In "Who You'd Be Today," a slo-mo ballad from his new album, Kenny Chesney wonders what life would have dealt a handful of dead people if they hadn't died. "It ain't fair, you died too young," he sings in weepy close harmony, "Like a story that had just begun." Penned by Nashville vets Bill Luther and Aimee Mayo, the tune's got plenty of eloquent things to say about the permanence of loss; "I wear the pain like a heavy coat" is good enough that I wouldn't blame Luther and Mayo if they sold it again.
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But Chesney's performance of "Who You'd Be Today" isn't really about death--not the biological kind. On The Road and the Radio, it's impossible not to hear the country superstar eulogizing his bizarre four-month marriage to Renée Zellweger, which ended with an application for annulment in September. "I see your smile, I see your face/I hear you laughing in the rain," he admits, giving us ample opportunity to picture the couple running lines from Cinderella Man. Chesney had to have anticipated this kind of interpretation, yet he resists invoking the autobiographical fallacy in the booklet, where he notes that everyone has that "someone who they've lost too soon." Jack White, you listening?