Song Review: Jon Pardi: “Night Shift”

I’m starting to think Aaron Watson might have ruined all future country sex jams for me.

I’m a little confused by what Jon Pardi and Capitol Nashville are doing here.  California Sunrise was released over two years ago, and while the album had a good run and produced three No. 1 singles, the mediocre showing of single #4 “She Ain’t In It” (it missed the Top 20 despite being my favorite of his singles thus far) indicate that the public have moved on and was ready for some fresh new music. Instead, Pardi and co. have released a rare fifth single from the album “Night Shift,” and while it’s a perfectly tolerable track, it runs up against the same wall that Blake Shelton’s “Turnin’ Me On” did: It’s completely shown up by Watson’s “Run Wild Horses,” and after hearing it, Pardi’s attempted sex jam does absolutely nothing for me.

On the surface, the production here is very similar to “Run Wild Horses”: They have similar guitar-driven melodies, the same traditional components (Pardi throws a steel guitar in with the fiddle for good measure), the same hard-hitting percussion, and similar dark tones. The problem is that while the two songs feature many of the same components, Pardi’s track just seems to has less of everything across the board. The guitars here are slicker and have less bite than Watson’s, the energy level is lower and makes the song feel a bit too slow, and the major-chord-dominated progression detracts from the desired sexy atmosphere, making whatever passion is present feel methodical and controlled instead of raw and unstable. (Even the extended outro, which finally turns the electric guitar loose, pales in comparison to the minute-plus jam that closes “Run Wild Horses.”) The result is a mix that just doesn’t have the power or emotion it needs to hook the listener, and after hearing Watson thrown down the gauntlet with authority two months ago, this song just makes me yawn and shrug.

Unlike Shelton, at least Pardi steps up and puts some feeling into his performance, especially on the choruses. Unfortunately, Pardi is the same annoyingly-nasal vocalist that he’s always been, and while he seems to have a bit more tone to his voice this time around, his flow is too stiff for the subject material, making the song feel downright awkward at points instead of sultry (although this is partially the writing’s fault as well). He shows off enough charisma to convince the listener that he’s passionate about the other person, but not enough to be able to share that passion with the listener, leaving them feeling more “Oh,” than “Oh my…”. It’s a passable performance overall, but when looked at through the lens of “Run Wild Horses,” it just doesn’t measure up.

Lyrically, the song takes the classic comparison between work (a job the narrator does not like) and love (a job the narrator does) and tries to package it as a steamy sex jam. It’s an interesting twist on an old topic (Clay Walker went for a fun vibe on “If I Could Make A Living,” while Ronnie Milsap didn’t push the sexy angle this much on “Daydreams About Night Things”), but it’s done in the most boring, uninteresting way possible (the second verse is just a list of vague and/or overused concepts), and the “night shift” hook isn’t cleverly used at all (in fact, outside of the “racking up the overtime” line, it’s barely connected to the song’s theme). The early focus on the narrator’s real job tries to tie the work/love metaphor together, but it ends up detracting from the song’s emotion by taking its focus away from the passionate portions. The lyrics, in a word, feel clumsy, and paired with Pardi’s awkward delivery and the lukewarm production, it’s not the sort of song I’m interested in hearing twice.

“Night Shift” is yet another sex jam without much sexiness to it, and it wilts in the face of serious competition. While Jon Pardi and his team use the same recipe that made “Run Wild Horses” so successful, they fail to get the ingredient levels right and wind up with a track that doesn’t make the listener feel much of anything. If nothing else, it shows that the sun has set on California Sunrise, and Pardi’s crew should focus on their next steps instead of leaning on their past ones.

Rating: 5/10. You’ve got better songs to listen to instead.