Okay, now Jordan Davis is getting somewhere.
To say Davis hasn’t made a good impression on yours truly would be an understatement: His debut single “Singles You Up” wound up as my worst country song of 2017, and his follow up “Take It From Me” showed only enough improvement to be my fourth-worst country song of 2018. Unfortunately, the radio accepted Davis with open arms (even if “Take It From Me” spent forty-plus weeks on the charts just to scramble for a Mediabase-only #1 before Luke Combs could take over the world), which meant he got a third chance to assault our eardrums with…
…wait a minute, my ears don’t seem to be bleeding. Could it be that Jordan freaking Davis has actually released a decent song?
After repeated pain-free listens, I’m amazed to report that yes, “Slow Dance In A Parking Lot” is a song you can not only listen to without throwing your radio off the nearest third-story balcony, but you might even enjoy hearing it. With some decent writing behind him, Davis is able to channel his inner Thomas Rhett and express his feelings without coming across as a unsympathetic douche for the first time in recorded history.
The production is the weak point here, as it feels a bit too cold and synthetic for the subject matter. The instrumentation is about what you’d expect from Davis at this point, opening with clean electric guitars, drum machines, and some atmospheric synth tones in the background. Eventually, however, some rougher guitars and real drums join in on the chorus, and the sound veers from “slick Metropolitan track” back into “generic modern country” territory. The darker, more-serious vibe of “Take It From Me” is switched out for a bit brighter feel this time around, but the biggest change from Davis’s past releases is the (lack of) tempo: This is a much slower song than his previous work, giving both Davis and the lyrics some room to breathe (and what do you know, the lyrics are actually worth listening to this time!), while also providing just enough energy to keep the song moving forward. Again, while some acoustic texture would have made this mix a lot more palatable, it’s half-decent as is, and when you’re starting from as far behind as Davis was, this is about all you can ask for.
Davis’s vocal performance is the biggest surprise, as stepping back from the frenetic pace and sleazy vibe of his past work has allowed to show off some earnest charisma and actually feel likable for a change. Solid writing or not, I was ready for this “slow dance in a parking lot” to feel like a reheated euphemism for sexual intercourse, but when Davis said he’d like to spin his partner around a Walmart parking lot, I…I actually believed him for once! I wouldn’t say I felt the love for his partner too strongly, but I felt like he felt it, and instead of the sex-craving meathead we’ve come to know and loathe over the past two years, we got a narrator that had real, honest-to-goodness feeling about someone, and was more than happy to take it slow with a waltz across an asphalt dance floor. This was a giant leap in the right direction for Davis as a vocalist, and one that I’d like to see him build on in the future.
Of course, having some decent lyrics behind you can make all the difference in the world, and these lyrics definitely clear that bar. The big thing, of course, is the narrator’s respectful tone towards his partner: Instead of feeling the need to steal someone’s girl and drag them into his bed, this speaker is someone who doesn’t feel rushed and is truly appreciate of the time spent with their special someone, even for “a slow dance in the parking lot.” I’m also surprised at the level of detail provided in the song (I love the rent-a-cop description and the visual of “moving our feet over the painted white lines”), which paints a vivid picture of the entire scene in the listener’s mind. (Yes, there’s a name-check here, but at least it’s Garth Brooks instead of the obvious and overdone George Strait/Alan Jackson choices, and I appreciate the deep dive into Brooks’s discography, as I’d completely forgotten that “She’s Every Woman” even existed!) Toss in the lack of objectification (the only description of the other woman we get mentions her eyes), and you’ve got an unexpected breath of fresh air from the most unlikely source imaginable.
“Slow Dance In A Parking Lot” won’t make my best-of list for 2019, but it’s got a great chance of sneaking into the upper half of that list, and given where Jordan Davis has spent the last two years, that’s saying something. The writing is fairly strong, Davis finally demonstrates some charisma and charm, and the production mostly avoids killing the buzz here. If we’re really stuck with Davis in country music, then I hope he sticks to this Rhett-lite lane, because honestly, he’s not half-bad in the role.
Rating: 6/10. Give this one a listen. No, seriously!