Song Review: Jon Pardi, “Last Night Lonely”

Can this be the “last night” I have to deal with Jon Pardi? Please?

On paper, Pardi seems like an artist that I would approve of, mostly because he at least tries to bring some classic instrumentation to the table to shake up the generic Nashville formula. Instead, I find him to be an trend-hopping performer with a subpar voice and some seriously obnoxious material, such as his latest single “Tequila Little Time” or his collaboration with Lauren Alaina “Getting Over Him.” His star seems to be slowly dimming on radio, with his last two solo singles spending nearly a year on the chart just to barely crack the top five, which meant that everything was on the table when he and his team closed the book on Heartache Medication and went looking for a new leadoff single. What they found was “Last Night Lonely,” and unfortunately it’s an attempt to blend in with the rest of the current background noise while providing only a token nod towards what made him distinct in the first place. It’s a forgettable effort that I’m not even remotely interested in revisiting once this review is posted.

Through the ups and downs of Pardi’s past output, you could at least give him credit for being ‘the fiddle and steel guy,’ using classical instrumentation to help him stand out in Nashville’s endless sea of faceless young white male artists. The fiddle and steel guitar are still here, but they’re bit players here, stuck behind a generic-sounding guitar-and-drum setup (to the point that the guitars play over the fiddle on the intro and post-chorus riffs, and the two instruments simply bleed together). Outside of the first half of the bridge intro, the classic country instruments are barely noticeable and add nothing to the sound, and no one would have noticed if they were left out of the recording session entirely. Speaking of the session, there’s also something weird going on with the sound: I use the term “spacious” a lot to talk about how songs seem to fill a room with their sound, but this song comes across as…narrow? Cramped? The instrument tones don’t carry and linger the way you might expect them too, as if it were recorded in a room with terrible acoustics on a cheap sound system. It comes across as hard and cold instead of giving off the soft, warm radiance you’d like a love song to have, and the darker instruments tones and regular minor chords make the song feel ominous and creepy instead of heartfelt and inviting. It’s about as bad a mix as I’ve ever heard Pardi drop, and I’m very curious to see who gets the producing credits on this next project, because it sounds like there’s been a change behind the board (and not one for the better).

I’m already on record calling Pardi “one of the worst vocalists in country music,” so I won’t belabor that point much more here. His performance here is best described as “technically proficient,” but he runs into the same problem that he did on “Tequila Little Time”: “His overall performance is completely devoid of charm and charisma,” which means that instead of coming across as a knight in shining armor here to end a fair maiden’s days of lonely solitude, he sounds like some sketchy dudebro trying to talk his way into somebody’s pants. (It actually calls to mind some of Dustin Lynch‘s recent work, and that’s never an association you want to people to make.) You never get the sense that he has any actual feelings to the other person; instead, his tone is unabashedly mercenary as he reaches for the lottery ticket argument to make his case (“hey, you never know!”). It’s a complete turn-off for the audience (and probably for whoever he’s talking to as well), and as a result they don’t stick around to see whether the ticket was a winner.

The writing here goes all in on the hook: The narrator tries to sell themselves to a prospective partner by declaring that this could be the last time they drink alone, dance with strangers, and ultimately be their “last night lonely.” It’s a drawn-out pickup line that harkens back to the worst of the Metro-Bro and Boyfriend eras, but the bigger issue is that by doing nothing but hammering home what is a mediocre hook at best, neither we nor the narrator’s target actually learn anything about the speaker, or whether or not they even have actual feelings for the person (notice that the term “love” is never spoken here). Here’s an idea: Instead of talking about the last time for everything, how about giving us a taste of all the “first time” benefits that someone might get (you know, like affection and reliability and a lower tax rate)? This one-sided case for all these “last times” feels wishy-washy and unconvincing (all those “could be” qualifiers might as well be giant asterisks), and the lines get a little scattershot by the end (they mostly stick to bar stuff, so the “back home to Mama” and “small town drama” lines feel a little out of place). It’s a song that decided to push a one-liner to its logical extreme without putting much thought into how (in)effective of an argument it might be, and we’re left with a song that feels more hollow and disingenuous than it should.

“Last Night Lonely” feels like a leftover track from the Metro-Bro or Boyfriend country eras, and thus a transparent attempt to reclaim some semblance of Jon Pardi’s prior success by blending into the background and hoping no one notices as it inches up the chart. I wouldn’t bet on it, just like I wouldn’t bet on this narrator: Pardi’s performance lacks feeling and emotion, the production does its best to back him with the blandest sound ever, and the one-note gets old before we even finish the second verse. If you’re looking for a song and a singer to sweep you off your feet with a romantic ballad, there are much better options out there than this drivel, and if Pardi’s not careful, his “last time” on the radio could be sooner than he thinks.

Rating: 5/10. It’s not worth your time.

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