6
Jul 06

Kenny Chesney and the Science of Summer Hitz

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I have heard his new single (“Summertime”), four times in the last two weeks. Once in the c ar back from a family renuion, once when swimming, and twice while eating. When I reviewed the album for Stylus a couple of months ago, I liked it better. Now the time has come for it to be on the radio, there are several reasons why it should be destroyed:

  1. The lyrics are really banal. Not only banal, but designed entirely in a lab to be an authentic expression of how the warm months affect the good ol boy in all of us.
  2. As for the above, it is shameless in its attempt to enter the canon: Perfect song on the radio/Sing along because it’s one we know
  3. None of the really excellent things about summer (ie drinking, all of the copius amounts of flesh on view) are mentioned.
  4. Who the hell drinks YooHoo in the middle of July (Alan Jackson, who understands summer hits, knows what to eat from mid June to eary September, in the last great summer song: “Well we fooged up the windows in my old chevy/I was willing but she wasnt ready/So a settled for a burger and a grape sno-cone” ) Listening to Chattahoochee again, reminds me of how pure Chesney is his benders are n Greasy Cheeseburgers as opposed to whiskey, he doesnt really mention beer at all, and any fucking he does is of the wistful lovemaking variety, When Alan Jackson can out dirty you, theres a problem.
  5. The closest Kenny Chesney has been to a swimming hole is the local municpal swimming pool (the second time ive heard this, was reading Alison Bechdel’s Fun House, and watching all the boys with very little clothes, wandering around the local outdoor pool, nestled in the river valley, with perfect aqua water and phone booths shaped like plastic shells–there was also a girl with the words paradise lost written in florid pink on her brown bikini bottoms; why the swimming hole, when the light reflects on such chlorinated paradises)
  6. I keep wondering when people will notice how calcuated his work is, but they never do. In this weeks People, there are a dozen or so pictures of hsi summer tour, and it looks like Beatlemania, just as in several of his videos (the concert ones, as opposed to the ones shot on a caribbean beach) begin wiht crowds of hungry women, and Kenny annointing them, like the Pope or the Queen. I know that this is one of the functions of modern celebrity, and post Garth its something that we have expected in Country superstars and it should be deconstructed, and Kenny is so good at riding the wave, that hes not the one to do it but I’m bored.
  7. Thats the crux of the matter. He is astonishingly popular, and beloved. America laps him up. So there must be something there, aside from his brilliant manipulating of audience expectation, but what is there are simulacrcas of down home pleasures—like Dollywood if Dolly didnt ever write songs about poverty or death.
  8. Maybe thats the problem, Kenny is country music for the south of metastized suburbs–and there needs to be work like that. Sure Hank wouldnt ahve done it this way, but Hank’s lost highway is found and paved over. The problem is that though we need texts about the suburbs, written by people in the suburbs, describing the joys people find there, Chesney isnt this man.
  9. Or to put it another way, how can you trust a man who claims to be of the people, when he spends 60 per cent of his time in a yacht somewhere near St Barts.
  10. So I guesswhat annoys me the most, here, are silly things that I should have stopped caring out, personae, role, authentic voice, banality, and desire. Things that would have been a virtue on Britney or Rachel Stevens are gratingly plastic in Chesney. If I stopped considering him country and started considering him pop, maybe the previous 9 points would be rendered moot.
  11. But his single from last summer: Anything But Mine is one of the great singles of country music, a tender and broken examanation of lost innonce, the longing and desire of first bloomings destroyed by time and geographical inconveince.
  12. The song still annoys me.

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