Written by Courtney Gonzalez. 23 March 2015.
Kenny Chesney released The Big Revival in September of 2014. Chesney took a whole new approach to his music, and even album cover. He was looking to bring a revival to today’s bro-country music, his listeners, and possibly the nation.
Chesney’s new album portrays a developing sound and style that is the product of a continual gathering of influences and experiences. Chesney has not always had the laid-back island vibe sound in his music, but that is what he is most well known for. He started off with traditional honky-tonk musicians such as George Strait as his idols, but has since strayed from these roots. He had a long phase of island songs about beaches and beer after a long day that fueled his popularity. After finding his own identity, he did very well for himself releasing six albums in 2000’s that charted. He was touring nonstop up until The Big Revival where he took a year off to focus on himself and his music. In an interview with billboard he commented that he would like to pursue a career that reflects those of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, whom he admires.
After taking his break and reflecting on his career and the music he wants to produce he put out the album The Big Revival. It shows us the resurgence of his life and music, as this is a style that Chesney has not explored. The album cover is also a new style that strays from Chesney’s traditional close up cowboy hat portrait. Chesney comments, in an interview with billboard, on the intricate design of the bus and says, “It was so far beyond coloring outside the lines, yet what is more common than a school bus?” The colorful bus and his first single off of this album, “American Kids” give off energy that is not the same as his other work. Being one of the two music videos from The Big Revival, “American Kids” shows Chesney barefooted for this entire video, inviting his audience to come and celebrate life with him. His personal time, new style and persona paid off as his three singles “Wild Child,” “Til it’s Gone” and “American Kids” have all reached the top charts.
In taking a year off, Chesney was determined to make an album that was different than anything he or any other artist had ever made. Directly aiming and taking fire at today’s bro-country artist’s Chesney says, “Over the last several years, it seems like anytime anybody sings about a woman, she’s in cutoff jeans, drinking and on a tailgate — they objectify the hell out of them.” (Billboard) Now while he does acknowledge that he may have written a song like these 20 years ago (some may even say he played a part in starting sexist views of women in country music), he has since reached a level in his career and maturity where he can speak about women in a new light. He wants to make a fresh start with this album and set the stage for what he thinks country music should be. His new approach on women is especially heard in his song “Wild Child” where he portrays a strong woman that follows her heart, not the demands of truck driving country boys.
On the other hand, Chesney has the similar party hearty attitude that is seen in today’s bro-country artists. “Flora-Bama,” named after a famous bar on the Florida-Alabama border, was featured in Chesney’s concert in Gulf Shores where he hosted a free concert and party. Chesney states that, “[Flora-Bama is] a song for anyone who has somewhere they go to let their mind unwind. It’s about bein’ easy, but bein’ engaged. Because – as I’ve said – places like the Flora-Bama are what life is all about.” Turning this song into a huge party hit Chesney encouraged some of his listeners to let loose but also encouraged some of his older fans to stop listening all together. One older fan, Randy R. Briggs, commented, “He’s obviously priming the pump for a Flora-Bama Tour…today’s college-age Parrot head crowd” and notes that he would like to hear Chesney move back to the island vibes. This comment however, was one of the few negative comments from Amazon on this album. Otherwise the album still seems to be popular with listeners from its initial release in September.
Focusing on September of 2014 when The Big Revival was released, let’s take a step back and get a refresher on what was happening in our world. Two major events I want to highlight are the beginnings of ISIS emergence in Syria and Russia victimizing Ukraine. Both of these events left the U.S. with difficult decisions on whether to intervene or keep their distance. We are also beginning to see a less powerful U.S. with a decentralized government looking for a way to regain power but not quite knowing where to start or how to reach their goal. While these were very serious matters that needed immediate attention it was advised by Brzezinski, a well qualified speaker of the white house, to make logical decisions and remain optimistic. Making irrational decisions would not help America or the people of the country.
Relating to Chesney’s album he recommends taking a step back in your own life to make beneficial decisions and remain optimistic. He states in an interview with Billboard, “that no matter where you are in your life, how tired or lost or demoralized, with a little faith and a little help, anything is possible.” He takes the complicated and turns it into something simple and relatable in the song “The Big Revival.” Singing about religion is far from any common Chesney song, but he says that if you move past the literal meaning of his song you will see that, “it’s about hitting the reset button [and] reclaiming your place in the world.” He is far from being a public political figure and tends to keep his preferences personal. He states, “I think I’m one of those overwhelmed people. There are so many conflicting messages, and you get so unsure about what’s right, what isn’t.” Basically, he is not trying as much to make a religious or political statement in this song than to say that it doesn’t matter politically, religiously, or morally where you are—it is always possible to reach a desired goal.
Without objectifying anyone, Chesney has the potential to reach a large audience by welcoming listeners from all walks of life. During a time of turns and turmoil in the world, Chesney, having reevaluated his own life and career, reminds his myriad listeners to take a step back and rediscover their place in the world. He encourages men and women alike to become strong together and celebrate life with no worries, no matter their situations.
- “The Big Revival” (Dennis Linde)
- “Drink It Up” (Rodney Clawson/Vicky McGehee/David Lee Murphy)
- “Til It’s Gone” (Rodney Clawson/David Lee Murphy/Jimmy Yeary)
- “American Kids” (Rodney Clawson/Shane McAnally/Luke Laird)
- “Wild Child” (with Grace Potter) (Kenny Chesney/Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne)
- “Beer Can Chicken” (Kenny Chesney/Ross Copperman/David Lee Murphy)
- “Rock Bottom” (Craig Wiseman/Matt Dragstrem)
- “Don’t It” (Brent Cobb/Chase McGill)
- “Save It for a Rainy Day” (Andrew Dorff/Matt Ramsey/Brad Tursi)
- “Flora-Bama” (Kenny Chesney/Ross Copperman/David Lee Murphy)
- “If This Bus Could Talk” (Kenny Chesney/Tom Douglas)
“Kenny Chesney’s Religion and Political Views.” Kenny Chesney’s Religion and Political Views. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.
Landy, Benjamin. “Zbigniew Brzezinski on ISIS, Ukraine, and the Future of American Power.” Msnbc.com. NBC News Digital, 10 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
Lipshutz, Jason. “Kenny Chesney Unveils ‘The Big Revival’ Album Cover: Exclusive.” Billboard. Bilboard, 14 July 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.
Nicholson, Jessica. “Kenny Chesney’s ‘The Big Revival’ Track Listing Revealed.” MusicRow Nashvilles Music Industry Publication News Songs From Music City RSS. Nashville’s Music Industry Publication, 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.
Randy R. Briggs. “Kenny is desperate to hold onto some Teenage youth, or his own.” Amazon. Amazon, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.
Waddell, Ray. “Billboard Cover: Kenny Chesney on Bro-Country Songs That ‘Objectify the Hell Out Of’ Women, Reclaiming His Turf and Rattling His Fans’ Cages.” Billboard. Billboard, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.