Oh look, another Kenny Chesney party song. Thankfully, at least he sounds like he actually cares this time around.
I criticized Chesney on his previous single “Bar At The End Of The World” for his “listless, slightly-awkward performance,” and while it did okay at radio, it didn’t live up to Chesney’s usual standards and eventually stalled at #10 on the airplay charts. Chesney responded by giving us a head fake towards more-serious material with “Rich And Miserable” (he even made a full video for the track featuring John C. McGinley) before ultimately returning to his party habits and releasing “All The Pretty Girls” as the fourth single from his Cosmic Hallelujah album. Thankfully, while it’s still a standard summer party track at heart, it comes across as a bit more fun and interesting than Chesney’s prior single, mostly because his performance feels a lot more engaged than before.
The production here harkens back to Chesney’s classic sound: rollicking electric guitars carrying the melody, real percussion keeping time, and a quiet piano floating around in the background. The result is an upbeat, uptempo country-rock sound, with neither classic country instruments nor any synthetic elements making an appearance. (There aren’t any beach-flavored instruments here either, but the song doesn’t really call for them.) It’s an undeniably catchy mix, one that combines with the reflective tone of the writing to create a nostalgic atmosphere infused with just the right amount of energy.
Chesney’s performance here is a huge upgrade from the mailed-in vocals on “Bar At The End Of The World.” This time, his delivery is much more expressive and believable, and he’s able to pass his enjoyment and nostalgia on to the listener. While his enunciation isn’t great here (for example, “all the sheriffs said” sounds like “all the chefs said” to me), his longevity and past material (he’s always had a knack for both party and nostalgic tracks) give his words on this subject a bit more weight than other artist, even though the song makes no tropical references at all. Even after twenty-plus years in the business, Chesney’s performance here shows that he’s still one of the best entertainers in the business when he wants to be.
The writing here, which looks back at the narrator’s time in the teenage party/hookup scene, is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, by clearing framing this as the narrator looking back at what happens and why he did what he did, the song (mostly) avoids the trap of making an older artist like Chesney appear sleazy when discussing these topics. (However, including the image of teenage girls “talking to the mirror in their underwear” feels creepy and voyeuristic, regardless of how old the singer is.) On the other hand, the song has a major perspective problem: Because “all the pretty girls said” is added to both the beginning and ending of phrases throughout the song, it’s really hard to tell when Chesney is speaking for himself and when he’s speaking for the girls. This lack of clarity causes lines like “all of the whiskey went straight to my head” to be a bit questionable depending on who you think is speaking. In short, it’s Chesney and the production that are the stars here, and the carefree vibe they set tries to encourage listeners not to think too hard about the lyrics.
Overall, “All The Pretty Girls” is a forgettable-but-fun summer song, the kind of track tailor-made for blasting from car stereos as you’re driving down the highway with the windows down. It’s a nice rebound for Chesney from the lifeless “Bar At The End Of The World,” and while I wouldn’t go too far out of my way to hear it, it’s three-and-a-half minutes that you won’t mind wasting when it hits your radio.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth at least a listen or two.