“Is it just me, or has Kenny Chesney completely run out of things to say?” —Kyle, Feb. 20 2024
“I’ll take this as a yes.” —Kyle today
Mark Grondin used to call Tim McGraw’s material “auditory Xanax,” but Chesney has been giving McGraw a run for his money with his last few singles. Being able to hang around a young man’s town like Nashville is no small feat for AARP-card carrier like Chesney, but he’s been reduced to throwing out lifeless, inoffensive singles like “Happy Does” and and “Here And Now” as a result, a description that unfortunately fits his latest release “Knowing You,” the fourth single from his Here And Now album. It’s the sort of background noise that could be snuck onto a playlist without anyone noticing, putting the listener to sleep before they even know it’s there.
I’d like to know what what growing through the producer’s head on this mix, because it feels like they plagiarized the typical guitar-and-drum arrangement from someone else and then challenged themselves to do as little as possible with it. The track opens with some acoustic guitar strumming, brings in the electric guitars and drums set on board in time for the chorus, hides a keyboard in the background, and sprinkles in just enough steel guitar to get the streaming services to call it “country.” The result is the blandest nothingburger you could imagine: The guitars have no texture or bite (and the riffs are so simple a terrible player like me could copy them), the drums have no punch, and the slower tempo make the song plod listlessly from start to finish. The resulting atmosphere generates nothing beyond the the classic Chesney chill, and it’s so relaxed that it doesn’t support the writing at all: We’re supposed to believe this relationship was a wild, exciting ride when the mix is this placid? In other words, this feels like a lazy effort from behind the board, making me wonder if Chesney needs to shake things up and work with some different producers to reshape his sound.
Chesney’s carefree beach-bum brand has served him well over the course of his career, but on this track he comes across as too chill for his own good. The song poses no challenges from a technical perspective (limited range, slower flow), but it does require a narrator that can inject some life into a song, and give the audience a sense of the crazy relationship that was. Instead, Chesney’s narrator barely has a pulse, discussing their wild past with such relaxed detachment that it makes you wonder if he cares about it at all (and if he doesn’t, why is he bothering us with the story?). Instead of reflecting the extreme exhilaration of the relationship, the feel of his delivery is best described as vaguely positive, and it never deviates from this position for the entire song. Without that passion, the performance is as exciting as listening to someone describe a trip to the grocery store, and the listener tunes it out before Chesney can reach the second chorus. With a career this long, Chesney should be better than this, which makes me wonder how much longer said career will continue.
If you’ve been around the blog long, you know how much I just adore tracks where some random dude reflects on a long-lost relationship from a million years ago (*gag*), but unlike Keith Urban’s “We Were,” Morgan Wallen’s “7 Summers,” or Tucker Beathard’s “You Would Think,” this narrator does manage to avoid the typical whiny, self-pitying feel that characterizes these walks down memory lane. The problem, however, is that the tracks replaces this attitude with…well, nothing: No feeling, no detail (he calls “knowing you” “a carnival ride” and “a free fall from a hundred thousand feet,” but he never tells us why or how), and no reflection—it’s just a thing that happened that time at the place. While no blame for the breakup is explicitly assigned, the narrator hints very heavily that the other person was too wild and free to ever settle down, with no introspection on their own role (your attitude now suggests that you weren’t that heavily invested in the relationship either; did you ever wonder if that might have been part of the problem?). In short, the story has all the charm and feeling of an Ambien pill, and it puts you to sleep just as quickly.
“Knowing You” is nothing but a collection of sounds and words that barely meets the minimum necessary criteria to be called a song. The most biting critique I can level against it is that this review took forever to write because I kept stopping to listen to better and more interesting songs, and the best thing I can say about it is that it won’t annoy you because it’ll lull you to sleep long before you reach that point. From its milquetoast sound to its incomplete writing to Kenny Chesney’s lifeless vocals, this song is a total waste of everyone’s time, and unless Chesney can step up his game quickly, he won’t be wasting our time for much longer.
Rating: 5/10. It’s not worth knowing.