Kenny Chesney latest effort, Welcome to the Fishbowl, continues to tweak his beachside image into maturity.
In "While He Still Knows Who I Am," a son has to deal with his dad's Alzheimers, trying to make his peace with him before dementia sets it. While the tune isn't autobiographical, Chesney said it still struck a personal chord.
"This guy's going back to reconnect with his father, but in a sense he's trying to connect with himself, too. He's busy and he's getting lost in the world, and that was me to a T, really," the singer told Billboard magazine.
"Sing 'Em Good My Friend," about a man's wife dying, continues in this vein. “It’s all a grand illusion when you think you’re in control,” Chesney sings before breaking into a "doo-doo-ing" refrain that takes a page from Paula Cole's "I Don't Wanna Wait."
Best Songs on 'Welcome to the Fishbowl'
- "Come Over"
- "Feel Like a Rock Star"
Back to Tricks
Every country album needs a song about a small town, apparently, and Chesney personifies low-density living in the hopelessly average "I'm a Small Town." According to Chesney, it's the place where you learned how to “ride your first bike down that street” and “Where everyone knows everyone.” I don't know about you, but I'm ready to leave these small town songs behind.
"Time Flies" is the lone "island" track of Welcome to the Fishbowl. Songs about beaches, vacation, and letting loose are part of Chesney's playbook. It's fun but has tough competition when compared to earlier summertime classics like "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems."
Turning Up the Sex
In the album's second single "Come Over," a man doesn't really want to patch things up with an ex-lover. But he is after some momentary affection, commonly referred to as a "booty call."
"I can’t take this bed getting any colder," he says in this uncommonly moody come-on.
Contrasting sharply is "Feel Like a Rock Star," the album's lead-off single. Kenny Chesney and tour partner Tim McGraw exhort listeners to do "whatever makes you feel like a rock star." Can an energy drink endorsement be far away?
In the title cut "Welcome to the Fishbowl," Chesney surveys a world where everyone has a chance to become a celebrity, and to learn that it's not what it's cracked up to be. Thanks to YouTube and iPhones, “you don’t have to be famous to be a star -- just get caught on video and there you are.”
"To Get to You (55th and 3rd)" and "Always Gonna Be You" continue the descent into downtempo ballads, the latter ending the album. If you're one of the few country fans who haven’t heard "You and Tequila," here it is again, taken from a live performance at Red Rocks. If you have heard it before, don't get too excited. The only real difference from the album version on Hemingway's Whiskey is the audience sing-along.
While fans of the more upbeat Chesney may complain, Welcome to the Fishbowl shows Chesney continuing to evolve in ways that are encouraging.
Track List for Welcome to the Fishbowl
- "Come Over"
- "Feel Like a Rock Star" (featuring Tim McGraw)
- "Sing 'Em Good My Friend"
- "Welcome to the Fishbowl"
- "I'm a Small Town"
- "El Cerrito Place"
- "Makes Me Wonder"
- "While He Still Knows Who I Am"
- "Time Flies"
- "To Get to You (55th and 3rd)"
- "Always Gonna Be You"
- "You and Tequila" (live featuring Grace Potter)
Release date: June 19, 2012