Song Review: Justin Moore, “Why We Drink”

Personally, I drink because country radio still lets junk like this onto the airwaves.

On the surface, Justin Moore’s recent discography looks impressive enough: He scored two #1 songs with his Kinda Don’t Care album, and scored another one with the leadoff single from Late Nights And Longnecks “The Ones Who Didn’t Make It Back Home.” Dig a little deeper, however, and his foundation looks a bit shaky: His song take forever to peak (at least 40+ weeks for everything since “You Look Like I Need A Drink”), and they generate zero buzz compared to the current titans of the genre. It’s the kind of precarious position that pushes artists to trend-hop and pander (see Moore’s last single), and it’s part of the reason we’re getting “Why We Drink” as the second single off Late Nights And Longnecks. It’s a mixture of neotraditional production, obnoxiously simple writing, and Moore’s continued need to show off his “country” credentials. In short, it’s a mess.

Let’s begin with the positives: 1990s-era neotraditional production is all the rage right now, and Moore’s producer does a great job capturing that sound. The electric guitar features has a classic tone and a lot of rollick, the steel guitar is plentiful and flavorful, and the hard-hitting drum set drives the song forward. The result is a mix with energy to burn, a solid groove, and a sunny atmosphere that fits the celebratory vibe of the lyrics. (An acoustic guitar is here as well, but it’s mostly lost in the shuffle behind the more-prominent instruments). It’s not the most technically-demanding song in the world (the riffs aren’t exactly earth-shattering, and Moore never stops talking so there’s no solo), but it’s catchy as all heck and it’s hard not to tap your foot along to the beat. Of all the trendy classical-sounding songs around today, this might be the trendiest and most-classical sounding of the bunch, and it’s a pity nothing else here can clear the bar the producer sets.

I’m a sucker for a sound like this, so why does this song make me throw up in my mouth every time I hear it? Quite simply, the writing is absolute garbage: The narrator has nothing to say except “We drink when we want, where we want, for whatever reason we want.” First of all, the attitude strikes me as awfully selfish and nihilistic: There’s no concern or care for what such behavior might lead to and who it could impact—it’s just boozing for the sake of boozing. Second of all, the lyrics attempt to be clever by covering all sides of each possible scenario (“‘Cause the sun’s up, ’cause it’s sundown,” “‘Cause we’re grown up, ’cause we’re still kids,” etc.), but they end up being predictable, unoriginal, repetitive, and frankly they’re lazy. (If you have this many reasons for drinking, you really don’t have any reason at all.) There’s no story, there’s no detail, and there’s no reason for people to be this wasted all the time. (There’s also no reason to randomly name-drop “the red, white and blue boys and girls overseas”—what do they have to do with anything?) For all its reasons, however, there’s a big glaring hole in the middle of this song: The saddest reason for drinking they mention is “’cause our team lost.” Drinking to forget or self-medicate is the biggest reason most of the great drinking songs exist (think “Tear In My Beer,” “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down,” “Wine Me Up,” “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” “Whiskey Lullaby,” and on and on and on… heck, even Moore’s own “Kinda Don’t Care” was a dark tune in it’s own right). But acknowledging such history would completely ruin the shallow party vibe the lyrics are trying to create, so they just sweep it under the rug and let the good times roll. These lyrics have absolutely no redeeming qualities, and the people responsible for writing them deserve to have their pens revoked.

That brings us to Moore himself, and honestly, if anyone in country music needs a Cloak of Charisma, it’s him. For all the pandering, “I’m country!” tracks he’s thrown at us (“Smalltown USA,” “Backwoods,” “Bait A Hook,” etc.), instead of coming across as everyman, he comes across as insecure, as if he thinks he has to prove that he belongs in Nashville. His technical skills are just fine, his tone is both decent and distinct, and he does his darnedest to sell himself in the narrator’s role, and yet there’s still an element of “he doth protest too much, methinks” here, and Moore’s believability suffers as a result. He’s also neither sympathetic nor interesting as a character: He’s just some fool with a drinking problem, and  doesn’t seem like they would be all that fun to hang out with. I’m not sure what the cure for Moore’s ills is, but staying away from songs like this would be a good first step.

I know the country music has been saturated in alcohol for decades, but “Why We Drink” takes the concept to its logical extreme when never actually answering the questions it poses. The narrator here has no reason to drink; they just do it, and try to hide their addiction behind neotraditional production and an insistent artist in Justin Moore. For all its surface-level sunniness, however, this is a pretty sad song: The tale of a man who drinks not because wants to, but because he has to.

Rating: 4/10. Pass.

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