Country Throwback: Kenny Chesney Performs ‘Better as a Memory’ at 2009 Grammys

by Clayton Edwards

Kenny Chesney is a country music superstar. He has 31 number-one country hits. Several of those have also topped Billboard’s Hot 100. In short, he’s a masterful performer who appeals to both country and pop audiences.

Most fans know Kenny Chesney best for his good-time beach persona from tracks like “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem” and his Christmas album “All I Want for Christmas Is a Real Good Tan.” In the opening moments of the official video for “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem,” Chesney discusses his love for island life.

However, the head of the No Shoes Nation might just be at his best when he shrugs off the island vibes and goes all-in on country music. This performance at the 2009 Grammys showcases that.

In the video, Chesney performs the ballad on a darkened stage backed by a string ensemble. The somber country song is a departure from his normal good-time tunes but he nails every note. The sadness is almost palpable as he performs the song from a stool at center stage.

Kenny Chesney Performs “Better as a Memory”

In the song, Kenny Chesney takes the role of a man who is trying to convince a woman to not get too close to him. He tells her that he is better as a memory than as her man. Put simply, the lyrics are a list of why he’s no good as a long-term romantic partner. The way Chesney pours emotion into the lyrics makes it more than just a checklist song, though.

He gives the song enough weight to make the listener believe that the song is autobiographical. There is even a nod to his love for the islands at the end of the first verse.

“Break my heart, but it won’t bleed/ My only friends are pirates/ That’s just who I am/ I’m better as a memory than as your man.”

While Kenny Chesney didn’t write the song, he makes it his own. With his somber delivery and silky-smooth voice, he makes us believe that no one could perform the track as he can.

Chesney might be best known for good times, sand, and good tans, it’s in moments like this when he truly shines. These simple, somber country performances remind listeners not only how amazing Kenney Chesney is but also how much a good ballad can touch you.