As long as you’re not driving, I don’t really care if you’ve had “One Too Many” or not.
Keith Urban has become somewhat of a mad scientist over the last few years, stretching the genre boundaries as much as any generic Metro-Bro artist. Sometimes his experiments work (his foray into blues with “Blue Ain’t Your Color” was pretty solid), but more often than not they fall flat (“The Fighter,” “Never Comin’ Down,” “Comin’ Home”). After the mediocre “God Whispered Your Name” only made it to #8 on Billboard’s airplay chart, however, Urban went back to his experimental ways, bringing in pop/rock artist Pink and breaking out an generic adult-contemporary sound for “One Too Many,” a forgettable duet about two combustible narrators who want to be together despite the drama. While “uninteresting” is still better than much of Urban’s work, it’s a far cry from being anything I’d be keen to hear on the radio.
The production is the sort of slick, somber sound that doesn’t seem to have an idea of what it’s supposed to be (and there’s no better sign of this than the random seagull squawks that serve no discernible purpose). After the opening electric axe, we’re left with a choppy, punchless acoustic guitar and Grady Smith’s favorite snap track for much of the first verse. A piano jumps in to close the verse, and some heavier drum machine beats try (and fail) to pump up the chorus (there don’t appear to be any drums here at all). By the end of the song, the instruments mostly just run together and form a bland wall of noise, and neither the tempo nor the beats inject any sort of energy into the track. (Urban adds a semi-interesting solo to the outro, but by then it’s too little, too late, and the listener has already tuned him out.) In the end, the mix adds absolutely nothing to the song: It doesn’t set the mood, it doesn’t help support the story, and it really doesn’t engage the listener. Where Urban once had a sound that was at least kinda-sorta distinct, he’s now saddled with the aural equivalent of an amateur watercolor painting, with all the colors blending together into a soggy gray mess.
Sadly, Urban seemed to be afflicted with the same formless malaise as the production here. The performance is tolerable from a technical perspective (neither his range nor his flow are tested here), but he doesn’t bring any passion to the table, complaining about being scolded for getting home late with all the passion of a Xanax user reading a grocery list. Truthfully, Pink sings Urban under the table here: She climbs the ladder to show off some impressive range, breezes through rapid-fire lyrics without breaking a sweat, and at least tries to bring some flair to her delivery on the verse. Her chorus harmonies completely drown out Urban (and then the group that jumps in at the very end drown both of them out), and whatever sad feel the choruses have are completely her doing—Urban feels like a placeholder by comparison. Duets are nice and all, but they don’t work terribly well if only one person holds up their end of the bargain.
The lyrics here tell a story of an on-again, off-again couple who can’t stand each other, but who ultimately can’t stand being apart either (at least once they’ve had “one too many”). Once again, Urban gets the short end of the stick: His narrator whining about getting yelled at for coming in at four in the morning just reeks of immaturity and selfishness (Oh, but you’ve been working sooooo hard this week? So has everyone else in the world; cry me a freaking river). Pink’s narrator isn’t terribly sympathetic either, but at least they’re not actively unlikable like Urban’s. The biggest issue, however, is just how boring the story and unengaging the story is: Crying over a lost love in a bar might be the original trope in country music, so you’ve got to bring something extra to the table to make your tune stand out and justify its existence. Instead, we get nothing: no details about the location or atmosphere, minimal backstory as to what led to the final showdown, and perhaps most importantly, no real reason for why the pair should bother rekindling their romance. (It seems like an oil/water situation to me, especially given the attitude of Urban’s character; why not look for a partner that’s not going to cause some much drama?) The audience simply doesn’t have a reason to care about the plight of this pair, and the flavorless nothing provided by everything else fails to convince them otherwise.
I get that we’re living in chaotic times right now, but that’s no excuse for songs like “One Too Many” to try this hard to put me to sleep. The production is lifeless, the writing is pointless, and Urban’s surprisingly poor performance (Pink’s is just okay) makes this feel like a song that exists simply for the sake of existing. Unfortunately, this song is emblematic of the rut country music has found itself in over the last few months: The unrelenting pandemic seems to have sucked the life out of the genre, leaving us with a playlist full of dull, familiar mediocrity that can’t seem to figure out what to say. I’ve heard “One Too Many” of these snorefests recently, and if Urban can’t find any more to say than this, maybe he should’ve stayed silent until he did.
Rating: 5/10. Meh.