Single Review: Luke Bryan, “Drink a Beer”

Luke BryanJudge by the title, and you’ll think you’re getting just another mindless rave-up.  Sure, it will be catchier than most of them because of Luke Bryan’s irrepressible vocal charm, but a mindless rave-up is a mindless rave-up.

It’s tempting to make the jump and think Bryan is deliberately playing against expectations here, recording a song with a predictable title that leads to the completely unexpected territory of grief and loss.  But maybe it’s just that if drinking a beer is the way you celebrate with friends and loved ones, it’s the logical thing to do when you’re trying to cope with their unexpected departure.

Bryan’s sort of become the poster boy for the brozation of country music.  I’ve got two problems with that.  One is simply philosophical. The failure of country radio and the larger industry to present more diverse points of view lies with radio and the industry, not with those who have the one approach that’s being too prominently showcased.  Blaming Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark’s lack of airplay on Luke Bryan makes about as much sense as when Shania Twain was blamed for radio not playing George Jones.   Focus on the players, not the pieces, people.

But my second problem is that Luke Bryan shouldn’t be defined so narrowly in the first place.  He’s not chasing trends.  He’s completely genuine, and the music he started out with a few years ago hasn’t changed all that much.  There’s just a lot more people being successful with it.    They don’t do it as well as him, though.

“Drink a Beer” is a great reminder of how he’s a few steps ahead of his peers in song choice and vocal delivery.  He’s good enough to keep it clean. No fancy arrangements, vocoder tricks, or arena beats are needed to distract from the guy at the mic.  He’s in full command, singing a beautiful song about painful loss.   Sounds almost like country music, doesn’t it?

Written by Jim Beavers and Chris Stapleton

Grade: A

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26 Comments

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26 Responses to Single Review: Luke Bryan, “Drink a Beer”

  1. While I don’t blame him for what’s happened to mainstream country music, I’m still baffled by his popularity. He doesn’t seem particularly deeper than any of ther others to me these days.

    I’m still annoyed by his performance on Blake Shelton’s Oklahoma Benefit broadcast where he prefaced his song with something like “You all can come crash my party anytime!” and then proceeded to sing his stupid party song amidst everyone else’s more serious songs to fit the tone of the ocasion.

    I like some Luke Bryan songs and I’ll always be grateful to him for Billy Currigton’s “Good Directions”, a super sweet and clever sog, but I can’t be a fan in general. This song doesn’t do much to help me, even though I respect the inspiration behind it. I just might be too jaded though.

  2. I think I’ve been brainwashed by LB haters. I want to love LB, and I stand by my statement that he has the strongest male voice in mainstream country today, but I can’t help but be letdown by his single choices. Especially since he became a bro-country sellout with “That’s My Kind of Night.”

    “Drink A Beer” is good and does display a little depth, but I’m underwhelmed by the chorus. It’s too simple for me. I think I expected a lot more knowing Chris Stapleton co-wrote this. But this does prove he’s trying to strike that much needed balance between serious and fun material that everyone else seems to have forgotten about. This could be a lot better, but it’s a start.

  3. bobNo Gravatar

    I’ve never been a fan of LB’s music and I don’t find his voice that appealing. Admittedly, this song is better than his usual material and I had ignored it based on the title. It’s just that when I listen to this song, I have no urge to play it again.

    I’ve been playing Brandy Clark almost every day for the past month and haven’t tired of her so far. My wife and I saw her last night. She is so good.

  4. Yeah, I think the chorus is definitely my major beef with the song. I think the song had potential, but fell short of it. Stapleton can’t knock it out of the park every time. I think his voice is kind of interesting, but I also think it’s kind of bland. Strange paradox, I know.

  5. PeterNo Gravatar

    This is why you’re my favorite country critic, Kevin.

    This is not my favorite Luke Bryan song, nor does it strike a chord with me the way, say, Tim McGraw’s “My Old Friend” does. But coming from Luke Bryan, it sounds completely authentic.

    You’re right, Luke Bryan is not to blame for being that act that everyone is trying to follow at the moment. And while I wish radio would make space for Kacey Musgraves, I wouldn’t want “Rain is a Good Thing” to be the song they stopped playing to make room for her.

    I know work has you busy, but I’m always excited to hear your take on things.

  6. ThomasNo Gravatar

    I actually really like this song, and Luke Bryan generally annoys me.

    Of course, the reason I find Bryan annoying is because he probably has the best voice in Nashville right now, but he insists on singing terrible, inane party songs.

  7. I do like “Rain is a Good Thing.”

  8. CraigR.No Gravatar

    I cannot believe you gave this song an “A”. It’s just as shallow as all his other songs. I like Luke Bryan’s voice, but his material is simply for frat boys. So he’s in a sadder mood. This song makes a point of saying because I don’t understand why things happen I am going to sit on a pier and drink a beer. Really? Getting drunk is better than thinking through a problem, coming to terms with it?

    You are right that radio picks out songs to play. But Bryan picks out songs to sing(if he doesn’t then shame on him for selling his soul so cheaply). Why give him strong praise for a sad song. It is still a drinking song, with a general, muddy theme that still relates to being a boy and not a man, not an adult. He is the Elmer Gantry country music. He is voice is real, but everything he sings is full of fake emotion, and childish review. You are being taken in sinner. He is no more honest when he is sad than when he is happy.

  9. bobNo Gravatar

    Sounds like Larry Lee has competition.

  10. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    This song makes a point of saying because I don’t understand why things happen I am going to sit on a pier and drink a beer. Really? Getting drunk is better than thinking through a problem, coming to terms with it?

    I think that grief is more emotionally driven than logically driven, especially when it surrounds an untimely and unexpected loss.

    If the bridge didn’t exist, I’d be more inclined to agree with you. But it’s established that sitting on the pier, drinking beer, is what he used to do together with the friend that he lost.

    Revisiting the place and doing what they used to do together is an authentic, and common, way to process grief. I don’t think there’s any easy answer for why we suffer loss and why we are mortal. If every religion and philosophy in history has struggled with answering that “why?”, I don’t expect Luke Bryan to be able to, either.

  11. Noah EatonNo Gravatar

    Ehhhhh…..this is alright, but I’m not nearly as impressed as some of the rest of you.

    First, let me get the big plus out of the way here. The production is undoubtedly superior to that of its lyrical equivalent: “I Drive Your Truck”. It is wisely dialed-down and intimate, whereas “I Drive Your Truck” was considerably marred by overly glossy production that was reminiscent of Steve Holy’s “Love Don’t Run” (hell, even the way Lee Brice enunciates the chorus lyrics is much like Holy’s vocal delivery in “Love Don’t Run”. =P )

    However, here’s where my praise comes to an abrupt end. When it comes down to both lyrics and vocals, “I Drive Your Truck” is the superior record. “Drink A Beer” lacks the strikingly realistic and believable imagery that carried “I Drive Your Truck” above and beyond, and Bryan can’t help but sound a bit detached from the material here. He just doesn’t sound like he’s trying all that hard as he did on his debut album, when he gave fully emotionally committed reads of “Tackle Box”, “We Rode In Trucks” and “The Car In Front Of Me”.

    Also, when I hear all the celebratory songs about drinking that surround this on “Crash My Party”, I can’t help but feel like it makes this sound a bit disingenuous, a little calculated.

    *

    All in all, I’d give this a B-. It’s definitely Bryan’s best single in quite a while. Then again, he has done so much better with his debut release.

  12. VickiNo Gravatar

    I like the simplicity of the song, the guitar, the meaning but this is about real life for Bryan and the hook is “Drink a Beer”? I think as the songwriter he is, there could have been much more depth and honesty with losing a brother and sister so early in life. I’d give a B which is a much higher rating than his last song.

  13. Six String RichieNo Gravatar

    I enjoyed the production on this one, which almost never happens for me anymore with mainstream country releases. What I don’t like, as others pointed out, was the weak hook. I think this song, as with “I Drive Your Truck,” go to show that country singles need to have a “country checklist” item in the chorus no matter what. Even a song about a lost loved one needs to mention a truck or beer. I wish Luke Bryan could’ve taken the emotion from losing his siblings and made a “Go Rest High On That Mountain” for this era. Instead he just made a grieving song that would fit into radio playlists.

  14. “Instead he just made a grieving song that would fit into radio playlists.”

    Oooh!! Richie hit the nail on the head for me for my biggest problem with the hook of this song!

  15. Noah EatonNo Gravatar

    ………..ohhhhhhhh, that’s IT! I badly need the money!

    (hurry-scurries to Nashville to pounce on this bandwagon)

    Okay………..got the rest of the song on paper! Yet, I face a dilemma…………….what’s the hook going to be?

    (eyes a SKOOL ring)

    That’s it! I’ll sing a song about how I cope with my loved one having Alzheimer’s by digging into my SKOOL ring! =D

    *

    “I don’t know when we’ll be back together,
    I don’t know what tomorrow will bring…

    …but in this darkest hour,
    I feel you close to me,
    as I take a snuff,
    from my SKOOL ring…”

    *

  16. As I listen to this song again, I have softened toward it a bit. I do think the production is really good and I even wonder if I’d completely agree with Kevin’s analysis of this being a good way to capture one way that a person might deal with grief if not for the context of this song with all of his other songs and the other major players on the radio these days. I think if this was a song in a different time in country music, I’d possibly think it was a pretty good song.

  17. ThomasNo Gravatar

    I’m not sure I get everyone’s problem’s with the “Drink a beer” hook. Even in context, I’m not sure how it’s calculated or weird that he deals with the loss of his siblings by drinking a beer, alone.

    Seriously, if he had released it under a different name (Luke Bryan, Luke Bryan, wherefore art thou Luke Bryan?), I think the response would be a lot different. It’s a well-written song with great imagery, a strong lead vocal and the best production I’ve heard in a mainstream country single in years.

  18. Ha, Thomas. I promise you I’d have even bigger problems with the song if it had that title.:)

  19. ThomasNo Gravatar

    Oh, that was genuinely terrible sentence construction.

    I meant if he’d released it under a pen name, haha. As some up and coming artist.

  20. Gonna be honest: When I watched him perform this at the CMA Awards, I was stunned that this generic song was supposed to have been a tribute to lost loved siblings. An old drinking buddy, maybe, but siblings? It just doesn’t feel right.

    That said, one of my friends lost two of his brothers back-to-back about eleven years ago. I remember his way of handling it was to drink a case of Bud Light and talk about any subject in the world as long as it was upbeat and didn’t leave a lull. Therefore, I can’t very well scoff at the plausibility of the song.

    I read an interview with John Ratzenberger once, in which he attributed the success of Cheers in part to the fact that the writers on that show grew up reading books, whereas a lot of the writers on newer shows grew up instead on TV. They’ve learned to write, speak, and even think, in very different ways.

    I see that with “bro country”, where these songwriters seem to be too far removed from the kinds of things that went into the work of their predecessors. Whether that’s actually living in a rural setting, or playing honky tonks for ten years before being discovered, or whatever, I don’t know. I just know that these songs – even their “sentimental” ones like this – all sound like people imitating songwriting instead of actually doing it.

  21. ThomasNo Gravatar

    See, I don’t think people would consider this song “generic” or “bro country” if they didn’t know who Luke Bryan was.

    Just like how I don’t think people would consider “The Outsiders” anything other than a terrible rock song if they didn’t know who Eric Church was.

    Maybe it’s just that when I’m sad or angry or lonely, I go outside and drink a single beer, alone, so I don’t have trouble believing that someone would deal with loss by going outside and drinking a single beer, alone.

  22. Six String RichieNo Gravatar

    I think Travis’s idea that stars today imitate songwriting as opposed to doing it is genius. Everybody writes lyrics but they aren’t quite doing actual songwriting, which takes a lot of creative ability to do well.

  23. Jonathan KeefeNo Gravatar

    I’m genuinely surprised by the several statements here that Bryan has the best voice among his contemporaries. I’ve heard all of his albums, and he’s never given a vocal performance that I’d describe as either better or worse than competent. Which, sure, puts him well ahead of Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, and Hunter Hayes, but he’s still a far cry from the vocal skill of guys like Gary Allan, Chris Young, Randy Houser, or the man singing back-up for him here, Chris Stapelton.

    The country genre has given us such varied but spectacular voices as those of Marty Robbins, Gene Watson, George Jones, Vern Gosdin, Vince Gill, John Berry, and Raul Malo. Luke Bryan’s a fine enough singer, but I just can’t get on board with the idea that he’s the best Nashville has to offer now, and that has nothing to do with his “bro country” style.

  24. Ditto, Jonathan. His voice is fine, but it doesn’t stand out to me in the least. In fact, I’d say it’s a little bland.

  25. CountryKnightNo Gravatar

    Josh Turner has the finest male voice in country music.

    Discussion over/