“When I Close My Eyes“
Written by Nettie Musick and Mark Alan Springer
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
April 11, 1997
Kenny Chesney channels 80’s Strait on his first No. 1 hit.
The Road to No. 1
Kenny Chesney’s road to superstardom took the long way around. Like many of his contemporaries, he focused first on high schools sports, but by the time he was in college, he was primarily focused on music. He released a self-produced independent album in 1989, and was signed to a publishing deal by 1992. He signed to Capricorn Records and released In My Wildest Dreams in 1994. It produced three singles that made minor impact at radio.
BNA realized his potential and signed him to their label. Radio got on board quickly, with “Fall in Love” and “All I Need to Know” both going top ten, and “Grandpa Told Me So” going top thirty. Chesney followed All I Need to Know with Me and You. Its first single underperformed, but the title track was released next, and it became his first top five hit. The album’s third and final single became Chesney’s first No. 1 hit.
The No. 1
Chesney’s previous ballad, “Me and You,” followed the “love ballad” template that we’ve seen a few times already from young hat acts. However, his expressive performance helped distinguish him from the hat pack, his voice being immediately identifiable and sounding wise beyond his years.
Chesney then channeled Bowen-era George Strait on “When I Close My Eyes,” a dreamy record that’s a tick or two better than its predecessor. It’s a warm homage to that eighties neo-traditional sound that predated the new traditionalist work of Randy Travis and The Judds, where string sections lived comfortably alongside fiddle and steel guitar.
He makes a game effort at mimicking Strait’s unique phrasing, but he doesn’t quite pull it off, so the chorus doesn’t soar like it’s trying to. But the verses showcase his talent as an interpretive singer, and he’s well on his way to finding his own voice, which will happen more fully on his next album.
The Road From No. 1
“Me and You” and “When I Close My Eyes” helped Me and You become his first gold album. We’ll see Chesney again later this year, with the lead single from his next album.
“When I Close My Eyes” gets a B.
Editor’s Note: Due to a research error on my part, this post originally covered “Me and You” instead of “When I Close My Eyes.” My apologies for the mistake. – KJC
The Road From No. 1
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