Kenny Chesney in the “Fishbowl”
Published: Sunday, August 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 6, 2012 00:08
Kenny Chesney’s latest album “Welcome to the Fishbowl” offers more of his signature pop-country music. Even though he sticks to his formula, “Fishbowl” should be a definite fan-pleaser.
Chesney often explores two distinct aspects of his personality through his music. He shows off the fun-loving side first, with songs about hanging out, going to the beach and partying. The other side of Chesney ponders the serious parts of life. “Fishbowl” has plenty of both.
In “Come Over,” Chesney makes a friends-with-benefits relationship sound more romantic than it really is. Chesney teams with his longtime friend and current tourmate Tim McGraw on “Feel Like a Rock Star.” It rings in as one of those “cannot wait to get off work and go party” songs that Chesney is so well known for and is one of his catchiest to date.
“Time Flies” is a companion piece to “Rock Star,” in that it is also one of his upbeat party songs about how time flies when you are having fun. “Welcome to the Fishbowl,” on the other hand, combines the two sides of Chesney’s personality quite well. At first it sounds like one of his lighter songs, thanks to the up-tempo groove and the ready-for-line-dancing feel. Upon listening intently, though, the words reveal something deeper. Chesney tells about the lack of privacy fame brings, and how instant fame can come to anyone, not just people who work in the entertainment business. In a society where plenty of people record others on video then post it on the Internet, Chesney seems to be warning about getting too carried away with it. He has done a fine job here, on a song he co-wrote with country songwriter Skip Ewing. Oddly enough, it calls to mind some of Bruce Springsteen’s songs, such as the recent “We Take Care of Our Own,” in which the music is deceptively lighter in tone than the darker lyrics actually suggest.
“Fishbowl” also features some sad songs, such as “Sing ‘em Good my Friend.” In this song, he remembers a friend who is dying. “While He Still Knows Who I Am” is the one of the saddest songs Chesney has ever done. He takes on the first person point of view of a man attempting to learn more about the life story of his father, who has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Chesney sings movingly about how he only knows him as a dad, but wants to know him as a person before it is too late. The inclusion of these songs may upset fans who only want to hear the beach-loving side of Chesney, but they reveal so much of what he is capable of.
Regretfully, not every song on the album works. “I’m a Small Town” is riddled with cliches, complete with lyrics about how nice it is to live in a place where “everyone knows everyone,” as if no other country singer thought of the idea before. Two ballads, “To Get To You (55th and 3rd)” and “Always Gonna Be You” suffer from lame arrangements that would not sound out of place on any lite-FM radio station. Neither are examples of Chesney’s best work.
On a more positive note, the album ends with a live version of his hit duet with rock singer Grace Potter, “You and Tequila,” which first appeared on Chesney’s 2010 album “Hemmingway’s Whiskey.” Chesney and Potter do a fine job for the second time, although the listener cannot help but wonder why Chesney felt compelled to include it on two consecutive albums.
“Welcome to the Fishbowl” offers little in the way of actual surprises for Chesney’s listeners, except that the some of the ballads are sadder than usual. Despite a couple of clunkers, the album is satisfying most of the way through.
Kenny Chesney’s “Welcome to the Fishbowl” receives 3.5 out of 5 stars.