Song Review: Luke Bryan, “One Margarita”

This is a shallow, nihilistic escapist song. …But as far as shallow, nihilistic escapist songs go, this isn’t that bad.

As much as it feels like Luke Bryan’s momentum has petered out, he remains one of country music’s biggest hitmakers today. (Case in point: He released 24 songs in the 2010s, and only two failed to top a Billboard chart.) Even a Nashville powerhouse like Bryan, however, is no match for a global pandemic, and instead of riding the wave of his most-recent tire fire #1 single “What She Wants Tonight” to a successful album launch, Born Here, Live Here, Die Here has been pushed back to August, forcing Bryan to re-generate his buzz with the third single from the album, “One Margarita.” One one hand, this is the same old beach-party drivel that Bryan has been filling Spring Break discs with for years, an ode to ignoring all of life’s problems by drinking yourself into a stupor. While it’s no more memorable than the rest of these songs, there are a few noticeable tweaks that make it stand a hair or two higher then, say, Chris Janson’s “Fix A Drink” or “Good Vibes.” Given our current predicament and the number of shots I took at Bryan for his last awful excuse for a single, I figured it might be worth talking about what this song does right for a change.

First, consider the approach to the production: I lot of the party-hardy songs, including Janson’s recent pair, tend to be driven by electric instruments, hitting the listener with heavier and louder sounds in an attempt to convey the intensity of their relaxation (which is as contradictory an idea as I can think of). Sure, the instrument tones are bright and the general vibe is celebratory, but the higher volume levels feel more conducive to a raging frat-house throwdown than a beach party. Bryan’s song, however, chooses instead to let quieter and more acoustic instruments play the lead: It’s an acoustic guitar driving the melody (the electric axes still show up and get some spotlight time, especially on the bridge solo, but both they and the drums aren’t as in-your-face as they are on similar tracks), and a keyboard providing some organ-like background stabs to promote a breezy atmosphere. The result is a lighter, airier mix that’s much easier on the ears than its competitors, and while it’s still nothing but empty sonic calories at the end of the day, it’s enough to put a smile on your face for a minute or two.

Kenny Chesney may be the current king of the beach (he’s even name-dropped here), but Bryan’s no strange to the sandy scene either (you tend to learn something about the style after your zillionth Spring Break EP), and his experience bodes well for him here. This is not a technically-demanding song by any stretch of the imagination and Bryan has more than enough chops to breeze through it, but he does a better job positioning the narrator as a more sympathetic character on this song. The relentless positivity in his delivery keeps the focus away from the badness in the world and makes them come across as a lighthearted party-for-party’s sake person, while also keeping him from seeming too meatheaded or slimy (he’s able to skate over some of the lyrical potholes left behind by the writers without the audience batting an eye). He comes across as just a guy who wants to drink and have fun, and eschews dwelling on what drove him to this point in favor of focusing on how much he’s drinking and, er, funning. I doubt the performance makes Bryan’s next greatest hits album, but it’s a step above his creepy, overly-serious “party” anthems.

There’s only so much you can say about the lyrics of a song whose hook is “one margarita, two margarita, three margarita” and drops a line about “tiki bars tiki’n” (?), but what’s most notable is what isn’t said rather than what is. On one hand, what is said is basically every cliché that’s ever been dropped in a beach party song (tiki bars, two pieces, señoritas, margaritas, and the Jimmy Buffett reference mandated by federal law for songs like this). Rather than harping on all the negativity that pushed the narrator into alcoholism, however, the gathering storm clouds are only referenced in passing and with few specifics (“Don’t worry ’bout tomorrow,
leave all your sorrow”), and the sleazy objectification that has ruined it fair share of Bryan songs is kept to a minimum as well (although that “two-pieces shakin'” line is still pretty questionable). It’s a song that downplays the nihilism and misogyny that plagued the party songs of the 2010s in favor of simply gushing about how much fun they’re having, even when they’re recovering from the previous day’s fun (although I don’t believe Anthony Fauci would agree that the best way to treat a hangover is to drink more). No, this will never be confused for a ‘good’ song, but considering how sideways these tracks seem to go, keeping this at a tolerable-if-forgettable level seems like a win in itself.

“One Margarita” will not stand the test of time, and I’d definitely rank it behind Thomas Rhett and Jon Pardi’s “Beer Can’t Fix” on the list of drunk party songs, but it’s a light, breezy diversion that doesn’t demand that people ignore the darkness around them like many tracks in this lane. The production is solid, Luke Bryan paints a convincing smile on the narrator’s face, and the writing is generic but mostly harmless. It’s the sort of easy listen that I could see people revisiting for a few months as we teeter on the precipice of the most non-summer summer we’ve seen in a long time. It’s a killer of time and filler of space while we wait out a pandemic, and by that metric, it’s all right.

Rating: 5/10. I won’t go out of my way to hear it, but I won’t complain too loudly if it pops up.