Honestly, how bad do things have to get before country singers set their beers down and actually do something about a problem?
Outside of 2015’s surprise hit “Buy Me A Boat” (#1 on Mediabase, #3 on Billboard’s airplay chart), Chris Janson has struggled to find radio traction in his career, with the five other singles he’s released since 2010 peaking at no higher than #20 (and most doing substantially worse). His latest attempt at relevance is “Fix A Drink,” the leadoff single from his upcoming second album, and while it might be a fun song for the moment, I wouldn’t consider it a very interesting or memorable track.
The production here is a standard country-rock mix with a little bit of Bro-Country tossed in. The melody is carried by electric guitars that squeal a bit more than your typical instrumentation, and while the drums are real, they give way to a synthetic-sounding beat during the first verse. There’s no traditional instruments here to speak of, and the overall sound bounces between a hip-hop cadence on the verses and a more-conventional country party track on the choruses. The bright tones of the guitars set a playful, carefree tone well-suited to the summer season.
I consider Janson to be a middle-of-the-pack vocalist in the country genre, and his vocals here are decent but not great. His delivery copies the verse/chorus switch of the production, as he spends the verses talk-singing as if he’s trying to channel Sam Hunt, and then switches to a run-of-the-mill delivery for the chorus. While Janson can sound a bit labored in his voice’s upper range, the song avoids this by keeping him squarely in the wheelhouse, letting his keep his voice low on the verses while not pushing him to jump too high on the chorus. Finally, Janson has a laid-back, easygoing vibe that makes him sound believable as a mixed-drink savant despite the fact that he gave up drinking years ago.
My issues with this song stem mostly from the songwriting, which unwisely advocates for inaction and shallow escapism as a response to adversity. (Adam Craig and Jon Pardi also fell into the same trap.) The narrator here counsels listeners to forget about all the negativity in the world, and instead just kick back, have a libation, and watch the world burn. The advice comes across as overly simplistic and even tone-deaf given the gravity of the problems currently facing the world (listening to this track in the wake of the Ariana Grande concert bombings feels wrong on every level). I didn’t think I’d ever hold up Old Dominion as a model for anything, but at least they offered a vague action plan for listeners when they tackled a similar topic on “No Such Thing As A Broken Heart.” Janson, in contrast, gives us nothing but a mixed drink to face the world with, and never acknowledges the fact that eventually the listen will have to deal with the problems that surround them. The rhyming and structure of the writing is actually pretty tight once you get past the bad advice it shills, and the production’s positive vibes and Janson’s charisma ensure that people will enjoy the song, but for me, the shallow ignorance of the song’s premise is a bit too large to paper over.
Overall, “Fix A Drink” is yet another entry in the longstanding series of “drinking your problems away” songs, and not a particularly compelling one at that. It’s a thin, shallow summer song that mostly harmless (and even kind of fun) which considered in a vacuum, but its message completely falls apart when reality butts in. I can’t fault Janson for not solving the world’s problems, but I will fault him for not even trying.