Monday, February 28, 2011

Kenny Chesney, "Live a Little"

"Live a Little," the third single from Kenny's current album Hemingway's Whiskey, is a safe and predictable up-tempo with a simple message: "Live a little, love a lot.... Have some fun." Sound familiar? Possibly because half of Kenny's hit catalog trumpets that same message? Or because the melody sounds like a carbon copy of "Keg In the Closet"?

The song couldn't be any more generic if it tried. It echoes a palatable sentiment that will throw no curves or surprises at country radio listeners, thus allowing Kenny's hit streak to continue uninterrupted. But that's not the only problem. Kenny doesn't even sound like he cares about the song, settling for a boring monotone vocal. He doesn't sound the least bit engaged or enthusiastic. And why should he? He does this same thing every year. This is just business as usual. Deliver the lyrics, hit the notes, and then sit back and watch it shoot up the charts.

Lyrics may be dull, generic, or inane, but that it not an insurmountable hurdle. Take Sugarland as a case study. "Stuck Like Glue" wasn't a particularly strong or interesting lyric on its own, but it was Jennifer Nettles' joyously wacky performance that had critics and fans alike (including yours truly) rapping "Wuh-oh wuh-oh, stuck like glue" nonstop for no apparent reason. But it's hard to really sell something that you don't sound like you'd buy yourself.

It's surely not unheard of for Kenny to revisit well-worn territory, but this single doesn't just sound like a re-tread. It sounds like he's not even trying anymore.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)