Song Review: Little Big Town, “Wine, Beer, Whiskey”

A better title for this song would have been “Disgusting, Disheartening, Lazy.”

I wrote an epitaph for Little Big Town’s career last year, and nothing’s changed since then: “Over Drinking” only made it to #49 on Billboard’s airplay chart, and “The Daughters” didn’t reach the airplay chart at all. The quartet is all but finished in country music, but that isn’t stopping them from blatantly trend-hopping in hopes of a miracle career resuscitation. This brings us to their latest single release “Wine, Beer, Whiskey,” and frankly, it’s been a while since listening to a song has made me this angry. This song is a gross, nihilistic piece of garbage even by Cobronavirus standards, and rings especially hollow in light of the events of the past week.

I mentioned that the best Cobronavirus songs use their sound to establish a suitable atmosphere, but the production here shows that this can work against a song as well. There are two primary instrument groups here: The percussion mix (which incorporates everything from hand claps to hand-played drums to a standard drum set) and the horn section (a single horn provides a solo for the intro, but several horns march in lockstep for the majority of the song). An electric guitar provides some simple rhythm work and a few stabs, but it doesn’t really contribute anything meaningful to the mix. The horns definitely make the arrangement stand out and I’d normally be happy for such a decision, but here they only add an extra layer of slime to a mix that already feels too dark and ominous thanks to an overreliance on minor chords and the prominence of the percussion. The sounds captures everything I can’t stand about this trend: The pointless alcoholism, the selfish, devil-may-care attitude, and the sleazy feel of the whole situation. It’s the perfect mix to make a bad song even worse, and whoever put this thing together needs to have their access to the recording studio revoked until further notice.

The amazing thing about the vocals for this track is how unrecognizable they are: Its sounds like a group of random people shouting into a microphone, and I wouldn’t have known it was Little Big Town had the YouTube video not been released by their channel (the weird vocal effects don’t help matters either). I think Jimi Westbrook and Philip Sweet are splitting the lead vocals here, but they’re completely devoid of their usual tone, and the overall vocal chemistry of the group is pretty shaky here as well. The group fails even when they succeed: Much like with Jake Owen’s “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You,” the group fills the shoes of the clueless, unsympathetic, party-hardy narrator a little too well, making the listener recoil from the track rather than drawing them in. For a group as talented and thoughtful as Little Big Town, this performance is a massive disappointment, and is more of a case against reviving their mainstream career than for it.

I won’t mince words here: The lyrics are complete rubbish. This is for two major reasons:

  • If we set aside the debate over the merits of the Cobronavirus trend for a moment, the writing is lazy and formulaic even by these low standards. The song is nothing more than an enumeration of the alcoholic drinks the narrator likes to consume (heck, even the freaking title is a laundry list), and the whole “liquor names as people” shtick has been done to death in this genre. On top of this, statements like “[the alcohol is] gonna make it all alright” and “I can stop it if I wanna (but who would wanna?)” make the narrator sound like a willfully ignorant moron who can’t see beyond their own beer mug. In other words, it’s not a good look for anyone involved.
  • Now let’s bring the Cobronavirus debate back, and I have to ask the narrator, the writers, and whoever made the call to release this song: Are you serious?! Do you realize that over 100,000 people have died from COVID-19? Did you catch that the unemployment rate jumped over ten percent between March and April? Does the name George Floyd mean anything to you? The world is actively collapsing around us, and your response is to stick your fingers in your ears and funnel booze down your gullet until you pass out? I get that this album was released four months ago and the song was probably written long before then, but the song comes across as careless and tone-deaf even in a vacuum, and releasing it as a single now is just inexcusable.

I called Florida Georgia Line’s “I Love My Country” “a bad song even during normal times, and an absolutely terrible song to drop in the middle of a global health crisis.” “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” is even worse: The production is slimier, the writing is more pointless and ignorant, and Little Big Town sounds like a shell of their usual selves. This is hands-down the worst song I’ve heard in 2020 thus far, and my only hope is that Little Big Town is so far off of the radar at this point that the song gets ignored by the radio and never sees the light of day.

At the beginning of this month, I made the following statement:

As we bring this month to a close and more songs like this hit the fan, I’m wondering if I even want a place in this dang genre anymore.

Rating: 2/10. Yuck.

One thought on “Song Review: Little Big Town, “Wine, Beer, Whiskey”

  1. I totally agree with you that the “wine, beer & whiskey” song is the worst of 2020.
    It may be in the running for worst ever.
    I literally get angry every time I hear or think of the song. What’s even more infuriating is that obviously people like it.
    I wish someone would explain to me what is amusing about this piece of shit song.
    I loved one of your descriptions calling the songwriting “lazy” !! My 6 year old & I make up silly songs to break up the monotony of this pandemic, which I’m fairly certain have more substance than this stupid shit. btw how about one margarita, hole in the bottle, drinking alone. This is the type of “songs” that people hear when they accidentally turn to a country station. Anyways, sorry for rambling. Just wanted to give you a thumbs up on your review. Thanks for not being a sheep & thinking for yourself.

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