“American Kids” emerged as the lead single from country superstar Kenny Chesney’s last album, The Big Revival. After a year-long wait, this aptly-named album produced a single that fans didn’t expect from Chesney, given that his other single from the album, “Til It’s Gone,” had his typical style. “American Kids” has an entirely different feel from what he’s ever done before, which benefited him as an artist, showing that this may be a new undertaking but he’s more than capable of pulling it off. Additionally, the success of the album depended heavily on its singles — with “American Kids” as an indicator of the tone of The Big Revival, album sales could have also flopped if it wasn’t well-received.
Luckily, it was a huge success. “American Kids” is chock-full of nostalgia as Chesney remembers the trials and tribulations of life in a small country town where “Mama and Daddy put the roots… / ‘Cause this is where the car broke down.” He does an incredible job depicting the different shared experiences from this town, whether it’s the yellow school bus coming in the morning or the various relationships he and his sister encountered. When Chesney recounts that “Sister’s got a boyfriend Daddy doesn’t like”, a very mimicking guitar line is placed behind it in order to highlight the sibling relationship — one that listeners will know and identify with all too well.
Most notably, his experience is summarized by the last four lines of the chorus, “Growin’ up in little pink houses / Makin’ out on living room couches / Blowin’ that smoke on a Saturday night / A little messed up, but we’re all alright.” Not only his experience, but everyone’s, which is conveyed by the group vocals that accompany these lines. These group vocals as well as the general twang of the music contribute highly to the success of the song.
An initial observation, however, is that “American Kids” sounds so different from Chesney’s previous music that it seemed like it was by another artist altogether. The crowd favorite for this other artist is Kacey Musgraves, who is known for her very traditionally small-town, twangy country vibe. Especially with the group vocals in the chorus, this song is characteristically Musgraves’. A highly probable reason for this similarity is that they work with the same songwriters so perhaps a bid for the song was snagged by Chesney’s management before Musgraves’ could. I would personally like to see her cover “American Kids” just so her fans can see what could have been.
Kenny Chesney is one of the only old-country artists who’s still making music amidst Florida-Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, and Jason Aldean, country’s newcomers. “American Kids” emerged as just what listeners needed — an anthem with a refreshing sound and nostalgic meaning, making us all remember our roots.