Kenny Chesney invests countless hours into planning his summer tours, trying to make each one bigger than the last. Yet the hardest part may be figuring out the set list. After all, he's been visiting the Top 10 regularly since 1995. His 2011 tour launches on Thursday (March 17) in West Palm Beach, Fla. And if our CMT.com team could be there when the sun goes down, these are 10 of the songs we'd love to hear.
"Anything but Mine"
Chesney's "Anything but Mine" -- both the recorded song and the video -- remains for me among the best that he's ever done. This work perfectly conjures up all the beauty and the romance and the fragility of a brief beach summer romance. Songwriter Scooter Carusoe poignantly captures the flavor of a summer fling with lines such as "And as we're dancin', Mary's wrapping her arms around me/And I can feel the sting of summer on my skin." Chesney gives the song a heartfelt and very convincing performance. Director Shaun Silva, who shot the video at Family Kingdom Amusement Park in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and in Malibu, Calif., gets the whole beach aura and experience and young love mystique exactly right. You know what's weird? The first couple of times I heard this song, it was on a car radio that had severe speaker distortion, which slightly altered one line of the song. I heard the actual line "But in the morning I'm leaving, making my way back to Cleveland" as "But in the morning I'm leaving, making my way back to Sweden." Ever since, I prefer the "Sweden" version. It makes the couple's separation more distant, much more final and much sadder. Did they ever get back together? I hope so. -- Chet Flippo
"Back Where I Come From"
This was not the first country song that painted a picture of growing up in a small town. (Moonshine, Sunday school, cattle, tan legs, black and white TVs. Chesney had it all in this one.) But this was the first song that made me love what a piano could do to sound country. It was on Chesney's 1996 album, Me and You, and I loved it there. But I grew to love it even more so when I saw him do it live at his massive arena concerts. It's enough to make me look back fondly on my own childhood and my roots, even though they weren't as rural as his. No matter where you're from, I like to think that's where you'll be when it's said and done, even if only in your heart. -- Alison Bonaguro
"How Forever Feels"
The first verse of this upbeat song hints at Chesney's fascination with the beach -- the big orange ball sinkin' in the water, sandy toes and Jimmy Buffett to boot. By the time the song's over, he's proclaimed his fondness for NASCAR and committed relationships. No wonder this one appealed to men as well as women. It spent six weeks at No. 1 in 1998, by far his biggest hit of that decade. -- Craig Shelburne
"Me and You"
If there's one Chesney song that captures the feeling of being with someone you love, it would be "Me and You." Every day, his love grows stronger and he realizes that nothing else in the world matters more than who he's with. I've performed at many weddings for friends and family, and almost every time, "You and Me" has been requested. Growing up, I never understood why so many people love this song. But as I get older, I realize it's one of the purest ways to tell someone how you feel. Whether you're dating someone, just getting married or have been together for years, "You and Me" clearly gives the loving message that can sometimes be hard to express. -- Cameron Hail
"The Good Stuff"
I like Chesney's party tunes, but it's when he finally gets serious for a minute, like on "The Good Stuff," that I really take notice. Written by Craig Wiseman and Jim Collins, this song about a frustrated newlywed lives up to its title, as it offers hope and wisdom for young couples. Chesney meets an old bartender who sees the young man for what he is, and from experience, he reminds Chesney that it's not necessarily the big stuff that matters. And the way they talk about those moments, as unexpected and seemingly small as they are at the time, is what reminds me that "the good stuff" is not something that waits in the future. It's around us all the time. So I'll drive straight home tonight and love every bite of that burnt lasagna. Chokes me up every time. (The song, not the lasagna.) -- Chris Parton
"She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy
It never occurred to me to think a tractor was sexy. The man who drove it and his farmer's tan, certainly. But the tractor itself? No way. Then I heard Chesney singing about a girl digging his tractor. She even goes so far as to bring him a basket full of chicken and a big cold jug of sweet tea. That leads to a tractor ride and ultimately climbing up in the loft and what not. Music snobs will forever be dismissing this as some kind of cheesy novelty song, but I'd argue it only cemented Chesney's status as a country singer with enough range to tug at heartstrings and have a little fun on a John Deere. (Fun fact: This song was co-written by Paul Overstreet, the father of Taylor Swift's alleged new love interest, Glee's Chord Overstreet.) -- Alison Bonaguro
"Somewhere With You"
No doubt Chesney has mastered the laid-back, summertime, keg-in-the-closet, carefree ditties. I think that's why I find his haunting No. 1 single, "Somewhere With You," so refreshing. He depicts going through the motions of escaping his past lover by going out, drowning his sorrows in alcohol and finding comfort in the loveless arms of an ex. Yet he always finds himself reminiscing about their escapades -- a carnival ride, laughing together in his car and enjoying a romantic rendezvous in a hotel room. No matter how hard he tries to overcome his yearning, he's distracted. Though he continues to run from her memory, he realizes these are only fleeting highs that lead him right where he began -- somewhere with her. -- Whitney Self
"There Goes My Life"
This is just one of those country songs where the double meaning of "there goes my life" never ceases to amaze me. Try explaining the idea of this story to someone and you'll see what I mean. This teenage boy who has his whole life ahead of him gets his girlfriend pregnant and thinks his life is over. There goes his life. But by the time that baby girl has grown up, he's come around and realizes that she is his life. So when she leaves home, the title has an entirely new meaning. It's one of the most moving turning points in a song. (And it doesn't hurt that at that point in the video, the girl goes up the stairs as a toddler and comes down as a young woman.) The lyrics from this 2003 hit will, I'm sure, be the first thing I think of when my own baby girl leaves for college in two short years. -- Alison Bonaguro
"Who You'd Be Today"
Anyone who's dealt with the untimely death of a close friend or relative has probably reflected on what that person's life might have been like had they lived. It's a futile endeavor, of course, and you ultimately wind up with nothing but memories. Those can be both a blessing and a curse. Written by Nashville veterans Aimee Mayo and Bill Luther, the lyrical content of "Who You'd Be Today" leaves enough emotional room to allow you to fill in the blanks with your own experience. -- Calvin Gilbert
"You Save Me"
Guys, listen to your lady. We have this keen intuition that can keep you from getting in way over your head. For proof, watch "You Save Me," as Chesney takes on the role of a detective in Mexico. His girlfriend trusts her gut and tries to talk him out of participating in a sting operation. Thankfully, he takes her advice and lives to love another day. The nine-minute video is full of action, suspense and a happy ending, including Chesney's win for male video of the year at the 2007 CMT Music Awards. -- Stephanie Pendergrass