Blake Shelton's "Minimum Wage" is a love song for the hard times -- and if you have a problem with a country superstar who was one of Forbes' highest-paid celebrities of 2020 singing it ... well, he doesn't much care. After debuting the song live on NBC's New Year's Eve special, to some less-than-favorable reactions, Shelton officially released the track on Friday (Jan. 15).

Written by Corey Crowder, Jesse Frasure and Nicolle Galyon, "Minimum Wage" resonated with Shelton, he tells CMT, because of the days when, pre-fame and fortune, he struggled to make ends meet, just as plenty of other people -- famous or not -- have and do.

"I struggled for so long to get by. But at the end of the day, I wouldn't trade those times for anything," reflects Shelton, who painted houses, worked at a music marketing and management company and sang demos for $40 a pop before signing his first record deal. "Those really were some of the best days of my life, that I still think about all the time."

To CMT, Shelton admits that it was, in fact, after he signed a record deal that things "really got tough": His demo-singing work, which "was the difference in making ends meet or not," dried up.

"But at the same time, I knew what I wanted and I just didn't even care. I wanted to sing. And whatever I had to do to get by to be a singer, I didn't care," Shelton remembers. "And, luckily, the record finally came out and did what it did, and I never really had to look back since then, which is fortunate."

After Shelton debuted "Minimum Wage" on New Year's Eve, some angry listeners sounded off about the idea of Shelton, a multi-millionaire, singing about life on minimum wage. Shelton thinks they weren't really listening to the song's message.

"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. You got it if you got that. That’s all that matters," Shelton says. "And if that’s offensive to you, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Though they headed to Los Angeles, Calif., for a new season of The Voice, which wrapped up just before Christmas, Shelton and his fiancee, pop star Gwen Stefani, spent much of their COVID-19 quarantine in isolation together with her kids at Shelton's ranch in Oklahoma. There, they made a series of from-home appearances to promote their first-ever country duet, "Nobody But You." That song scored them a No. 1 hit, and they repeated that success with another duet titled "Happy Anywhere."

"Minimum Wage" is Shelton's first single following "Happy Anywhere." In recent years, he has eschewed full albums in favor of one-off singles.

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