Song Review: Jon Pardi, “Tequila Little Time”

Sorry Jon Pardi, but these days we’ve got no time tequil.

Pardi hasn’t seen his success crumble the way, say, Midland has as country music once again pivoted away from traditional sounds, but I’m definitely getting the sense that his star is starting to dim. His singles may still be reaching the chart’s upper echelon, but it takes them a while to get there (his last two singles “Heartache Medication” and “Ain’t Always The Cowboy” spent nine months apiece on the chart), and “Ain’t Always The Cowboy” couldn’t even reach #1 on Mediabase (it was blocked by Chris Lane, of all people). Looking to recapture some of their momentum, Pardi and UMG Nashville have brought out “Tequila Little Time” as the third single from Pardi’s Heartache Medication album. The song, sadly, is nothing but sleazy Bro-Country with fiddle and horns, using a subpar pun on the hook to convince us that the song is interesting and clever when in reality it’s neither.

I have mixed feelings about the production on this track. On one hand, there’s some actual instrument diversity here, with a horn section and accordion joining Pardi’s usual fiddle and the customary guitar-and-drum foundation everyone leans on. However, these added instruments really don’t get that much time to shine:

  • The horns are limited to the bridge and a few stabs (and they feel a bit out of place trying to inject some fun into a song that otherwise maintains a strict serious posture).
  • The fiddle gets even less airtime than the horns (and they’re drowned out when the horns play).
  • While the accordion is a constant presence (and probably does the most to set the vibe of the song), it’s always left in the background.

Compared to “Heartache Medication,” this mix also has a surprisingly slick feel to it—the guitars have no texture, the drums have no punch, and the atmosphere feels relaxed but artificial (it has neither the barroom feel of “Heartache Medication” nor the island flavor of a song like Luke Bryan’s “One Margarita”). In short, I kind of like what the producer tried to do, but in the end they didn’t actually do it.

I consider Pardi one of the worst vocalists in country music (I can’t stand his overly-nasal tone), and he does nothing to change my opinion here. While his technical performance is much better this time compared to “Ain’t Always The Cowboy” (his flow is smoother and he actually stays on key here), his overall performance is completely devoid of charm and charisma, exposing his attempt to console the other person as a shallow attempt to pick up someone on the rebound. Unlike the production, Pardi’s delivery comes across as ham-handed and self-serving rather than smooth and suave, and he doesn’t give the listener the impression that he cares about the other person’s sob story at all. While the writing does this track no favors (more on that below), a stronger singer could have at least sounded like they cared about the other person beyond a possible hookup and earned some likeability; Pardi instead comes across as just another awkward meathead, and the audience is left unimpressed.

So what’s wrong with the writing? In a word, everything: This is just another retelling of the classic Bro-Country tale of a narrator trying to pick up someone at a bar with the usual alcoholic inducements. The only thing that even attempts to inject some wit or cleverness into the story is the “tequila little time” hook, which is nothing more than a cringey dad pun. Not only is there no detail here, the narrator actively discourages us from diving into the backstory, glossing over it by saying “we don’t have to talk about the past” (so apparently the narrator is actually Mark McGwire?). In fact, there’s a strong sense of Cobronavirus nihilism here, as the narrator pushes the other person to drink, dance, and generally forget about everything else. Despite this, there’s very little fun to be had in this track (most of the lyrics focus on the drinking itself), making this read like a party track minus the party. So if it’s not original, not interesting, not fun, and generally has nothing to say…what are we doing here again?

“Tequila Little Time” is a lazy, halfhearted attempt to take a song that doesn’t even measure up by Cobronavirus standards and wrap it in a thin veneer of classic country music. The production has good intentions but poor execution, the writing is just Bro-Country with a terrible pun, and Jon Pardi’s lack of tone and charm ends up repulsing listeners rather than drawing them in. Pardi is starting to look like a man without a kingdom in the genre as it bounces between trends, and if he doesn’t start finding some better material to release soon, he’s at risk of being exiled.

Rating: 4/10. Skip it.