On stage, Kenny Chesney is a prancing dynamo who draws his energy from applause and spotlights. But in most of his 30-plus videos, he's more like a casual observer of life, even when he's the guy with the guitar. Behold a few of the best examples.
"The Tin Man" (1994) -- Kenny in chrysalis. His resonant, reassuring voice is emerging, but at this early stage of image development, the singer is clad in a form-shrouding sport coat and wearing his hair longer in the back. The close-ups show a man who's keenly in touch with the emotions he sings about.
"That's Why I'm Here" (1998) -- Chesney throws himself into this one literally as he sprawls on a grimy restroom floor in a drunken stupor. The song is the cry of a man who's trying to kick his alcohol addiction while simultaneously pleading for understanding from his aggrieved wife or girlfriend. The video is permeated by dark, sickening, institutional colors that offer no ray of mental relief. Here, in the service of authenticity, Chesney exposes his receding hairline. After all, falling-down drunks rarely succeed in keeping their hats on.
"How Forever Feels" (1998) -- Welcome to the tropics. This video introduces us to Chesney's passion for sunny beaches and soothing waves, and it's the first to show his sculpted bare chest. In one scene, he even wears a parrot on his shoulder.
"The Good Stuff" (2002) -- After a dustup with his old lady, Chesney C-clamps himself to a bar and asks for some liquid relief -- the "good stuff." But the wise old bartender (played by Chesney's longtime manager, Dale Morris) knows what the kid really needs is some philosophical perspective on his debilitating self-pity. The drunker you are, the more profound this one will seem.
"There Goes My Life" (2003) -- Country songwriters love nothing better than taking a catchy phrase and working it into different and even contradictory contexts. Here, it's "there goes my life" because my girlfriend's pregnant, followed by "there goes my life" because my little baby girl is what I hold most dear. And, finally, "there goes my life" because my beloved grown-up daughter is leaving home. That's the story this video tells. Chesney relates the action but does not participate in it.
"Anything but Mine" (2005) -- Of all Chesney's beach-themed videos, this is my favorite. The scene is a seaside or lakeside amusement park near the end of summer. While Chesney and his band play off to the side, the two young lovers try to pack as much joy into their final day together as the imagination allows. Wistful and beautifully bittersweet.
"Who You'd Be Today" (2005) -- The poets Robert Frost and John Greenleaf Whittier each spoke of roads not taken and opportunities lost because of fear, caution or arbitrary choice. "For of all sad words of tongue or pen," Whittier wrote, "the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'" This video dwells on the theme of potential cut short by tragedy: the playground friend later killed in a war and the promising young life that's snuffed out in a car wreck. Again, Chesney sings on the periphery as the sad scenes unfold.
"You Save Me" (2006) -- The East Tennessee native does some fine understated acting here. He plays the weary, mysterious stranger who's coming home to his lover, the one person who truly understands and accepts his "gypsy soul." As he stares out the side window of the cab he's riding in, his face is a palette of dark and unexplained emotions. But all his pain is swept away when he's finally frolicking in the arms of his woman. (CMT.com also offers a director's cut of this video that goes a long way toward explaining the cause of Chesney's angst.)
"Don't Blink" (2007) -- After his interview with a 102-year-old man reminds him that life is fleeting, a TV newscaster begins to rethink his own hurried existence. Even if you do blink, you won't miss this didactic story line.
"Out Last Night" (2009) -- The only difference between this poolside panorama and Chesney seaside epics (e.g., "Old Blue Chair" "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven," "When the Sun Goes Down," "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem," "I Lost It," "How Forever Feels") is that it features a lot more babes than drinking buddies.