Feelin’ Kenny

30 May

Well, yesterday I was feelin’ Jimmy. Then, Amy posted some good stuff about how Kenny is the new Jimmy. I particularly relate to Old Blue Chair:

Oddly enough (and as karma would have it), Lefsetz is in the middle of a Kenny Chesney love fest, so I thought it only appropriate to include a post on Kenny.

Now, I know somebody who knows Kenny Chesney and I hear that he is but a wisp of a fella, however he is just as Lefsetz describes — down to earth and “one of us”. Now, I have extolled how Country is the new Pop and how the genres really have changed over the years, but Lefsetz gets to the heart of the matter much more succinctly than I can.

One of the finer points that he makes that resonates with me is this:

“The rock stars tell you to keep your distance. The rappers want to say how much better they’ve got it than you, with their women and their wheels. The country acts want you to know they’re just like you. That you’re part of their family. But for a quirk of fate, a bit of talent and some extremely hard work, your roles could be reversed. Kenny Chesney doesn’t have a security guard. He cruises Vegas with his assistant. He doesn’t take an entourage to awards shows. Because his audience respects him, gives him the distance he needs, because they believe they own him.

You don’t own the audience, the audience owns you. Too many stars seem to be playing to “Entertainment Tonight” and the rest of the celebrity industry. They get caught up in their fame. They play the roles of celebrities. Whereas country acts are quick to reinforce they’re regular folk, accessible, that they’re there for you and you only.

There’s nothing on tape, just a ten piece band. At times four guitars. A full horn section. The hi-def screens above the stage and hanging from the speakers on the side insure that even those in the cheap seats can see what’s going on onstage. You feel included. In a club you paid your dues to over and over again. You listened on the radio, you bought the albums, why shouldn’t you be respected, you’re the engine driving the enterprise!”

Damn right. I’ve been struggling about how much my opinion on various matters should matter concerning artists that I enjoy. I think Lefsetz hits the proverbial nail on the head in that we should have somewhat of a say as we, as fans, do “own” the artist. And, the artists that are the most successful at packing them into huge stadiums and shows are those, like Kenny and Jimmy, who actually LIKE their fans. They like to be with them, near them, understand them, relate to them.

After all, these guys weren’t born to success. They worked hard for it toiling in dives and bars so that we would spend our hard earned cash to come and see them and support their acts. Then, they relied on us to support them by buying their “records” and paying to see their concerts, maybe even buying a T-shirt that we won’t throw out for 12 years or paying to join some stupid fan club that sends you useless trinkets for the priviledge of better than average concert seats.

Again, it’s all about the kun-NECK-shun. People want to be a part of something. A family. A group. The in-crowd. The rebel crowd. The winning team. There is a basic need that seems particularly true of music lovers, to be a part of all. That’s why word of mouth marketing works so well among “music heads”. We want to know what others in our “group” enjoys and we try it based on the fact that one or more members likes a particular song or artist.

Today, I’m feelin’ Kenny, so NOW HEAR THIS:

Taylor Hicks,

Taking the part of Teen Angel sucks. It is beneath your talent and potential. Take a page out of the Kenny and Jimmy playbooks. Get out there with the fans who really dig your music. Listen to what they have to say. Buy them a beer. Hell, buy me a beer.

Sing THEM a song; something that makes THEM feel good. But, realize that you don’t own the audience. Rather, they own you…they bought what you were selling in 2006. NOT AI, but Under The Radar, Workplay and all the Florabama Mp3s. And, you owe them. Everything.

You owe them more than singing Beauty School Drop Out for five minutes each night this summer. That is lazy. Give them On & On.  Give them The Right Place. Give them a song recorded at the Ray Charles studio or FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. Give them a CD recorded on the Stax label. Give them a “Live from Sun Studios” performance. Give them something of substance from a guy who is supposed to be of substance. You worked hard to establish some credibility with those fans who “bought” you…news flash…you have to work TWICE as hard to keep us, your fans. Kenny and Jimmy get it. You know what? So do Steely Dan, Bon Jovi and Radiohead. C’mon, Taylor, make us proud.

For the record, my favorite Kenny Chesney tune is a toss up between:

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem


When the Sun Goes Down

or maybe, it’s this one….

How Forever Feels


23 responses to “Feelin’ Kenny

  1. brc

    May 30, 2008 at 7:32 am

    Now don’t hold back MM. How do you REALLY feel about where Taylor’s career is at now? 😉

  2. music maven

    May 30, 2008 at 7:47 am

    This will be my last post on the subject for a while, but I had to be clear as to how this all fit together in my mind. Part of the reason for starting this blog was that I was inspired coming off of the Gray Charles experience — of which Taylor played some part. For now, however, I am not inspired.

    For me at least, this blog is working through the mechanics of my mind and recording thoughts and feelings so that my head doesn’t explode. I’m complicated like dat.

  3. shrewspeaks

    May 30, 2008 at 8:26 am

    How about…just plain old touring instead of these weird one offs?

    Look Bob Dylan can get away with just showing up at Levon Helms Midnight Rambles cause..frankly HE IS DYLAN. Same with Bruse at the Stone Pony. People dig TH live…he does put on a good show and even if he doesn’t do a single new thing…he is at least trotting out some of the best under appreciated stuff, like Paul Pena or The Meters.

    Unless he is NOT really about the music and is more about people seeing him. I remember a quote about “I just want people to hear what I have to say.” Well? People are willing to listen…but if all he has to say is “Grease is the word.” and “Now, I will have creative control over my next CD.” Some of those willing fans will just move on, cutting a pretty small fan base down even further.

    Well, to take a page from TH’s future…
    “Baby don’t blow it,
    Don’t put my good advice to shame.
    Baby you know it,
    Even Dear Abby’d say the same!”

    TH listen to MusicMaven!

  4. somebody

    May 30, 2008 at 8:54 am

    I have a question – how big is the audience for the message you are delivering? Seems to me most fans have an almost cult-like devotion to whatever the man does (good for him, bad for “the music”). Is “Grease” for three months the equivalent of a three month tour working out new music from a fans perspective. Sadly, it is. (I was going to type “I fear it is” but enough beating around the bush already right?)

    You MM are an outlier. You actually care about music. The bulk of the fans care about Taylor the “celebrity” who makes “appearances” at “events”. Five minutes of Teen Angel is as good as five minutes of music on the road. Hell, it’s probably better because it’s on Broadway and they can plan to go and it’s “Grease” and oh my gawd I love “Grease” yadda yadda yadda.

    You keep looking for unrealized potential and most, if not all, of the folks who have your same musical slant have moved on to other artists who put it out there on the road – trying new stuff – stretching their abilities. Still trying to “make it” because in the end – that shit is a whole lot more interesting than Beauty School Dropout.

    I take a slightly different position on one of your points though. Does TH “owe” anyone anything? I think what he owes is based on the type of fans he wants to have – and not because one “type” is better than the other – but because a certain “type” of fan will support a certain “type” of career.

    In other words – keep doing “Beauty School Dropout” and you’ll be left with a career in which the only thing you can do it “Beauty School Dropout”.

  5. Amy deClouet

    May 30, 2008 at 9:10 am

    A whole post dedicated to my Kenny…I’m so honored! Just for the record, I don’t even like country music. He is the only country artist that I listen to. And I thought your words could not ring any truer MM. There is a reason that Kenny Chesney was awarded entertainer of the year for the fourth year in a row…His fans (like Jimmy’s fans) simply adore him. I’ve seen him in concert twice and it is the most fun 2 hours you’ll ever spend at a show. He even ecourages everyone to leave the daily worries & stress of life behind…just for those couple of hours so we can all have a good time.
    I also think Mr. Hicks’ time is coming. This brief angel stint will be just that. He is simply too talented and his fans love him!
    Have a great weekend:)

  6. music maven

    May 30, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Yes, somebody you make a subtle, yet important clarification. I guess I assume that Taylor wants more than just AI fans, and not that there is anything wrong with AI fans…it’s just that it’s a limited universe.

    Artists like Jimmy and Kenny appeal across so many different “kinds” of music fans. I mean, Lefsetz LOVES Kenny Chesney? That’s a pretty hard palate to satisfy.

    Some performers may not think they owe any fans any thing. However, those guys won’t be the ones with 40 year careers, huge & loyal fanbases and billion dollar empires based on fun and the love of music.

  7. shrewspeaks

    May 30, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Somebody…always the voice of reason.

    I guess it is just hard to face the fact of being an unrequited fan. I must take solace in the fact that I have met some terrific people along the way who DO care about the music, are throughly 100% genuine and share some fantastic artists, thoughts and laughs since 2005.

    As for oweing me? I guess the phrase is buyer beware is apropos. Some of the signs were always there (San Jose was a “grumpy” show)…me buying more of the artists he covered rather than listening over and over to his versions.

    Ah well…can’t blame a gal for hoping for more.

  8. kanniduba

    May 30, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    The lyrics “can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself” come to mind.

    You know…I’ve given this a bit of thought after being quick to judge at the outset. Here’s the thing: I think we all have that list…you know, the “someday that would be neat to do” list. I know I have one. I have the serious goal list, then the “aw, that would be cool!” list. The serious goal list includes things like travel to various places, get my Doctorate, learn to play piano, etc. The other list includes things like be a Disney exit greeter, or drive the Ding-a-Ling ice cream truck around for a summer. (Yes, I’m a dork!) Those are the not so serious things that would be fun to do, but I doubt I’ll ever do them. However, if the opportunity came along….you just never know!
    So, I wonder…perhaps this was one of those things for Taylor. “Wouldn’t it be cool to do a stint on Broadway someday?!” And then the opportunity presented itself. in NYC for a summer, work on the album, take in the culture, and be able to tick a “cool thing” off my list? No brainer.

    Now, to us it looks like a left-hand turn, and maybe it is, but who am I to say he’s doing the wrong thing? Every single one of my BEST decisions hinged on a leap of faith…some of my best choices turned out to be the ones that everyone around me shook their heads over and advised me against. Thank God I made every one of them.

    So, we don’t have a say…even as fans. I agree that he doesn’t owe his fans anything…if we all lived our lives for our “fans” we would be empty shells indeed. We owe it to ourselves to follow that little nagging voice that tells us which choices to make…and sometimes those choices are backed by nothing but instinct.
    Taylor’s choice to do Grease certainly makes me scratch my head and wonder, “What is he thinking?!” However, I’ve come to believe that it’s not my place to wonder…not my right to question. He owes me nothing. The one thing I do have a right to do is to follow him as he walks his career path, or not. Time will tell.

  9. music maven

    May 30, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    KD, I think you make some good points and I get where you’re coming from. Yes, in our own lives, it’s easy to say we don’t owe anyone and our lives are our own but isn’t there some responsibiity to our parents (to be good people in appreciation for all they did for us and tried to teach us), to our spouses (for being faithful and loving us), to our kids (to be an example and because we love them so), and to all of the people along the way who took a chance on us when no-one else would. Don’t we feel a sense of reciprocity?

    I know it’s a fine line between that and judgement and I am all about “live and let live”. Perhaps it’s like somebody says…more of an a+b=c thing. Everything has its consequences and while I’ve likely been too judgemental on the subject, this left turn (a) does affect my outlook on the situation (b)which will likely effect my listening and buying behavior (c). Cause and effect.

    There are alot of things that might be on “the list” that might not necessarily add up to the outcome that Taylor wants. Who knows, maybe he doesn’t want a long and illustrious career. Perhaps he has achieved far more than he ever deemed possible and is satisfied. The issue for me is that I (and others as well, I suspect) had higher aspirations for the dude.

    Fair or unfair, it is what it is.

  10. somebody

    May 30, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    MM, I also suspect that you expected TH to employ a certain “strategery” in making his career choices. This Broadway things seems to be something that just “came up” and doesn’t really fit in to any discernible strategy.

    In fact, as you’ve mentioned, it goes counter to the strategy you think he should employ.

    Is that fair to say?

    I believe that your frustration stems from the realization that very very few musicians get an opportunity like this and you don’t think he’s done a very good job maximizing it.

  11. music maven

    May 30, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I think that sums it up pretty well.

    I am particularly bothered by mediocrity and unrealized potential. I dig overachievers. So, yes, when a person is plucked from obscurity and given the world on a platter, I’m confuddled (technical term)when they seemingly don’t have a plan or botch up the plan.

  12. kanniduba

    May 30, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Hmmm…I don’t put family, friends, and confidants in the same league as fans though. Yes, I think we absolutely do have a responsibility to those close to us, and our choices should in no way compromise others, however, to say Taylor owes his fans better choices goes a bit too far I think. You know, as I think more about this though, I wonder if he *thinks* he’s giving his “fans” what they’re asking for? As somebody said, those of us who are critical are in the teeny minority. The superfan Soul Patrollers think this is the Second Coming (not meaning to be blasphemous, but…)
    You know I don’t disagree with you my dear MM…I am not pleased with this apparent musical digression either trcfz. I also agree there are consequences…and as I stated before, I will follow, or I won’t. I do know that I no longer have a permanent seat on the Taylor Train. I gave away that ticket. It remains to be seen whether or not I buy another.
    Your disappointment is understandable and warranted. I didn’t mean to dance with the Devil’s Advocate…. 😉 I just have been thinking how hard it must be to live in a fish bowl.

  13. kanniduba

    May 30, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    That’s Mr. Baby Boy speech for “I like balls.”

  14. music maven

    May 30, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    KD — valid points all.

    I really have struggled with the issue of do we have any say? I want you to be able to openly say your thoughts. It’s ok to challenge as long as it’s constructive and your thoughts are certainly constructive. (well, except for that trcfz thing)

    Who knows what’s really in that pretty grey head of Taylor’s. I’ll still be watching from the platform, but like you, I’ve given up my reserved seat on the Taylor Express.

    Regarding the fish bowl life…I’m a little conflicted on that as well. I mean, these artists grow up wanting it all…the fame, the fortune, the notoriety. Well, all that comes with being watched and scrutinized. On one hand, I think they should be left alone and on the other hand, I think it’s just part of the deal.

    I guess Taylor should consider himself lucky that he’s not Brad Pitt.

  15. Linda T

    May 31, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Can I just say thank you for the open, respectful and authentic nature of this dialog? I honestly heaved a great sigh of relief while reading your posts. I appreciate all your thoughts and am so happy to know I’m not alone in my angst about this. I’ve let a lot of it go, but, like MM, gave up my priority seating on the Taylor express for now. I’m all about young musicians who are out there in the trenches trying to make it through producing good music — right now I have huge crushes on David Ford, Shemieka Copeland, and Esperanza Spalding, to name a few. I just wish that I could add Taylor to the list.

    I was thinking the other day about the concept that I’ve heard myself say — that somehow Taylor has to “prove himself” to me again when the album comes out. I have never had that feeling about any other artist I admire, even the ones that I’ve followed more closely than Taylor. So what line did I cross in which he “owes” me good music, or has to “prove himself” again to me? What is that all about, anyway? Is it because I over-invested myself? Did I set unrealistic expectations of both Taylor and myself? Did I project something onto Taylor that he just wasn’t? (I’m beginning to think that’s the closest answer so far.)

    I still haven’t entirely figured it out, but it’s been an interesting last few days as I’ve turned the concept over and over in my head. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    Thanks again for this blog!

  16. music maven

    May 31, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Linda — I was thinking about projection yesterday during this “conversation”. I think the expectations were because many of us were so “invested” but mostly because we defended him as being “better than the average idol”. At least, I know I did. I told people about how he was real and gritty and a guy who appreciated good music and was going to bring that back to “mainstream music”.

    He had a golden platform to do that but for whatever reason, couldn’t finish the deal. I have been disappointed in other artists when they didn’t deliver. I remember vowing NEVER to listen to another Hank Williams, Jr. song because I paid good money to see him in concert and he showed up drunk and hummed through about three songs before leaving the stage, back in the mid-’80s. That is certainly a different kind of disappointment and almost explainable because you can blame it on substance abuse. Anyway, I still like Hank Jr. but I likely will never pay to see him live again.

    What does all this mean? I don’t know. If this next CD is something that has a heart and a soul –like Amos Lee’s CD — then I’ll be back on that train, likely. I’m sure there are many who will call me a fair weathered fan, but I was Taylor when Taylor wasn’t cool and deep in the recesses of my mind, I’m still a die hard.

  17. jenfera

    May 31, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Arrgh! I just deleted a long, insightful comment!

    Well, maybe it wasn’t that insightful. The gist is that I agree with you MM on your point about being invested and defending him. He’s making it harder and harder to not just defend him, but defend ourselves as his fans – that we do have good taste in music and we something special in him besides his hair.

  18. spinshack

    June 2, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Tragic that anyone would have initially fallen for Mr. Hicks because of his hair, he has so many other qualities much more impressive. In that line of thought, many have done just that and so tarnished things for the rest of us who like what we saw potentially in the guy, musically.

    Regarding the gig with “Grease” and his dumping the Beatles tribute – one concept leans toward the man must need a good paycheck, second concept, he will definitely garner exposure.

    I imagine we will be reading many a write up this Summer while he’s on Broadway, thing is, he best make the most of this or it will come back and seriously bite him.

    Regarding his choice to do this; I agree MM, likely this was a very recent spur of the moment decision. He was given the offer and said, hell yeah to being on stage to such a wide audience.

    This version of “Grease” though has had its share of bad reviews, though, so it is not like he’s walking onto a ‘hit’ phenomenon.

    Too, Mr. Hicks has been making some not so great decisions on how he’s handling things – his love life, gossip, his fans, communications with the fans. Too many fans are ready to stand up and say, “Taylor Hicks owes us nothing!” Apparently he’s read that line once or twice, but he need think twice before he believes it.

    Someone asked me whether I’d been reading you, MM, and I said hadn’t been by in a while but sometimes we have in common trains of thought. I’m just not harshing on Hicks quite as much. I do agree he’s been botching things up. Shouldn’t that DVD been out long ago?

  19. music maven

    June 2, 2008 at 9:40 am

    The DVD is another example of over-promising and under-delivering. Perhaps Taylor is just snake-bit and all of these trevails and shortfalls are out of his control, but it really doesn’t matter because perception IS reality.

    CD sells < 1 million and is torched by the media, record label “dumps” him, DVD hyped as “super great, can’t wait”, and then, nothing; he’s never referred to or seen as a part of AI again. Then, the Grease gig. When the average music consumer sees all of this, they’re like, “Man, dude was a fluke.” My frustration is that I seriously never considered him a fluke, but I don’t have a whole lot to point to that proves otherwise.

    He says fall for the CD, but is that really going to happen? Even if he gets it recorded, he’ll either have to self-distribute (a long and arduous process that takes away from creating music and touring) or find a label willing to take him on that he can do business with(another long and arduous process).

    I recognize that he’s trying to keep people interested, but hyping things that don’t happen is like the boy who cries wolf.

    In my business, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, so I’m skeptical.

  20. Linda T

    June 8, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Just the other night I went with a group of “Taylor friends” to see Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. It saddened me somewhat because I saw that it was indeed possible to build a fanbase by consistently making and delivering really really good music. I don’t honestly know if Taylor has the ability to put that together in a viral way ala Grace or Dave Matthews, etc. I wish he did because I’m still so moved by his voice.

  21. music maven

    June 9, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Yeah, Linda. Grace is really “all about the music”. I don’t think we’ll see her playing Rizzo any time soon.

  22. caryl

    June 10, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    MM: you say what I can’t articulate. I hate that Taylor’s doing Grease and when I tried to have a discussion about it on my blog, I got reemed for it. And I’ll be in more hot water if those same people see this comment. *shrug*

    Two things. One: yes, yes!! I’ve been defending this man even since he won AI, telling people that he’s a serious musician. I’ve e-mailed videos of “Sweet Home Chicago” and “People Get Ready”. I’m feeling like it’s time to give up. He isn’t helping me.

    Two: what the fuck were those ten years on the road about? I thought he was determined to bring back soul music. He said in an interview once that he felt that was his calling. How does playing Teen Angel advance that dream?

    I read an interview today in which Taylor said he felt he could get his feet wet in this role “before diving into acting.”



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