November 9, 2008
Maybe a week ago, Kevin, Leeann, Blake, Lynn and I had an e-mail discussion in which we (well, mostly Kevin) fleshed out some of our plans for the site’s near and somewhat less-near future. One of the ideas that came up during that discussion was the possibility of a “Decade in Review” feature in 2010, which would naturally include run-downs of the 00′s finest offerings in singles and albums.
That’s obviously quite a ways off, but impatient as I am, I can’t help but get excited about the prospects. It’s going to mean putting a real historical perspective on material we’ve been accustomed to thinking about in the short-term, and separating the glut of forgettable radio filler from the releases that truly defined their given periods or artists, that bucked or redefined conventions, and that won’t make us grimace twenty years from now when we look back on the annals of the genre. Sounds fun, right?
Now, when I think about country music in the new millennium, Kenny Chesney is the first artist that comes to mind. Not because he’s one of my favorites, mind you (I can’t say he is), but because he has basically made the genre his commercial B-word for the better part of the decade, and that’s pretty hard to ignore.
On the other hand, it’s hard to predict how history will look back on Chesney’s actual music. He’s had hits-a-plenty, of course, but can we really name even one single of his that stands head-and-shoulders above the pack, the way we can with his iconic forerunners? What will become his “Friends in Low Places” or, perhaps more appropriately, his “Margaritaville”? Has he even had a single that memorable and defining yet?
Possibly, if you ask me. Though it wasn’t his biggest smash ever, I think “Beer in Mexico” is the quintessential Kenny Chesney hit, the single best representation of his artistry and appeal. All the trademark elements are there: you’ve got the Buffett/Mellencamp influences, the big arena chorus, the “tropical escapism” theme. The song manages emotional substance with an eloquently simple lyric, the way a lot of classic country does, but you can still see yourself getting drunk to it at a concert. It was a #1, of course. And as icing, it was actually written by Chesney himself, which is frequently not the case with his hits. I can’t imagine a more perfect candidate for “signature hit” status, and if Chesney must go down in our genre’s history, I think that’s the song he should go down with.
But let’s hear from y’all. What do you think have been some of the definitive singles released in the past decade, and – if you’re feeling especially scholarly – what makes them so? They can be big hits, medium hits, or dang good songs that flopped or never charted, just as long as you can make a good case for their place in history. We’ll probably do albums later, so hold tight there!