The reinvention of rap-rocker Kid Rock as a heartland classic-rock icon would have worked if his sense of humor had survived the transition. Once he realized he'd have bigger hits and more of them by aping Bob Seger, he ditched the corn rows and just got corny. His last record, 2007's "Rock N Roll Jesus," went all-in on the classic-rock formula -- blatantly copying every '70s crap-kicker from Lynyrd Skynyrd to David Allan Coe -- with the added detriment of the lamest lyrics you've ever heard. This month, Kid Rock spouted off about Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and his new gig as "American Idol" judge, saying it's "the stupidest thing he's ever done in his life. He's a sacred American institution of rock and roll, and he just threw it all out the window." Because this is a very serious topic, don't cha know, and Kid Rock now apparently sees himself as the guardian of classic-rock credibility.
"Born Free," believe it or not, is a fine record musically. Producer Rick Rubin trims out all the fat and helps deliver a clean, crafted, pop-friendly sound, full of riffs and jangle that lean more toward the Heartbreakers than the Silver Bullet Band. Lyrically, though, this album is not only shallow, it's actually insulting, maybe even injurious. Every song chews cliche after yee-haw cliche ("Somebody's gotta win / somebody's gotta lose"), dancing around vague notions of loyalty to God, country and getting high, not necessarily in that order of priority. "Care," the tune he unveiled at Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity, is an anti-protest song -- a vindication for all Americans seeking a pass from actually getting involved in any social or political activity. "I hear screamin' on the left / yellin' on the right / I'm sittin' in the middle tryin' to live my life," he whines, before resigning altogether: "I can't stop the war / shelter homeless, feed the poor / I can't walk on water / can't save your sons and daughters / I can't change the world and make things fair / but the least that I can do is care."
Wow. Actually, Kiddo, you can accomplish all those things if you put down the spliff, get off the couch and encourage others to do the same instead of validating their selfish apathy. Your "care" and about 50 bucks will buy you a nice-size house right now in your hometown of Detroit.