Kenny Chesney goes deep on latest record ‘Cosmic Hallelujah’

He’s like Jean-Paul Sartre, only with a way deeper tan.

Twenty years ago, around the time Kenny Chesney was singing about the aphrodisiacal powers of farm equipment (“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”), few would have predicted that he would evolve into one of country music’s great existentialists.

Then again, fewer still probably would have foreseen an album such as “Cosmic Hallelujah,” Chesney’s 16th overall, released in October 2016.

Not only is it remarkable for being one of the perma-bronzed singer’s best records 25 years into his career, but it’s also the album where Chesney goes deep.

This is thinking-man’s country from a man better known for “French Kissing Life” and tequila bottles at once.

Chesney has displayed his more contemplative side in the past.

“Round and round and round and round we go / Why we can’t be satisfied? I don’t know,” he sang wistfully on organ-abetted rocker “Round and Round” from 2010’s “Hemingway’s Whiskey,” searching for something more than a happy-hour spot with no shirt requirements.

But on “Hallelujah,” Chesney gets his Albert Camus on.

Life’s hard. Drink harder.

“The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it,” late, great comedian George Carlin once observed in one of his best, most cutting bits.

Chesney doesn’t paint quite as stark a picture on “Cosmic.” But like Carlin, he questions the merits of the rat race, even though he arguably crossed its finish line long ago en route to becoming one of the most successful country stars of all time.

“We climb the ladder, but the ladder just grows / We’re born, we work, we die, it’s spiritual,” he sings on “Rich and Miserable. “Enough is never enough / American dream never wakes up.”

Don’t file such sentiments under any money-can’t-buy-you-happiness cliches. There’s more to it than that, especially within the context of country music, which is often defined by its blue-collar bona fides.

But, as Chesney wonders here, what’s the working man truly working toward?

“We don’t know what we want,” he sings. “But we want it and we want it all right now.”

One of the tenets of existentialism is the feeling of emptiness that takes hold when one feels he or she has achieved all that can be achieved.

Then what?

You write a song about it.

Face it, no one ever wanted to party with Friedrich Nietzsche

And Chesney is well aware of that.

“I’s over-existentializing my redneck,” he confesses on “Bucket,” a playful-sounding song about the creeping dread inherent in feeling as if one’s life lacks clear direction.

The key here?

Balancing sobering thoughts with an aversion to sobriety.

“We’re all swimmin’ in a fish bowl / Just floatin’ through the sky / Pulled along by gravity and nobody knows why,” Chesney observes on album opener “Trip Around the Sun,” setting a suitably reflective tone.

Elsewhere, he bemoans the numbing effects of modern-day media overstimulation — “Ain’t nothing left to the imagination,” he sings — and the desire for fame and attention innate to plenty of us. “We’re all born to be free / We’re all born to be great / But we’re all looking for / the Hollywood sign / And trying to find the interstate,” he muses on “Some Town Somewhere.”

“Cosmic” is loaded with existential quandaries.

As for solutions?

“The answer is as simple as simple can get,” Chesney offers on “Bucket.” “I quit worrying ’bout people’s expectations / And ordered up a six-pack of chillaxification.”

Thus spoke Beer-athusta.

Contact Jason Bracelin at or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Entertainment Videos
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Baked Alaska a specialty at Favorite Bistro in Las Vegas
Award-winning pastry chef Claude Escamilla makes Baked Alaska with strawberry sorbet and vanilla gelato and flames it at Favorite Bistro at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chili cooks face fierce and friendly competition at Nevada cook-off
Forty chili cooks competed in the Nevada State Chili Cookoff in Pahrump on Sunday, March 17, 2019, with the winners advancing to the World Championship Chili Cook-off in Des Moines, Iowa. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door and Banksy art in Las Vegas
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door, Banksy art in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hazel in Las Vegas serves modern takes on traditional cocktails
Hazel serves modern takes on traditional cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas celebrates St. Patrick's Day
Tonight the city lit the Welcome sign green, McMullan's Irish Pub and the Guinness store also prepare for this weekend's St. Patrick's Day festivities. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Reuben sandwich at Served in Henderson, near Las Vegas
Matthew Meyer, chef/owner of Served, makes a Reuben sandwich with house-brined corned beef, house-made sauerkraut and gooey melted cheese at his restaurant in Henderson, outside Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas day club season returns with big-name DJs
Rick Ross, March 23, at Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay The Chainsmokers, March 30, at Encore Beach Club Marshmello, April 6, Kaos Dayclub at the Palms Chuckie, May 11, Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Calvin Harris, May 11, Wet Republic at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Pizza expert Chris Bianco makes meatballs in Las Vegas
Chris Bianco, who was the keynote speaker at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, demonstrates meatball making for expo attendees. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas pulmonologist talks about new movie dealing with cystic fibrosis
Dr. Craig Nakamura, Director of Cystic Fibrosis Center of Southern Nevada, talks about the upcoming romantic drama “Five Feet Apart” where both of the lead characters suffer from cystic fibrosis. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
World Pizza Champion crowned in Las Vegas
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Italian pizzaiolo Federico De Silvestri took the top prize and more than $12,000. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Italian wins Pizza Maker of the Year at Pizza Expo
Federico De Silvestri of Verona, Italy, wins the finals in the non-traditional pizza category during the International Pizza Challenge at the International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday, March 7, 2019. De Silvestri went on to beat winners from each of the four other categories — traditional, pan, pizza Napoletana and Roman — to win Pizza Maker of the Year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Good Pie Coming To Arts District
Local pizzaiolo Vincent Rotolo says Good Pie is coming to the Arts District. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local comedian says "It's ok to laugh, ...the comedy club is dark."
K-Von, a half-Persian comedian, talks about his style of comedy which keeps audiences entertained.
Pizza Dough Throwing Competition
Contestants participate in the World Pizza Games at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Wednesday night. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
World Pizza Games showcased in Las Vegas
The World Pizza Games, part of the International Pizza Expo, drew competitors from all over the world to Las Vegas to compete in events such as dough stretching and box folding. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Pizza competitors dazzle at international expo
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included the first rounds of the World Pizza Games. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas showcases products and trends
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, vegan and gluten-free menu choices and compostable packaging were highlighted, as well as Detroit-style and Roman-style pizza. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about a new restaurant
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about the construction of his new restaurant at Fremont Street’s Fergusons Downtown complex in downtown Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neon Museum lights up the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas flipped the switch on its latest acquisition Monday night, the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
A Taste of Eataly Las Vegas
Executive Chef Nicole Brisson gives a tour around Eataly Las Vegas, located in the Park MGM. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Towering triple decker sandwich at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas
Jonah Resnick, executive chef of Sadelle’s, the newest restaurant at Bellagio in Las Vegas, serves a daunting concoction of roast beef layered with house-made cole slaw, turkey and more cole slaw, on rye bread. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Paris Las Vegas Debuts New Eiffel Tower Light Show
The Paris in Las Vegas unveiled its latest Eiffel Tower light show, Wednesday evening. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video: Las Vegas Omelet House Marks 40th anniversary
Omelet House at Charleston Boulevard and Rancho Drive in Las Vegas, which opened in 1979, is a locals’ favorite, known for fluffy six-egg omelets. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves readying new beer
Ryan Reaves, a forward with the Golden Knights, has plans for a second beer, a lager, through his 7Five Brewing Co. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Adds Lady Gaga To The Fountain Playlist
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” has been added to the rotation of classic tunes played for the dancing waters at Lake Bellagio. The song debuted at 6 p.m. Monday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Comedian uses laughter to bring understanding about AIDS
Comedian Brandon Cox Sanford talks about how he uses his comedy sketches to bring light to his AIDS diagnosis. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas
Sasha Rincon-Camacho, regional marketing director, talks about the 20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Home Front Page Footer Listing