future.”
While Shelton plays a scorned lover in the track, he tells PEOPLE, “I know at least a year and a half I’ve had that song on hold,” so long before he and Lambert announced their divorce. “It’s country music, and you gotta have some good pissed off, cheatin’ songs.”
“It’s pretty clear that we’re both here to get over someone … Every goodbye could be the start of somethin’ new / Maybe that starts with me and you / We got all night to get to know each other better / And try movin’ on together.”
The sentiment of the track aligns with how Shelton and Stefani “focused on the positive” after their respective breakups, as a source told PEOPLE earlier this year. “They have turned lemons into lemonade and have turned a bad situation for both of them into something great. They’re both much happier.”
While Shelton didn’t write the track, he says the people who penned it took inspiration from his new romance.
“It’s so dead-on with where my life was when I first started making the record. It’s basically telling you how things got rolling in my personal life again, and I think I said to him, ‘Did you write this song because of the situation I’m in and what happened?’ And he wrote back, ‘Well you know, we tried to put ourselves in your spot.’ He kind of just skirted around that, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize it’s basically my life, you know?”
”Came Here to Forget”
“Misery loves company / That’s why it’s you and me buying each other drinks … doing our best to make the best of the worst of it.”
”It Ain’t Easy”
“When you ain’t with me, I ain’t nothin’ but lonely … It ain’t easy anymore when I’m walking out your door.”
”A Guy with a Girl”
“When I walk into the party with you, girl … I’m just a guy with a girl everybody wants to know … Wondering how I ever got your little hand in mine / Looking over at you like ‘Aint’ she beautiful?'”
This track could easily have been inspired by Shelton and Stefani’s PDA-packed Oscars date night at Vanity Fair‘s afterparty.
“They acted like giddy teenagers at a high school dance,” an onlooker told PEOPLE after the bash. “They were holding hands the whole night and didn’t leave each other’s sides. I don’t think either of them stopped smiling the entire time they were there.”
”Go Ahead and Break My Heart” (Feat. Gwen Stefani)
“I never ever meant to get so into you / Thought I was using you just to get me through Last thing I needed was to fall in love,” Stefani sings on their much-hyped duet.
“She and I sat down and wrote this song about some serious insecurities that we had when we first started down this road with each other, and we both had trust issues,” says Shelton of the track. “We were getting over it, but we wrote this song about it. And it’s perfect. I couldn’t be happier about that song and the way it came about and the honest way … It is like people getting a look at something personal for the first time.”
”Doing It to Country Songs”
“We like doing it to country songs,” Shelton quips in his trademark baritone – whether it’s “heading to my job drinking coffee strong,” “drinking beer, shooting pool” with his boys at the local watering hole or … “rubbing belt buckles ’til they shine like chrome” with his baby on the dance floor.
”You Can’t Make This Up”
“We never meant to start fallin’ in love / Oh, man, you can’t make this up.”
As the lyrics in this track suggest, Shelton and Stefani’s romance came out of nowhere. “It was a really super unexpected gift to find a friend, somebody who happened to be going through the exact same thing as me, literally mirroring my experience,” she said in March. “I don’t think it’s an accident that that happened. It saved me.”
“Though the Devil tried to break me, my sweet Jesus won’t forsake me,” Shelton sings on the album closer, a song he co-wrote after it came to him in a dream.
“I ended up writing the first verse basically just writing it down after I had this dream about the song. I think there was more to the song in my dream but that’s all I could pick up and then a few months later I ended up writing the second verse and I really felt like the song was too important to me to not do everything I could to make it the best it could be,” he says of the spiritual track, the faith-based lyrics of which speak for themselves.
And Shelton isn’t the only one to turn to a higher power after his heartbreak: “I have to make music out of this. That’s what God wants for me,” Stefani remembered thinking after her split.
Blake Shelton’s If I’m Honest is available for sale and streaming Friday.
• Reporting by MELODY CHIU