Some songs live or die on the strength of the artist's vocal interpretation. Tim McGraw's “My Best Friend” could be considered one such song.
The funny thing is that's not necessarily an indication of poor songwriting. Sometimes it just takes the right vocalist to find the layers of emotion woven into a lyric that could scan as pedestrian in the hands of another performer. In this instance, Tim McGraw indeed proves to be the right vocalist.
Lyrics like “I don't know where I'd be/ Without you here with me/ Life with you makes perfect sense” could very easily come across as rote statements with no real emotional heft. When Tim McGraw delivers them, you get the sense that he means it from the depths of his soul.
McGraw's heartfelt performance is bolstered by a pleasant lilting melody and a laid-back arrangement featuring generous amounts of fiddle and steel guitar. Thanks to such fitting treatment, the song exudes such an irresistible warmth that it's easy to see why it's become a dance floor favorite in the twelve years since its release.
You know what's one of the best ways for a contemporary country song to worm its way into my heart? To display a mature and insightful perspective, or to tap into some universal truth, while dressing itself up with the catchiest of melodies and hooks.
That particular sweet spot is one that the female artists in country music tend to hit more often than the males – See “Deep Down,”“Hey Cinderella,” and “The Fear of Being Alone” for case studies. However, Tim McGraw's 1999 chart-topper “Something Like That” hits it, and hits it dead-on.
The song recounts the narrator's youthful experience of falling in love for the very first time at age seventeen. The verses are replete with little details – a barbecue stain, a miniskirt, a suntan line, etc. Such details may seem to have little meaning, but in this particular context, they mean everything. In the second verse, the narrator has a chance encounter with his old flame while traveling on a plane, where she says “I bet you don't remember me, to which he replies “Only every other memory,” thus assuring her that she is hardly forgotten. “Like an old photograph, time can make a feeling fade,” he sings during the bridge, “but the memory of a first love never fades away.”
Through its vivid, detail-laden approach, the lyric effectively hones in on the fact that the experience of one's first love is, in itself, unforgettable. Every little aspect of the encounter feels significant in its own way, because it's a lifetime milestone that leaves a lasting impression. Indeed, “a heart don't forget something like that.”
The point is driven home by a sprightly piano hook, toe-tapping rhythm, and wildly catchy singalong-friendly chorus – a one-two punch that helps the record make an impression both as a great lyric and as a fun, catchy listen.
After many years as a mid-level country artist, Kenny Chesney fused arena-size country with Caribbean rhythms to become one of the genre’s biggest stars of the 21st century.
Born and raised in East Tennessee, Chesney didn’t seriously start pursuing music until he was in college, despite being an enthusiast his entire life. While continuing his studies, Chesney played in a bluegrass band and for tips at a Mexican restaurant. He managed to finance a demo album and moved to Nashville in 1991. He played at a local honky-tonk called the Turf, and eventually landed a publishing deal in 1992 that led to a record deal with Capricorn in 1993.
His debut for the label, In My Wildest Dreams, found little success, but it laid the groundwork for a new deal with BNA Records. His second set, All I Need to Know, put him on the map. Throughout the nineties, he slowly built a career at radio and retail, as his songs inched higher on the charts and he moved from gold, to platinum, and then to multi-platinum sales by the end of the nineties.
Still, there was little to indicate that he was about to explode into superstardom. But as his live shows gained greater attention, Chesney began to incorporate Caribbean sounds into his music, styling himself as an island singer in the same vein as Jimmy Buffett. Through stronger song choices that helped repair the novelty act image that had been created with hits like “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”, Chesney began to earn critical acclaim for his work.
By the mid-2000’s, Chesney was the biggest act in country music, selling millions of copies of his albums and more concert tickets than even the biggest pop and rock acts of the day. He dominated the awards circuit, and even managed to sell big numbers of indulgent side projects like Be Who You Are and Lucky Old Sun.
Today, Chesney remains a top concert draw and a core radio act. He is currently prepping another studio album and a co-headlining tour with Tim McGraw.
I’ve always liked Kix as a singer, so I was happy to see that this single exists. He’s got one of those modest-but-charming Everyman voices, the kind that makes every song feel like a conversation with your ol’ pal.
He also sounds positively thrilled to flex it for us again, which is just infectious. Listen to how he relishes every note of “New to This Town,” like he doesn’t want waste a moment of this reintroduction. Love that! I love that.
Just want to hear it on a different song. This one’s got some good bones – the main chorus cadence (before it becomes a crutch), the theme of wishing you could rewrite a history gone wrong. But the first verse about the younger man doesn’t set up a compelling launching pad for the rest of the song, and I don’t know if I buy Kix Brooks with this sound – pulsing verses, big rock chorus. Plus, the subject matter invites comparison to Tim McGraw’s dazzling “Old Town New,” and there aren’t a lot of songwriters who can go head-to-head with Bruce Robison or Darrell Scott, much less the two of ‘em together.
So as an appetizer, I can’t say it kix ass but…….! (I’m done writing forever.)
Written by Kix Brooks, Marvin Green & Terry McBride
As far as the Everywhere hits are concerned, this sixth and final single is the most frothy and least substantial.
That’s not to say it isn’t an entertaining listen, and in a way, it might be the most historically significant of the singles, given that it’s the blueprint for countless Kenny Chesney hits that followed.
Written by Steve Mandile, Jerry Vandiver, and Phil Vassar
Getting tired of the outstanding Tim McGraw reviews?
Then go read about Emotional Traffic. Fact is, Everywhere-era McGraw was as close to perfection as radio-friendly country music gets.
“Where the Green Grass Grows” is tightly produced, with an instantly recognizable opening fiddle. The urban burdens and backporch fantasies aren’t just cleverly constructed. They’re also brilliantly contrasted.
My personal favorite? Comparing the idyllic corn popping up in rows to the “supper from a sack – 99 cent heart attack.” But the entire song is chock full of imagery like that, funny and poignant and a little sad. All the stuff that great country music is supposed to be.
What on earth is a tumee, and why is Tim McGraw trying to pull it?
That was but one of the questions that my younger self had about “One of These Days.” It hit the radio during my freshman year in college. As a transplanted New Yorker studying in Tennessee, I couldn’t understand why my friends were flipping out about how powerful this song was.
I got the hype through the first and second verse, but it lost me in the third act. I actually thought he was getting married. After a few years down south, my Catholic self gradually learned the meaning of this very Baptist song. If this was my life story, I would’ve just gone to confession after these personal failings.
I’ve never been one to make evaluative judgments on denominations and faiths other than my own. If somebody else is taking a different path to God, I hope they have a meaningful journey and that we meet up at a shared destination.
But I will say one thing. If you’re looking to close a three act song with a dramatic resolution, “born again” is the way to go.
Written by Marcus Hummon, Monty Powell, and Kip Raines