Kenny Chesney – “Live a Little”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | February 24th, 2011

Kenny ChesneySongwriters: Shane Minor and David Lee Murphy

If you’re even remotely interested in Kenny Chesney’s new single, “Live a Little,” you’re already miles ahead of the singer himself.

At least that’s how the country superstar’s performance sounds on his latest offering to radio from Hemingway’s Whiskey. After a punchy instrumental intro builds momentum, the song’s energy takes a nose dive as soon as he utters his “not a minute for me to be me” lament in the very first verse. The phrase “phoning it in” doesn’t even apply here, as that would imply Chesney is engaged enough to pick up a phone and dial in a number.

To say its “live it up” (or, this go-round, “live a little”) outlook is well-known territory for Chesney would be an understatement, but things sound familiar in more ways than one: The toe-tapping tune borrows heavily from the melody of fraternity romp “Keg in the Closet,” making it nearly impossible to get through lines “I need to live a little, have some fun” without substituting in “Keg in the closet, pizza on the floor.”

But where that song accurately and charmingly bottled the nowhere-to-go, nowhere-to-be beauty of college life and the fresh wave of nostalgia such memories pull to the surface, “Live a Little” turns out completely and utterly forgettable.

The tune’s Hallmark card sentiment continues down a path recently forged by George Strait’s “The Breath You Take” and Brad Paisley’s “This is Country Music.” Songwriters Shane Minor (who penned number-one singles “Brand New Girlfriend” and “Beautiful Mess”) and veteran David Lee Murphy play it safe and simple, but straightforward verses like “Step back, smell the rose/Feel the sand between your toes/Unplug, unwind/Step out in the sunshine” turn flat when coupled with Chesney’s monotone delivery.

“Live a Little” has an air of Uncle Kracker at a poetry reading, with approving guitar riffs substituted in for appreciative snaps–which, come to think of it, would be a lot more entertaining.

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  1. Buddy
    February 24, 2011 at 7:33 am

    We thought “You and Tequila” would be his next single. I suppose the thought process here was to familiarize concert-goers with an obvious walk-on tune.

  2. Joe
    February 24, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Karlie, I love the opening sentence of your review, it’s definitely spot on. The lyrics remind me of a worse version of Toby Keith’s “My List,” without the nice little touches we can all relate too. When I hear “Wade the shore and cast a line/look up a long lost friend of mine,” I literally want to stop what I’m doing and do both of this things at once. I wish the writers of Kenny’s song would have come up with some lines that give me the same kind of feeling.

  3. gloria
    February 24, 2011 at 8:20 am

    What I can’t understand is this song is flying up the charts already and I’ve been thinking all along it sounds just like Keg in the Closet, too. So, it’s Chesney, the artist, flying up the charts and not this over processed song mowing down songs that are way above this one!! Ridiculous! My station puts a Chesney song on their playlist as soon as one comes out!!

  4. DJ
    February 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

    The core mainstream audience isn’t remotely interested in hearing this song. Just more background music for soccer moms.

  5. Fizz
    February 24, 2011 at 10:06 am

    If Chesney is so disinterested with this song (not that I blame him), why’d he even do it? Or did his marching orders tell him to?

    When people bellyache about Chesney, or mainstream country in general, it’s turds like this that give them ammunition.

  6. Ben Foster
    February 24, 2011 at 10:06 am

    This sounds very “business as usual” for Kenny. His monotone delivery is a problem that I tend to notice in quite a few of his hits. Not all, but quite a few.

  7. K-Man
    February 24, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Sadly, he sounds miles more interested in this than he did on Shiftwork.

  8. Sam
    February 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Whoever makes this blog: get a life! If you don’t like Chesney, which every review is negative, then don’t blog about him! Chesney is successful for a reason, and you may just have to live a little with that! Personally, i would have picked 7 Days for his next single, but oh well. Chesney isn’t monotone either… that’s more Jason Aldean.

  9. Fizz
    February 24, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    “Oh nooooo! You can’t say that about MY favorite artist! You’re just jealous! When’s YER next gig! How many records did YOU sell!” What do you want? “Oh well, it’s Kenny Chesney, and lots of folks like him, right? Go Kenny, great record! Yippeeeee!”

  10. Jon
    February 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    If Chesney is so disinterested with this song (not that I blame him), why’d he even do it? Or did his marching orders tell him to?

    His marching orders. From the Conspiracy Of Suits.

  11. stormy
    February 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I’m just impressed that people are able to review a Kenny Chesney song called “Live a Little” and not pun on the title. Like: If anyone would know about living little, it would be Kenny Chesney. Unfortunately, all that experience did not help him with this song.

  12. Barry Mazor
    February 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Step back; smell the sand. Feel the tequila between your toes..

    (There. That’s different. Although–not very..)

  13. Joe
    February 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Sam, you have some good points. A lot of times songs which do well commercially get panned by critics (i.e. I Run to You by Lady A). And if a lot of people love the song and it rises to the top of the charts, why should the artist care what the critics say? He or she shouldn’t.

    You’re forgetting that he had very few #1 hits during his first 10 years, with a lot of his songs back then never peaking in the top 10 or even 20. Yes, he’s successful for a reason, but the reason is not that every song he released has been a hit.

    Previous success is never enough to guarentee future success, or as some say, “What got us here won’t get us there.” A good case study is Tim McGraw: a string of #1’s in the 90s, only 2 of his last 16 singles did that well. Oddly, one of the best critally praised – Drugs or Jesus – only came to #14, while one of the most critically panned – Fly Away – went to #1.

    So who knows how many people will like this Kenny song? For his sake, hopefully a lot. I just hope that instead of thinking this is a quick way to get ratings, he actually likes the song and the writers are genuinely happy with their work.

  14. John
    February 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    This song is a terribly disappointing follow-up to the masterful “Somewhere With You”

    After a career song (the highest audience impressions he’s ever had for one song), I don’t understand what prompts artists to do a complete 180 with the follow-up single.

    Sadly, we see this all too often (especially with superstar artists).

  15. Fizz
    February 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Joe and Sam: If a song is successful, then by all means, the artist is free to thumb his nose at critics who don’t like it. Actually, the artist is free to do that whether the song is a hit or not. But that being true, I doubt Kenny Chesney needs a fanboy to defend his honor.

  16. Andrew
    February 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Chesney has been irrelevant for years. Just like Tim McGraw. They are sell-outs and I do not consider them country anymore.

  17. Thomas
    February 24, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    …he needed a concert opener for arenas and he got one. this is not so much a song as it is a tool. then again, i’ve seen sharper tools.

  18. Rick
    February 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Kenny Chesney has been a true pioneer of the AirHead Country movement for years! Does anyone really think his crazed fangurls care about a monotone delivery? Sheesh.

    PS – The songwriters could have at least made this memorable by changing the lyric to: “Step back, smell the roses/Feel the sand between your toeses”. Oh well…

  19. Sue
    February 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    I can’t speak for everyone (obviously) but the song has a catchy beat and is up beat, fun song. I think the song is very good, and is delivered with high energy. I am not a crazy, teenage/twenty year old fan; but yes I am a fan!
    Love the song and truely enjoy the singer!

  20. Devin
    February 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    I have a feeling this is a case of someone a little higher up on the totem pole asking for this one to go out. They haven’t had a classic “Chesney” sounding song since “Out Last Night”, so I’m sure they felt it was due. That doesn’t really make it excusable. I mean, it’s pleasant to listen to, but pretty vapid.

    There was a comment Kenny made that they had an entire album almost completely done but he decided to scrap it and record different stuff because he knew it just wasn’t right. I have a feeling the other album that never came to be had a lot more stuff like this. It seems like Kenny at least tries sometimes to put out good material…

  21. MayorJoBob
    February 25, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Andrew: I thought the whole premise of mainstream country music was selling out. The only true artists are the ones without a major recording contract. I’ve lost all interest in Chesney since Lucky Old Sun.

  22. Matt B
    February 25, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Wow, I’d hate to think that anyone with a big record contract is considered a sell out…talk about a dim view on anything mainstream…

  23. MayorJoBob
    February 25, 2011 at 1:50 am

    I’m not that cynic, come on! I was was trying to use the haters logic against them. I’ve just always been critical of the artists who just show up, sing and then go home. I know it’s part of the Nashville business but sometimes it leaves me feeling empty knowing that when I’m listening to someone who took almost no part in the process. Brad Paisley, Keith Urban: they are still artists. They write and play. Brad Paisley’s entire touring band plays on every record. Now that makes me feel fulfilled while listening!

  24. Jon
    February 25, 2011 at 6:49 am

    artists who just show up, sing and then go home.

    In my opinion, if that’s what they do best, then that’s what they should do. But in any event, that doesn’t describe Chesney.

  25. agent713
    February 25, 2011 at 9:17 am

    In the hour long “premier” of the album played on radio Kenny introduced this song as one for his live show. To me that’s all it is. I don’t see why it has to be played on radio for it to be a good show opener but I suppose familiarity is important. Mostly when I listen to it I see lots of flashing lights, dudes on guitars and Kenny rising out of the stage or flying on to the stage from over the crowd somewhere.

    Although, after saying that, you bet when I hear it on the radio this summer I will open the windows, speed up and sing along. It’s a good summer driving song even if it is airhead country.

  26. Stewman
    February 25, 2011 at 9:22 am

    All artists have a “prime” time of their career. Not that Im going to compare Chesney’s prime to Bob Dylan, but he’s now past his prime as a creator of new music, and will ride the cash cow of his touring business. It happens to all artists on extremely varying degrees.

  27. Angie
    February 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Sell out? And by that, one would mean….. Sold out of tickets? Can’t please everyone obviously. [Another] great song.

  28. Fizz
    February 25, 2011 at 9:38 am

    If showing up, singing, and going home is what they do best, they should join a band with an actual creative person in it, or else stay in the karaoke bars where they belong.

  29. Raven
    March 1, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I am not a faqn of Kenny Chesney AT ALL. I have pretty much hated everything he did the past 5- 8 years with the exception of ‘You Save Me’. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked ‘somewhere With You’.

    this song is just a return to the stuff i didn’t care for

  30. Dave
    April 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

    This song just sounds like filler material on the album. Hard to believe it’s a single. Even harder to believe that it’s a #1 hit. Country radio listeners will accept bland material from a superstar as long as they get to hear their superstar.

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