Kenny Chesney’s video for “Rich and Miserable” stars actor John C. McGinley (Scrubs) as a college professor who brings the song’s themes – materialism, America, and hope – to life in a stirring, three-minute address. “What will you be willing to give to change the word ‘miserable’ to ‘joyful’?” McGinley asks a lecture hall full of students. “What will you be so rich with that you’d be willing to share it with the entire world? And I want you to distill all that down to one word, come up here, write it on the board, and then walk out the door. And then I want you to give it to the world.”
With that, Chesney’s vocals kick in, and he sings from the stairway of the same classroom, which is now empty. The video intermittently cuts back to the room of students approaching the chalkboard, which is soon covered in sayings: “joy,” “gratitude,” “music,” “calm,” “peace,” and even the word “optimism” itself.
Written by Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Jesse Frasure for Chesney’s 2016 album Cosmic Hallelujah, “Rich and Miserable” feels like the flipside of his upbeat 2014 hit “American Kids.” The idealism and nostalgia that infuses that tune is replaced by hints that the American landscape has come to resemble more of a Wizard of Oz dystopia for those who’ve gotten off track. “Right wing blue jean, gotta get the new thing / Whatever it takes to make the world look at you, think / We’re too young until we’re too old / We’re all lost on the yellow brick road,” he sings.
The video, produced and directed by longtime Chesney collaborator, Shaun Silva, premiered Friday on SiriusXM, before appearing on YouTube and VEVO on Saturday. Chesney headlined the Stagecoach Festival in Indio, California this Sunday, April 30th. The country megastar will mostly take 2017 off from touring, with the exception of a few stadium shows and festival dates.