It’s about time we got a party time that actually feels like a party.
Elle King burst onto the music scene with “Ex’s & Oh’s” back in 2014, but her discography is surprisingly sparse since then, with her most notable performances being features on other singles (most notably Dierks Bentley’s “Different For Girls” in 2016). She’s returned to country music this year, and while she’s in a co-starring role once again, at least this time she’s sharing the top billing, with veteran artist Miranda Lambert joining her on “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home).” The song had already found some traction on the Billboard rock charts before getting pitched to country radio, and it’s not hard to see why: It’s a devil-may-care party song in a genre that’s been drowning in such things for the better part of the last decade. While I wouldn’t call this a great or even good song, it does a better job of establishing a fun, raucous atmosphere than anything Florida Georgia Line has ever done, and it helps establish King’s credentials as she crosses over into the genre.
The main thing that catches your attention with the production is the booming kick drum that opens the track and ends up driving the track forward by virtue of having the most constant presence. Everything else in the arrangement tends to come in waves: The verses are simple affairs with only an electric guitar and dobro providing occasional riffs (the percussion line becomes a bit more intricate over time as well), while the choruses are dominated by a frenetic banjo (there’s even a fiddle that offers a few opinions, but it’s buried deep in the mix for some unknown reason). The dichotomy works: The drums infuse the song with raw energy and a ton of momentum, and the bright banjo tones give the song a positive feel that put a happy face on the craziness contained within the lyrics: Sure, the narrators are throwing caution to the wind, but the sound projects confidence that everything will turn out all right in the end. It’s the sort of party mix that wouldn’t feel out of place at an actual party (unlike many of the deliberate, sluggish Bro-country mixes foisted on us during the 2010s), and it help entice the listener to get in on the fun.
My main question about the vocals is this: What was the point of bringing in Lambert as a second singer? King and Lambert sound almost identical, the song isn’t really written to be a duet, and King acquits herself well enough to carry the song on her own, avoiding any technical issues and bringing enough of a devil-may-care attitude to the table to seem believable and comfortable in the narrator’s role. (The answer likely has nothing to do with Lambert’s voice: King isn’t well-known by country radio, but a devil-may-care attitude has been Lambert’s calling card for most of her career, and she’s got the track record and name recognition to convince on-the-fence listeners and program directors to see what this song is all about.) Much like the production, both artists radiate a strong confidence that regardless of how crazy the night gets, they will remain in control of the situation and everything will be okay when the sun rises the next day, which minimizes the specter of a Randy Houser-like scenario in the listener’s mind (regardless of how unfounded said confidence may be). It’s a solid showing from both artists, as both seem to be having fun while still ultimately staying in control.
The lyrics here document a wild, alcohol-fueled night out on the town, with the narrator proclaiming that they’re “drunk and I don’t wanna go home.” This is probably the weakest part of the song: It’s kind of a “meh” hook, the ‘ooh-ooh’ parts do nothing but fill up space, and the copious drinking and random hookup are kind of par for the course for songs like this. There are a few details that help the song stand out (most notably “getting handsy in the [bathroom] stalls,” which isn’t a line you’ll find too often in a country song), and it does try to couch its craziness to avoid any worst-case scenarios (the narrator gives up their keys, repeatedly assures the audience “don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” and even in the “handsy” event, they are at least fully aware of the situation and how it might impact them), but their impact on other people (such as the “missus” mentioned in the second verse) isn’t really considered. It’s very dependent on the singers to keep the song from veering into the gutter, and while King and Lambert are able to hold the track together, it’s still a lot to ask of the artist, and I would have preferred for the writing to be a bit more steady on its own two feet. Still, the bar for party tracks is fairly low, and by leaving enough hooks to let the singer work their magic and elevate it, it gives itself a fighting chance.
I’m not much of a “party song” guy, but if you’re in the market for a good time, you could do a lot worse than “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home).” The production is inspired and well-executed, the vocals from both Elle King and Miranda Lambert give the song a fun and confident feel, and the writing manages to avoid enough pitfalls to allow the other components of the track to carry it. Most importantly, I think it does a better job capturing the fun of a good time than most of the party tracks that have been dumped on us over the last few years. I’m not sure I’ll remember this track in four months, but I’ll enjoy it for four minutes when it comes on, and if King is looking to establish a more-permanent presence in the genre, this is a decent place to start.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth a few spins to see how you feel about it.