Song Review: Travis Denning, “Where That Beer’s Been”

Some songs are dumb fun, but others are just dumb. Guess which category this thing falls in?

The suits over at UMG Nashville have been trying to force Travis Denning down our throats for a while now, and it hasn’t working out very well so far. “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs” only made it to #32 on Billboard’s airplay chart, and while “After A Few” did eventually reach #1, it took a mind-boggling sixty-five weeks on the chart to do so (I reviewed this thing back in January…of 2019). It’s pretty clear that no one in clamoring for this dude to have a roster spot in Nashville,  and you know what that means: It’s time for some trend-hopping? …Except I’m not sure that “Where That Beer’s Been,” Denning second offering off of his Beer’s Better Cold EP, even qualifies as a Cobronavirus song: Similar to “David Ashley Parker…”, this a pointless reflection on a random inanimate object  (in this case, a beer) that is neither fun nor compelling nor even terribly informative. (I know we’ve been focusing a lot on supply chains during this pandemic, but they don’t make for much of a song.) This drivel is nothing but a waste of the listener’s time.

The production here reminds me a lot of Easton Corbin’s “A Girl Like You” with its off-the-wall combination of a rollicking electric guitar and a cold, methodical drum machine (both songs also eventually real drums into the mix). Unfortunately, the differences between the two all work against “Where That Beer’s Been”: The tempo is slower, the guitar tone is slightly darker, and the percussion is much more obviously synthetic (the initial hi-hats in Corbin’s song at least sound real, whereas here the skittering beat is too sharp and regular, and *sigh* Grady Smith’s favorite snap track is here too). The result is that the mix’s vibe is far too serious for its subject matter, and it just plods along from start to finish. The eventual addition of real drums doesn’t help matters, as it only turns the mix into the same old guitar-and-drum arrangement that everyone else uses, making it sound like every other song on the radio instead of making it stand out from the pack. In short, it’s a generic, ill-fitting, and generally unimpressive effort that bores the listener rather than drawing them in.

Vocally, Denning is starting to sound like an off-brand Morgan Wallen to me (which is not good given that Wallen himself is an off-brand Tyler Hubbard), and Denning’s attempt at making this story sound interesting is a complete disaster. He manages to clear the low technical bar the song sets, but his dispassionate reading of the lyrics makes it feel like he’s just going through the motions on this song (if it weren’t for him screaming out the last line of the bridge, I’d question whether the man had a pulse at all). Playing the role of a guy who likes beer should be the easiest job in the world, but Denning’s flat, lifeless delivery only adds to the overwhelming sense of irrelevance surrounding the track. (For as little as he seems to care about the beer, he might as well be drinking orange juice or seltzer water.) If even he can’t be convinced to care about this song, than why should the audience? The result is that everyone has either fallen asleep or changed the station before the song is halfway over.

The writing ponders how the beer that’s now before the narrator arrived at this point before declaring “I don’t know where that beer’s been, but I know where it’s going.” Frankly, this thing is a total failure on so many levels:

  • First of all, there’s absolutely zero context given to what’s going onwe end up knowing more about the beer than the narrator! Typical Cobronavirus songs provide no reason for their imbibing outside of partying of nihilistic escapism, but this song doesn’t even give us that: The narrator is going to drink this beer, and then they’re going to have another one. There’s no party, no lost love, no tuning out the worldheck, there’s no feeling here at all! Hearing this dude talk about drinking a beer is like watching grass grow or paint dry, and the lyrics give us absolutely no reason to care.
  • There’s detail here, but it’s just a multiple-choice test about supply chain logistics: Where could the beer have been made? How was it transported? Where was it stored? Who cares!? These musings do nothing to make the song interesting and just waste the listener’s time.
  • Even a boring story could be told in an interesting fashion, but there’s no wit or creativity here either. The hook feels like a rejected dad joke, and that’s the close as the song ever gets to being clever. It’s basically a bad Dick-and-Jane story:

See Dick.
See beer.
Where did beer come from?
See Dick drink beer.
The end.

Quite simply, this is a story that just isn’t worth telling, and whoever wrote it needs to be sent back to school to learn how to write a real song.

For all its flaws, “Where That Beer’s Been” fails because it doesn’t answer a simple question: Why should someone listen to this song? It doesn’t pump you up, it doesn’t impart any life lessons, it doesn’t try to connect with the listener, it doesn’t take a stand…it doesn’t do anything. All we get is some lukewarm, awkward production, a useless quiz on beer production and distribution, and a performance from Travis Denning that tells us that he’s as ready to dump this song as we are. This song simply doesn’t justify its existence, and doesn’t even rise to the level of radio filler. I don’t know where this song’s been, but I know where it’s going: Into the trash can where it belongs.

Rating: 3/10. Why? Just…why?

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