Welcome to the Fishbowl is the fourteenth studio album by American country music artist Kenny Chesney, released on June 19, 2012 by Blue Chair and Columbia Records. The album includes a live version of "You and Tequila" with Grace Potter.
The first single from this album "Feel Like a Rock Star", which is duet with Tim McGraw, was released in April 2012. Its second single, "Come Over", was released on May 14, 2012 This song reached number one on the Hot Country Songs chart. "El Cerrito Place", the album's third single, was originally recorded by Charlie Robison on his 2004 album Good Times. Chesney's version includes a backing vocal from Grace Potter.
The album's title came from a conversation Chesney had with his football-playing friends. Chesney told USA Today that when one said, "I didn't realize your life was like this," he replied, "Hey, man, welcome to the fishbowl."
The album debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 193,000 copies in the US, behind Justin Bieber's Believe. As of January 2013, the album has sold 592,286 copies in the US.
Upon its release, Welcome to the Fishbowl received generally positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews and ratings from mainstream critics, the album received a metascore of 64, based on 7 reviews.
The album has garnered positive reviews from AbsolutePunk, American Songwriter, The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, Roughstock, Taste of Country and the USA Today. At AbsolutePunk, Gregory Robson gave the album an 80%, and wrote that "Kenny Chesney's fifteenth studio album is nowhere near his best and nowhere near his worst. What it is though is occasionally pleasing, horribly derivative and way too self-indulgent." Robson went on to state that "Welcome to the Fishbowl is anything but first-rate. More albums like this though, and Chesney himself just might become a caricature of himself." Grady Smith at Entertainment Weekly graded the album to be a B- effort, and added that "Chesney's albums have always been considerably more wistful than his radio persona, but Welcome to the Fishbowl's tunes, while well wrought, can be downright dour. The tonal shift is fine — the problem is that these weepies often come off less like authentic autobiography than downbeat Nashville role-playing. (The too-sleek production and ponderous, stretched-out tempos don't help.)" In addition, Smith wrote that "Fishbowl reveals less about the star's true interior life than ever."
The album received four-out-of-five stars from American Songwriter, Roughstock and Taste of Country. American Songwriter music critic Eric Allen noted that "Fishbowl displays a serious yearning to stretch and dig a little deeper into life’s foibles, as if Chesney is trying to figure them out himself, but in a good way." Furthermore, Allen evoked how "Welcome to the Fishbowl still manages to sound highly personal and introspective. Chesney has an uncanny knack for finding top-shelf material which sounds autobiographical and mixing it with his own to craft a uniquely distinguishable musical statement." Matt Bjorke of Roughstock alluded to how "Welcome To The Fishbowl should easily join Kenny Chesney's past albums as #1-selling country records and there's no doubt that it's also amongst the best in his career, a career that is as strong now as it was promising 20 years ago". Taste of Country's Billy Dukes called it "...an album to turn to with frequency."
The moderately positive reviews come from The Boston Globe and the USA Today, which The Boston Globe music critic Stuart Munro noted the album for being "As consistent and meticulously constructed as ever, “Welcome to the Fishbowl” is die-cast Chesney", giving the album three and a half out of five stars, which is taken from the Metacritic assigned score. Jerry Shirver of the USA Today rated the album a two and a half out of four stars, and said that "Though the arrangements of these dozen tunes are up to date and his voice retains that bland average-Joe quality that the masses and radio programmers adore, most of the themes are calculated standard issue."
However, the album received mixed reviews from About.com, Allmusic, BBC Music, Country Weekly, Omaha World-Herald and the Rolling Stone. The worst review for the album came in from Jessica Nicholson of Country Weekly, who based on Metacritic assigned score rated the album a two and a half out of five stars, pointed to how " the album’s bound to leave some fans hoping Kenny will book another trip to the islands with his trusty acoustic and a cold drink, if only to find a balance between his previously lighthearted fare and the brooding material that abounds on this effort." Moreover, Nicholson vowed that "the superstar delves headlong into melancholy."
The three out of five star reviews were from About.com, Allmusic, BBC Music, which is based on the Metacritic assigned score, and the Rolling Stone. To this, Robert Silva of About.com highlighted that "While fans of the more upbeat Chesney may complain, Welcome to the Fishbowl shows Chesney continuing to evolve in ways that are encouraging." Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine alluded to how "this is a far cheerier affair" that "the cheeky title suggests". In closing, Erlewine stated that "Wedded to this warmth is a crisp clean sheen, a sound so bright that it threatens to get goofy when Chesney and crew rock out -- they're no longer as urgent as they were even five years earlier, which gives the gurgling swing of the title track a stiff white-boy funkiness that isn't necessarily alienating -- but such chipper charm permeates the entirety of Welcome to the Fishbowl, turning it into an everyday feel-good record, the kind that generates moments of warmth when heard fleetingly on the radio, at the grocery store, in a doctor's office, at work, or even at home." Leonie Cooper of BBC Music evoked how the album is "aimed squarely at the mainstream." The Rolling Stone music critic Chuck Eddy called this a "Fairly depressive, in total – but these days, Chesney sounds more convincing when he's less upbeat." At Omaha World-Herald, Kevin Coffey noted how the album "has the party vibe some Chesney fans will be looking for, but a closer look at the lyrics reveals it’s a rant against paparazzi, celebrities and a culture that glorifies everyone’s 15 minutes of fame."