There’s a “Last Time For Everything,” including Brad Paisley’s run as an country superstar. That time, however, is not now.
Paisley’s chart performance has been tailing off ever since the rise of Bro-Country, and even with more-traditional sounds flooding the charts, he has struggled to regain his former glory. At this time last decade, Paisley was in the middle of an incredible 10-song Billboard No. 1 streak, but “Today,” his leadoff single from his latest album Love And War, required creative accounting just to make it to No. 1 on Mediabase, and was blocked from the top slot on Billboard by Jon freaking Pardi. (Pardi gets credit, however, for also keeping Michael Ray’s disgusting “Think A Little Less” from Billboard’s top slot.) “Last Time For Everything” is Paisley’s second single off of Love And War, and like Luke Bryan’s “Fast,” the song is a tacit acknowledgement that Paisley’s run of dominance may be ending, while also declaring that it won’t be ending right away.
Paisley has many gifts (singing, songwriting, guitar-playing), but he also has a knack for production that fits nicely into modern trends while still remaining undeniably country. His signature electric guitar is the prominent instrument here, and the melody has a distinctly 80s vibe to it that brings to mind the iconic riff from The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” Despite this, Paisley keeps the foundation of this song rooted in traditional country, using real drums, steel guitar, banjo, and even the occasional mandolin stab (why no fiddle though?) to slowly build and maintain energy throughout the song. The song also features an interesting balance of light and darkness, as the frequent use of minor chords is countered by the bright tones used on the chorus and bridge. Throw in Paisley’s usual guitar wizardry, and you’ve got an impressive-sounding track that stands out for the usual radio noise.
The vocals here are ripped from the typical Paisley playbook. He stays mostly within his comfortable range but takes a moment or two to show off (his falsetto on the “Purple Rain” part is pretty impressive), he maintains a decent pace without overextending himself, and he brings his usual earnestness and charisma to make the song believable and relatable. Paisley has a knack for connecting with listeners on an emotional level, and while I wasn’t quite feeling it on “Today,” “Last Time For Everything” roped me in quickly and never let go, despite the fact that I hadn’t experienced half the events he mentioned for the first time, let alone the last time.
On the surface, the lyrics here aren’t that impressive—in fact, you could almost call this track a checklist song, as the narrator simply lists a whole bunch of events that inevitably stop occurring. However, I would argue that this song is an upgrade over his prior single “Today” for two reasons:
- Unlike the vague, generic wording of “Today,” Paisley dives deep into specific imagery here, and while he leans on “stock” experiences (especially from high school, like football and prom), he even throws in a few unique and interesting scenes, like haircuts before male-pattern baldness and being woken up by his kids to see what Santa left them.
- Instead of taking the obvious route of lamenting what was and never will be again, Paisley maintains the optimism of “Today” and implores the listener to celebrate the present, because you may never get another chance. Additionally, while some of the experiences he lists are sad to see go, he even includes a few in which the situation gets better in the future (for example, the reason he can’t call a woman his fiancée anymore is because she became his wife!).
If you read between the lines a little bit, you get the sense that Paisley is starting to look back on his career and realize that his time at the top, much like his time in high school and opportunities to hang out with Little Jimmy Dickens, is not only finite, but closer to the end than the beginning. Paisley’s been in the game for eighteen years now, and the young guns are not only nipping at his heels, but (as seen with Pardi’s Billboard block) actively shoving him out of the spotlight. With “Last Time For Everything,” Paisley accepts that his mainstream career may be numbered, but also brings everything he’s got to bear to make a strong statement that he isn’t ready to walk away just yet. (That statement extends to his entire Love And War album, which I would call his best work since 2005’s Time Well Wasted.)
Overall, “Last Time For Everything” is a great song on a number of levels, and shows off everything that people love about Brad Paisley. Paisley’s days as a country A-lister may be numbered, but he’s still got some good years left in him, and I’m going to sit back and enjoy them.
Rating: 8/10. Definitely check this one out, and give Love And War a look as well.