Kenny Chesney — Cosmic Hallelujah ANALYSIS & REVIEW
When plainness is the best overall trait to a melody, you know something isn’t going right. Normally, being plain and dull is a negative aspect of a melodic line, but in Cosmic Hallelujah it was the only thing that kept the songs somewhat listenable. This is not good at all. There was a complete lack of energy to the lines, as if Chesney took it for granted that listeners would be attentive to his music. Musicians should ever take that for granted, since this demoralizing train wreck is the result. I felt that Chesney was aiming to sell his passion through connectivity in his music, and that the intrigue would come from listeners being able to relate to that. He was quite connective; the lines were simple and spoke directly to the listener in an easy manner.
He did, however, leave out the passion. No musician can communicate emotion well with lines as flat and uninspiring as these, unless the emotion trying to be conveyed is insipid or comical. The songs “Bucket” and “Rich and Miserable” had especially awful melodies, with only some good use of repetition here and there saving it from utter disaster. The only song in the whole album that actually had a strong shape to its chorus was “Bar at the End of the World”, and was indeed the only song worthy of a second listen. The rest of the album had no melodic brilliance at all. At least the lines were understandable and prominently featured. If you’re looking for anything fun or interesting, though, you won’t find it here.
There came a point in the album where I seriously questioned the many people who let Chesney record what he had written. It’s as if a teenager picked up an acoustic guitar, played the few chords he knew how to play, and recorded the underlying structure to a song in about 5 minutes while expecting it to sell millions of copies. The worst part about the harmony was that there were absolutely no rhythmic variations at all. The songs stayed on one chord for four beats, switched to another chord for four beats, did it again, and repeated. At times the chorus started with a different chord to signal a section change, but the rhythm stayed abhorrently constant.
If you’re writing educational music for children to help them learn and understand structure, then this works perfectly fine. When trying to create something personal hoping to affect the music world, then this is a terrible decision. Chesney defaulted to extremely dull progressions that never once sounded like they were trying to please the listener. Those particular harmonies were there because they are seemingly fool proof and very easy to use. Again, this plainness was actually the only beneficial aspect to the harmony. Any trained ear, though, can hear its lack of creativeness. It’s like wrapping tinfoil around a wooden baseball bat to try and pass it off as a well-manufactured aluminum bat. It may fool some people, but it shouldn’t fool those with a genuine interest in the field.
Dear, oh dear. This was a tough album to sit through. Sonically, this was very ugly. The instrumentation of acoustic guitar and percussion can’t provide too much in the first place, unless the performer is a virtuoso or the guitar plays a huge role in shaping the melody. Not only were neither of these the case, but the guitar was played so monotonously that it actually made me upset. The strumming was way too predictable and no melodic licks were provided. The builds in the chorus with electric guitars and amped up percussion were extremely formulaic and rather purposeless since no new sounds were really ever added. The backup vocals were the only element of the timbre to provide any sort of solid musicality, but even those got old and subdued after a while. It gave no power, no emotional attachment, and no surprise whatsoever. Its perceived smoothness was destroyed by lack of any sort of movement or strong musical decisions. If you feel like you can relax to the music on this album, go ahead, but a simple piano lullaby would be much more effective. These timbres were not only poor; they left a bad taste in my mouth.
There’s a fine line of when simplicity turns into stupidity, and Cosmic Hallelujah defines it well. Chesney tried to be simple, but with hardly any creative musical injections, it turned out to be dumb. But of course, as we see time and time again these days, people love music that stoops to their level, and this album has been a top-seller since its release even though it brings nothing we haven’t heard before. The simplicity that the entire country genre is revered for is actually not what it seems to be. It’s attractive because it’s very understandable and hits close to home for a certain crowd, but it’s frankly too stupid to be compared to the rest of the music world.
Don’t get me wrong, though; listening to stupid music is certainly okay at times, and there’s no need to be chastised for it. It’s analogous to choosing to read “Goodnight Moon” instead of a thrilling novel before bed, or deciding to attend a pee-wee football game instead of an NFL game. Sometimes a personal mood or other circumstances dictate those decisions. However, there should be no one saying that a 5-page children’s book has more literary quality than the work of Hemingway, and no one would say that a grade school football team plays the sport better than professionals. You can listen to Cosmic Hallelujah, just know that it’s terrible compared to a lot of other music. If you call yourself a serious music lover, this album really shouldn’t be in your hands.